Indian Springs development proposal moves forward after sparks fly at meeting

A Unified Government committee moved the $25 million Indian Springs development proposal forward after a contentious meeting tonight at City Hall.

The “flex-tech” proposal from Axis Point Developers LLC, formed by the principals of Lane4 Property Group, is planned for about 26 acres of old Indian Springs shopping mall site. The property is about 100 acres at 47th and State Avenue, according to officials.

During the meeting Commissioner Ann Murguia walked out, stating that she would not vote for this or any other development project until her 3rd District fast-food project is brought up on the agenda for consideration. She said she had been trying to get her project to move forward here for a year and a half; it had received a federal grant.

Developers stated at the meeting they are hoping to jump-start the Indian Springs redevelopment with this “flex-tech” or light industrial and office use on the south part of the property. They stated there was little interest currently from large retailers in locating there. With a “flex-tech” project, they can bring hundreds of employees onto the property, which they hope generates retail, housing or office space interest in the north part of the Indian Springs property from other developers.

While Hunter Harris of Lane4 said there was a company interested in being a “flex-tech” tenant of the building, he did not name the company, saying it was confidential.

Committee members voted 4-1 in favor of the Indian Springs project moving forward to the full commission, and some of those voting in favor said they were just interested in bringing it to the full UG Commission on April 6 for a discussion with two commissioners whose districts were in that area. In their remarks, the commissioners who voted in favor of it did not express their full support for the project tonight. The motions included a phrase that they were moving it to the full commission on April 6 for more discussion. A public hearing and possibly a vote will be held on April 27.

Board of Public Utilities Member David Alvey, who serves on the UG committee, voted against the project. Alvey, who is running for mayor, said that selling the site for $750,000 when the UG has already invested about $16 million in it is like handing it over for free. The proposed project also has a 75 percent tax abatement for about 10 years.

He also mentioned the UG agenda documents about the project getting some price breaks from the BPU.

“The numbers don’t work for the BPU,” Alvey said. He also pointed out that although the project seems to be meant as a stimulus for the north side of the Indian Springs property, there is no bridge in place, so they are making this move without any guarantee development is actually going to happen on the north side.

While he usually votes with the consensus of the UG committee, this time he can’t do it because he is expressing the BPU concerns about it, and also he is concerned about this deal, he said.

Marlon Goff, UG economic development director, stated that the UG would retain ownership of the rest of the Indian Springs property, while it would sell about one-fourth of it under this proposal.

Doug Spangler, a former state representative from Kansas City, Kansas, and a former Edwardsville city administrator, asked the committee many questions about the project. Harris confirmed that if the total cost is $25 million, with a total square footage of 350,000 square feet, the cost per square foot is $71.

“So you’re going to build a flex-tech building for $71 a square foot, is that, in your experience as a developer, $71 a foot, is that Class A?” Spangler asked. “Those numbers seem to me that they don’t pay for concrete and square footage.”

Harris responded that it would be indicative of a Class A flex-tech park.

“You won’t come back to the Unified Government and say, we had cost overruns?” Spangler asked.

Harris responded they have been asked to explore if there were BPU tap fees associated with the former mall that the development group could maintain. Other than that, they don’t get to come back to the UG for cost overruns, he added. All the risk is borne by the developer of the project, and he has never come back on any other project with the UG, he said.

The BPU fees will not be structured into the UG’s development agreement, according to the administrator, and Spangler then said there could be more public assistance to the project from the BPU.

“I hate to see repetitively where development agreements are advanced toward a commission on a timeline that’s not fast-tracked, that’s supersonic,” Spangler said.

Spangler also questioned whether this commercial development was entitled to a 50 percent or 75 percent tax abatement.

He said he would love to have a developer go to 7th and Quindaro and develop that area.

