Archive for UG News

UG launches new purchasing website

A new website launched today for the Unified Government purchasing department, according to an announcement.

The website is more user-friendly, simplifies the vendor registration process and provides easier access to bidding opportunities, according to a news release.

“We want to take advantage of the internet’s ability to exchange information and develop new ways of achieving success,” said purchasing manager, Sharon Reed, in a news release.

The launch of this new site is designed to improve the procurement process, according to the news release. It is part of a commitment to improving transparency maintaining the UG’s business-friendly reputation, the news release stated.

“We are making great strides to transform the way we serve our customers to ensure we have the ability to move the procurement process beyond a manual approach and into a streamlined electronic process,” Reed said in the release.

“We are committed to delivering a high quality product that is accessible to both our internal and external customers,” Reed said. “We believe this new application will help us maintain our reputation as a local government that’s easy to do business with.”

“Launch of the new eProcurement website is all part of our commitment to provide better customer service, increase efficiency and save money through the use of technology and innovation,” County Administrator Doug Bach said in the news release. “We are accelerating the use of technology to improve the way we provide services to residents and operate our departments.”

Jeremy Rogers, director parks and recreation, said the new purchasing website was helpful for his department.

“We needed to have 13,000 fliers made,” he said.” I was able to get onto the website and export all the printing companies that the UG works with into an Excel spreadsheet and email it out to my staff for future use.”

For more information about the new website, visit https://purchasing.wycokck.org/eProcurement/C/WYCOKCK2/Default.aspx.

Ethics administrator weighs in on CDBG funding issue; agencies speak up at public hearing

A memo today from the Unified Government ethics administrator did not find Commissioner Ann Murguia in violation of the UG ethics code.

The memo was brought up by Mayor Mark Holland at tonight’s UG budget hearing, and part of it was read into the meeting record by Commissioner Mike Kane.

Commissioner Murguia had requested the ethics administrator’s opinion on whether she could participate and vote on the Community Development Block Grant issues.

While the mayor tonight interpreted the ethics administrator’s opinion as meaning that Commissioner Murguia couldn’t vote on the issue, Commissioner Murguia said that was not the case. Commissioner Murguia, who was not at tonight’s meeting, said the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association’s name was removed two days ago from the application by the Argentine Betterment Corp., and she plans to vote by phone at Thursday’s meeting.

While ANDA’s name was on the application as a partnering agency, Commissioner Murguia, who is ANDA’s executive director, said on July 16 that ANDA was not receiving any funds from the project and was just giving free advice. It was never the intention for ANDA to receive any funds from the project, she said.

ABC was the only agency that submitted a bid for new development, a housing project in the Highland Crest area of Turner in Commissioner Angela Markley’s district, and a UG committee had shifted some CDBG funding from predominantly emergency home repairs in the past to a program to build new housing.

Commissioner Kane read into the record of tonight’s meeting Ethics Administrator Ruth Benien’s conclusion: “Having reviewed the video of the July 16, 2015 meeting, the underlying documents and applications and prior documents, the Office of the Ethics Administrator finds that there was no intentional violation of the UG Ethics Code by anyone with respect to the CDBG process. If ANDA’s name remains on the application because of the lack of clarity with the application form and who receives the funds Commissioner Murguia would be disqualified from voting on the ABC project and ANDA would be prohibited from receipt of any UG funds from ABC’s project approval. The preferred practice would be that the application form require specific disclosure of the role and interest, financial or otherwise, of the participating agencies. Absent such disclosure the appearance is that there would be a sharing of funds.”

The ethics administrator felt that there was a problem with the application form in that it did not provide or require any detail to be provided on the role of a partnering agency so that it could be determined if ANDA were to receive any funds. Because the application was not clear, ANDA should not have been listed as a partnering agency.

The ethics administrator stated that ANDA should not be listed on the application form because the form itself did not give enough information or detail on the role of the partnering agency. “Having said the above, but asking all of you to cooperate with each other, a simple solution to this is to have Mario Escobar from ABC go to City Hall and prior to the vote on July 30, 2015 take a marker and delete ANDA as a ‘partnering agency.’ I clearly can’t compel that but it would resolve the problem and allow a potentially worthwhile project to go forward,” the ethics administrator’s memo stated.

Benien also stated in the memo that Commissioner Murguia was entitled in her capacity as UG commissioner to assist development groups such as ABC in obtaining funding or with unpaid consulting, and that was not a violation of the prestige of office provision. She cited a few other commissioners who were assisting with development projects. They may help as long as they don’t have a substantial interest in a project or receive any UG funds.

There also was not a violation of the UG ethics code’s confidential information section, she stated. Nothing was presented that suggested any current UG commissioner withheld information on the availability of these monies to the commissioner’s benefit. She also pointed out the committee meetings where these issues were discussed were open public meetings.

