Kenny Massey

Mayor Ruth HughsEudora Mayor Ruth Hughs moments after she was voted in as Mayor by the City Commission (photo by Managing Editor John Schulz)

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With a rather quick and simple vote, Ruth Hughs was elected by the new City Commission as Mayor of the City of Eudora.  Hughs becomes the 48th Mayor of Eudora and the very first woman to hold the office in the city’s history.

While the exact length of her term was not stated nor decided upon, traditionally in the Commission-Manager form of government, the Mayor serves for one year as Mayor.

With some surprise, there was no discussion on how to choose a Mayor.  In the weeks leading up to tonight’s City Commission meeting, the Commissioners had all stated individually that they had no idea how the decision would be made. It was expected that some sort of formula based on election results would be at least discussed.  That discussion never happened.

Reazin-BornCommissioners Tim Reazin and Jolene Born take the oath of office during the Eudora City Commission meeting Monday night (photo by Managing Editor John Schulz)

The process began with the inauguration of incumbent Tim Reazin and new Commissioner Jolene Born. At that point, Mayor Hopson and Commissioner Bill Whitten left the dais as their terms came to a close with a thunderous applause from the audience.  Born and Reazin took their seats and Hughs ran the meeting from that point as she was the President of the Commission.

Hughs’ first order of business was to have the Commission select a Mayor. Hughs said she would like to have a discussion and then entertain a motion. Hughs barely got the words out of her mouth when Commissioner Kenny Massey spoke up.

“My discussion is that I make a motion that we elect Ruth Hughs as Mayor,” Massey said.

With an even faster speed then Clark Kent changing into his Superman outfit,  Reazin seconded the motion and the entire Commission voted in favor of Hughs. It took exactly 32 seconds (yes, we timed it) from the beginning of Hughs request for a discussion on the topic to Hughs being voted in as Mayor. (18 seconds of that was Hughs asking for a discussion on the matter.)

Vice Mayor John FioreVice Mayor John Fiore looks on as the Commission nominates him for the position (photo by Managing Editor John Schulz)

Next in the process was to select a Vice-Mayor.  Massey spoke up again and nominated Commissioner John Fiore to serve as the first Vice-Mayor in the city’s history.

“I think with John’s experience with the Chamber of Commerce and other activities he has been involved within the community, he would be an excellent choice.  I will make a motion to nominate John Fiore as Vice-Mayor,” Massey said.

The Vice-Mayor nomination had a much longer discussion. This one took the Commission 44 seconds to handle.  Fiore’s nomination also passed unanimously.

“I’m honored for the opportunity to serve as the first female Mayor in the City of Eudora,” Hughs said following the meeting. “I look forward to working steadfastly to continue the momentum we have in place and I look forward to Eudora becoming the very best city we can be.”

Fiore also was humble in his nomination as Vice-Mayor.

“I appreciate the great confidence the Commission has in me,” Fiore said. “This truly is a great honor to serve our city.”

Commissioner Bill Whitten left immediately after the swearing in ceremony was complete. He made reference how he had his coveralls in the truck along with his ATV and was planning on going mushroom hunting following the ceremony.  We think he was looking forward to retirement.

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Monday’s city Council meeting had a rather unique twist. Most of the time, the City Council and media members receive information about what is going to be discussed that night.  This past Monday night on the agenda was simply the statement “Discuss Governing Body pay”.   No further information was given to Council members or media members about this discussion, other than the fact that the Mayor wanted to have a discussion about this topic.

What we thought would be a discussion about the rate of pay, turned out to be about Governing Body attendance.

Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson began the discussion with the idea about tying council member pay to attendance at meetings.  Currently, City Council members receive $200 per month and the Mayor receives $250 per month.

While Hopson did not have clear cut ideas on how to address the topic, he did eventually suggest setting up a policy for “excused and unexcused” absences and setting a benchmark for how many unexcused absences a Council member could have before any pay was docked.  Councilman John Fiore did bring up the fact that some council members schedules may not be conducive to constant attendance.

“I’ve got a day job that is easy for me to be here by 7, but I know that at least two of our Council members don’t have that luxury with their schedule,” Fiore said referring to Councilmen Bill Whitten and Tim Reazin who are full time fire fighters in other municipalities.