“Indian Springs has been so badly mishandled by the administration, not the politicians, it is terrible,” he said. “We have over $16 million of public money, and under this proposal, your calculation only recovers $259,000 a year. That’s totally unacceptable. I would take it back to the drawing board, and I don’t think this process complies with law as it relates to the disposal of property.”

He said he believed the UG needed to receive permission from the Building Commission, an ordinance to make that transaction.

Commissioner Melissa Bynum pointed out that the committee in January had asked Lane4 to come back with a proposal, which they did tonight. She also stated that Alvey and others had raised pertinent questions.

UG Administrator Doug Bach said the UG had invested a lot of money in Indian Springs, the decision was made over a decade ago to demolish it, and it wasn’t anything that Lane4 asked for. The UG is trying to recoup those dollars and make it a viable project, he said. He said there has been some other interest from developers, and this project was ready to go and was brought forward by Lane4.

Bach said the “flex-tech” project, after 10 years, would turn back about $3 million to the local community. After that, the project would be paying about $450,000 to $500,000 a year in property tax, he said.

Bach said the trouble with the Argentine fast-food project not getting on the agenda was that it took an investment of dollars from the UG’s bank to put it into place, and until they had a deal, he hasn’t brought it back. They have been working on it, he said.

In answer to a question from Commissioner Gayle Townsend, Harris said there was a potential to lose the “flex-tech” tenant if there is a delay.

Under the timeline presented by the developer, the project would go before the UG Commission April 27 for approval, and building would take place over the summer, with the “flex-tech” building up and running by September.

This year’s UG mayoral and commission elections include a primary in August and a general election in November.

To see earlier stories about the Indian Springs project, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/ug-to-consider-25-million-bond-issue-for-indian-springs-development-at-tonights-meeting/

and http://wyandottedaily.com/ug-changes-direction-on-indian-springs-development/.

KanCare expansion bill now just one step away

by Jim McLean, Kansas News Service

Buoyed by the failure of Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Kansas Senate on Monday gave tentative approval to a Medicaid expansion bill after debating it for nearly three hours.

A bipartisan group of 25 senators voted for the bill. All 13 “no” votes were cast by Republicans concerned about the cost of expansion and opposed to providing coverage to low-income, non-disabled adults.

If it survives a final-action vote Tuesday, the bill would go to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, whose spokeswoman reaffirmed his opposition to expansion in tweets during the debate but did not say whether he would veto it.

In a statement released minutes after the vote, David Jordan, director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a coalition of health care providers and other organizations that support expansion, urged the governor to “join with the overwhelming bipartisan majorities” that approved the measure in the Kansas House and Senate by signing the bill.

The House passed the expansion bill 81-44 in late February.

If Brownback does veto the measure, supporters would need three more votes in the House and two in the Senate to override him.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, is optimistic that supporters could round up the votes.

“I absolutely think there are 84 votes in the Kansas House to override the governor if he should veto Medicaid expansion,” Ward said. “The vote count is closer in the Senate obviously, but I think we’ll get there.”

As long as the ACA remains in place, the federal government is obligated to cover no less than 90 percent of the cost of expansion.

Those federal dollars are a big reason why 31 states and the District of Columbia — including several headed by Republican governors — have expanded eligibility for their programs. Kansas and Missouri are among 19 states that have so far rejected expansion.

Though congressional leaders have shelved the ACA replacement bill, it’s not clear whether additional states will be allowed to expand their programs by a Trump administration that remains committed to dismantling the health reform law.

Setting aside potential barriers to its implementation, expansion would greatly increase the number of Kansans eligible for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Eligibility is now limited to children and pregnant women in low-income families, people with developmental and physical disabilities, and seniors who cannot afford nursing home care. Parents are eligible only if they earn less than a third of the federal poverty level, or about $9,200 annually for a four-person family.

Single adults without children aren’t eligible for coverage no matter their income.

Expansion would broaden eligibility to all Kansans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, annually $16,642 for individuals and $33,465 for a family of four.

An estimated 300,000 Kansans would qualify for coverage under expansion, though only about half that number would enroll in the first year, according to estimates.

Opponents argued expansion is unaffordable despite estimates compiled by the Kansas Hospital Association indicating it would generate enough revenue and savings to cover the state’s share of the cost. And, they said, it’s just a matter of time until the ACA is repealed.

“We’re standing at an amusement park ride that’s closed,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, a conservative Republican from Andover. “It’s broken and we’re saying we want to go ahead and get on the ride.”

But when pressed by expansion opponents, Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a moderate Republican from Topeka, said she has confidence in the KHA estimates, which predict expansion would benefit the state budget to the tune of approximately $70 million.

“We’re talking about real people who want and need access to care.”

“I believe that there are assumptions made, but I believe that the assumptions are good,” Schmidt said.

Sen. Barbara Bollier said while cost is an important issue, the health care that expansion would provide to tens of thousands of uninsured Kansans was the most important consideration for her.

“It’s very easy for us to sit in these seats and look at a graph, or look at a statistical analysis, or look at the underlying budget and forget that we are talking about a brother, a father, a sister (or) a child,” said Bollier, a Mission Hills Republican. “We’re talking about real people who want and need access to care.”

A bipartisan group of senators fought off a series of amendments offered Monday by expansion opponents.

One from Sen. Dennis Pyle, a conservative Republican from Hiawatha, touched off a contentious debate. It would have denied coverage to otherwise eligible Kansans living in communities that shelter undocumented immigrants, so-called sanctuary cities.

“I’m not out to hurt or harm anyone,” Pyle said, explaining that his amendment was an attempt to pressure city and county officials across the state to comply with the letter of federal immigration law.

Referring to the amendment, which was defeated 25-13, as a “hate bill,” Sen. John Doll, a moderate Republican from Garden City, said: “I believe it does go after people.”

Voting in favor of the bill were Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., and Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist. Voting against the bill was Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics in Kansas. He can be reached on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

See more at http://kcur.org/post/kancare-expansion-bill-now-just-one-step-away.

Jayhawk-leading Cowley sweeps KCKCC in softball twinbill

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

The old axiom that good softball pitching beats good hitting never rang more true than in Kansas City Kansas Community College’s doubleheader loss to Jayhawk Conference leader Cowley College Sunday.

Two Cowley hurlers held the Lady Blue Devils to just seven hits in 5-1 and 9-1 conference wins. The sweep kept the Lady Tigers (20-11) unbeaten in Jayhawk play at 8-0 while KCKCC fell to 10-10 overall and 1-5 in conference play.

The Blue Devils go back on the road to Cloud County Tuesday and Ottawa JV Wednesday before returning home Saturday to host Labette in a twin bill starting at 2 p.m.

“Two bad innings really did us in,” KCKCC coach Kacy Tillery said. Cowley scored all of its runs in the fourth inning of the 5-1 opener and six runs in the third inning of the second game.

KCKCC sophomore Megan Sumonja retired the first 10 hitters in the opener only to have the next six Tigers reach base in a 5-run fourth inning that included a 3-run double and an RBI triple and double. The Tigers finished with nine hits while Sumonja struck out five, walked two.

Allison Kasick doubled and Amy Grace-Wilson, Mikaela Hoffart and Katherine Stringer singled for the Blue Devil hits. KCKCC’s lone run came after 12 Blue Devils had been retired in a row on a walk, a single by Hoffart and Grace-Wilson’s sacrifice fly.

The Blue Devils took a 1-0 lead into the third inning of the nightcap only to have the Tigers explode for 14 hits over the next three innings against three KCKCC hurlers.

Kaylynn Stratton, who had two of KCKCC’s three hits, led off the first inning with a single, stole second and scored on Wilson’s two-out single.

Carley Strawn got the win for Cowley, striking out four, walking one and retiring 10 of the last 12 hitters she faced.