“I don’t want to tell Tim or Bill, or Kenny or Ruth for that matter, or you (referring to the Mayor) because you had some terrible issues right when I started where you were out of town helping out with disaster victims and I don’t want to tell you ‘Hey don’t help those disaster victims because you have only so many excused absences’, Fiore added.

Councilman Reazin also brought up the fact that when the pay for the governing body was raised in 2011, the idea was that the money was not solely for attendance at Council meetings but to help reimburse council members for other outside meetings and their time spent preparing for the meetings as well as giving back to the community in the form of donations to various charitable fundraisers that occur regularly.

Reazin and Councilman Kenny Massey both suggested that the idea that excused versus unexcused absences would lead to causing people to lie about why they were not in attendance.

“This is a commitment and you signed up for this when you put your name on the ballot,” Massey said. “I think if you get elected to these positions you should be here.”

Massey did also reiterate Fiore’s earlier comment about the fact that Reazin and Whitten have extenuating circumstances due to their full time employment, but said that members can somewhat plan their schedules and plan ahead for things such as vacation.

“I think it should just be X number of absences per calendar year and if you go over that, then you get docked,” Massey added.

While no formal decision was made, the consensus was that further discussions would need to take place and some formal determinations in a work session should occur in the near future.

We took a look at the minutes from each meeting in both 2011 and 2012 to verify the number of absences for Council members and the Mayor.

In 2011, there was 23 City Council meetings.  Mayor Hopson missed the most with eight absences.   Bill Whitten and Tim Reazin missed six meetings each with Kenny Massey, Ruth Hughs and John Fiore all missing one meeting apiece.

In 2012,  to date, there has been 15 meetings with Tim Reazin missing five and Bill Whitten missing four, including this very meeting where the discussion took place.  All other Council members and the Mayor have attended all 2012 meetings.

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The biggest story of the night from the Eudora City Council meeting was not the city budget (which we will report about in the coming days), nor was it about a new use for Nottingham School.  It was about birds.

The City Council held a work session to look into allowing fowl to be raised at residences inside the city limits.  Currently, city ordinances do not allow fowl of any type to be raised in the city. The City was looking into allowing certain fowl, including female chickens, ducks or quail.

The issue came to light when Jay Wilson, a local resident, was found to have several dozen quail on his property located in and near his garage. Wilson petitioned the City Council, per the current ordinances, to keep his quail which as he stated, were a hobby for him.  Tori Gezel, another young resident of the city had also recently petitioned the City Council about raising three chickens on the property she lives at with her family.

Reactions were very mixed as to even allow it anything at all. Council members Kenny Massey and Tim Reazin were rather vocal in their opposition to allowing any fowl.  Both agreed that administration of any type of ordinance allowing birds would consume city resources.  Codes administration would be involved since they would have to approve any buildings built to house birds and likely police we need to verify and enforce any complaints filed by residents about someone having too many birds or not housed properly.

Council President Ruth Hughs, while not coming down on one side or the other, stated that she had some constituents say that they were afraid having chickens next door to them would lower their property values.

Councilman Bill Whitten’s line of questions through the session made it seem like he was in favor of some ordinance allowing fowl and Councilman John Fiore, while not speaking much on the subject, appeared to also support some type of resolution.

During the session, Hughs, Whitten and Fiore wondered how many people would even want fowl and what would the neighbors desire.

The big question that was asked by City Administrator John Harrenstein at the end of the session was if he and staff should do any further work towards writing proposed legislation. There was no resounding directive by anyone to work further. Massey and Reazin indicated that the topic should be dropped and not taken further.

This leads to our newest poll question: Do you think that citizens should be allowed to raise a limited number of fowl inside the city limits? It’s a simple yes/no answer.  You can vote in the box on the upper right hand side of the web site. Simply click your answer and then hit “Vote”.  Let your leaders hear from you and what you think.  You can also use the comment section of this story if you wish to leave a longer answer

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UPDATE: We were factually incorrect with our story. The City Council now makes $200 per month, not $150 and the Mayor makes $250 not $200 per month. We regret the mistake and apologize for the error. The story below has been corrected.

 

At a recent City Council meeting, the Eudora City Council voted themselves a pay raise. In the past, City Council members received $150 per year.

While the City Council has discussed the idea of a pay raises for council members in the past, they never brought forward a formal proposal. In late June, the idea was brought with a formal proposal to raise City Council members pay to $200 a month and the Mayor would receive $250 per month for their services.  According to the minutes of the meeting, the resolution passed unanimously 4-0.  Councilman Kenny Massey was not present at this meeting and did not vote on the resolution.  This pay raise went into effect at the beginning of July.

(Editor’s Note: I was out of town and unable to attend this meeting so I was not hear any of the discussion that took place about this particular issue when the resolution was passed.  The minutes of the meeting reflected no discussion of this particular topic either.)

In past meetings over the course of 6 months where this had been discussed, council members had discussed that they felt they deserved something more than $150 per year for their time and efforts.  Both former and current council members have discussed over the course, how they spend a great deal of time researching and participating in events outside the normal City Council meetings that occur twice a month.  This includes preparation time for the council meetings, working with constituents either in person or via phone calls they receive regularly, and attending various committee meetings and functions that pertain to being members of the Eudora City Council.

At the last City Council meeting, where Councilman Tim Reazin and Mayor Scott Hopson were not present, Councilman Massey did bring up the discussion of the raises and asked if part of the new salary should be held back if a Council member was not able to attend a scheduled meeting. Massey referred to himself missing the previous meeting as a perfect example.   While there was no action brought in front of the council at the July meeting in regards to pay being restricted for missing meetings, there seemed to be some arguments to both sides of the issue.

Councilman Bill Whitten was against restricting pay since the money was not designed to compensate solely for the council meetings. Whitten made reference to the fact that the raise was given in part because of all the time commitments involved, not just the council meetings.

Councilwoman Ruth Hughs stated that she had similar thoughts to Councilman Massey about the same thing after the meeting where the raises were approved.

While there was no action taken, it seems there may be some more discussion in the future about the money council members receive.

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The Eudora USD491 School Board met Thursday June 9th to reflect on the former school year, honor those who have contributed to the district’s success and set plans into action for next year.

Jan Irby, Principal and Shelly Doughter, Assistant Principal at Eudora Elementary reflected on their young student’s experiences last year.  Increased enrollment due to the addition of pre-school resulted in creative reorganization of the existing space.  Workshops were added to give students additional instruction that targets their individual needs and a positive behavior system was implemented.  Music concerts in the new facility and the playground improvements were listed among the highlights of the year.  Other notable events were the second grade butterfly garden, sixth grade market day, the third grade Medicalodge visits and the delicious first grade lemonade stand.

Superintendent Grosdidier honored school board members Kenny Massey and Nancy Jackson who were stepping down.  Massey served on the board for 16 years and thanked his fellow board members for their service and support.  Sarah Johnson (Elementary) and Denise Kendall (Secondary) were recognized as the 2010-2011 Teachers of the Year.

Educating the whole child is the guiding philosophy of the Eudora School District.  Christina Mann, Director of Student Development and Partnerships gave her report on how the district is planning to make sure each student is nurtured emotionally to ensure academic success.  Her report centered on the districts strategic priorities funded by the Bridge grant with regard to student success. The goal to educate the whole child was reinforced by emphasizing the necessity for Positive Behavior Systems and Bullying Prevention strategies.  She discussed the outcome of the bullying survey Eudora students took and strategies the stakeholder team got at the recent conference they attended.

Funding was put in place for roof maintenance, technology upgrades in the high school and a state of the art graphic printer for use in the EDTECH program.  The printer has the potential to create revenue and save the district money in the future.

In new business:

The Board member computer needs were discussed.  Board members are to consider what sort of technology they will need to best perform their district function.

A salary freeze for 2011-2012 passed so that the administration can move forward with contracts.  It was understood that if economic circumstances change that this can be revisited in the future.

Classified and non renew certified administrative staff passed.

Engagement Letter to continue using Mize, Houser & CO. to perform the June 30th audit passed.

Official minutes of the June 9th School Board meeting and documents can be found on the district website through Board docs at:  http://www.boarddocs.com/ks/usd491/Board.nsf/Public#

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