The mayor said tonight he would like to bring up the issue again at the Thursday, July 30, budget workshop to be held at 5 p.m., before the 7 p.m. meeting and vote.

Some of the agencies that didn’t receive Community Development Block Grant funds in this year’s budget spoke up at a public hearing today at City Hall.

The Unified Government Commission heard a few comments about the way that CDBG funds were distributed, and also heard from a few developers at the budget hearing.

Brenda Shivers, a board member of the Northeast Economic Development Corp., said the agency’s board was not made aware of the funds that were available. The agency previously almost lost some funding opportunities after it didn’t use all the grant money. NEDC did not apply for funds this year based on the precedence, she said.

She recommended all CDCs be held to the same requirement, to spend the funds they already have before being awarded additional funds. She said the ABC funding should be reduced to $200,000, with the remaining $200,000 to be given to an emergency home repairs program.

Richard Mabion suggested that the UG consider collaborating with his environmental programs to increase energy efficiency programs in low-income homes.

The UG clerk read an email from CHWC, a housing agency, that stated that they did not notice a shift in the way UG funds would be spent. CHWC decided not to apply this year because it had not been awarded CDBG funds since 2011, when it received funding for a minor home repair program for low-income families. It had been quite some time since CDBG funding was relevant to CHWC’s program, the message stated. Now that funding will be used for bricks and mortar programs, CHWC will make an application next year for a grant to be used for affordable housing, the message stated.

See earlier story at http://wyandottedaily.com/ug-discussion-gets-heated-over-community-development-block-grant-funds/.

Mayor asks for a year’s extension on raising funds for healthy campus

The Unified Government Commission is expected to vote Thursday, July 30, on a proposal to extend the fundraising for a community center downtown, part of the healthy campus proposal.

Mayor Mark Holland last Thursday asked the Unified Government Commission for a year’s extension on raising $6 million to build a community center downtown to be run by the YMCA and to be part of the proposed healthy campus. The extension would be until Aug. 1, 2016.

The issue will be one of the items in the budget vote that will take place on Thursday.

Two years ago, the UG Commission approved $6 million to be given to the project if the YMCA could come up with a match of $6 million from other donors. The UG’s pledge would expire this year unless it approves the extension.

The money that was pledged by the commission was to come from casino funds that the UG receives.

In his quarterly report on the healthy campus last week, Mayor Holland stated that the fundraising effort in Kansas City, Kan., had been tied to the effort to raise funds for a new downtown YMCA in Kansas City, Mo., with Y officials reasoning that they could ask major donors for donations to both projects at the same time.

After the UG made its commitment, the 10th and Grand location in Kansas City, Mo., failed because donors did not want to fund a $10 million parking garage, and the project was delayed, according to Mayor Holland.

In May 2015, Kansas City, Mo., approved $17.5 million in tax increment financing for another YMCA location, the Lyric Theater site, he said.

“Essentially, we started fundraising in May of this year,” Mayor Holland said, because it was postponed for a year while a new site was found.

The mayor is taking an active role in the fundraising. He said already, $1 million has been pledged by the Wyandotte Health Foundation.

Mayor Holland said the UG also is continuing to work on getting a new grocery store for the healthy campus.

The UG received proposals and engaged Charles Ball grocers in 2012, but delayed the project in order to work on site location plans, he said.

The mayor said the UG wanted to make sure the grocery and community center were built in the right location.

A master plan was brought forward, a group started working in June as project manager, and is working on site identification, identifying other business investments and working on site acquisition for the grocery store and community center, he said.

“There’s been a ton of activity on this project, it is not that the project is stalled, it is not that the project is being unsuccessful, or that we’re being turned down, it’s simply because of the timeline and the multiple moving pieces that we have,” Mayor Holland said.

“Essentially, we paused the project to do the study, and then Kansas City, Mo., paused the project while they found another site,” he said. “Each of those was about a year of lost time that we had to hold off on initial fundraising. I believe it’s better to do it right than to do it right now, and I believe that our fundraising ask is stronger because we’ve got the healthy campus plan, because we have a project manager and because we’re moving forward with Kansas City, Mo.”

Commissioner Mike Kane asked if the UG should “take one bite of the apple at a time,” and not try to build the community center and grocery store at the same time.

The mayor responded that the projects are independent, but “our downtown is in such dilapidated shape, if we could leverage these two together into a planned development, where they would have synergy with one another – because if you just put one over here and one over here, you’d have a ton of blight in between.”

He said the community center and grocery could be put together in a planned location, where they would leverage further development including housing. He would like to see both directly on the bus line. After public comment sessions were held with the community, it was learned that the community did not want the community center right on top of the JFK recreation center, he said.

“We’re leveraging other economic development assets to bring together a critical mass that we can build off of, east and west on Minnesota and north and south of that same area,” he said.

The projects are fully independent financially, but now the UG has the idea of the location and proximity. He said it is better to plan it out than to get it in the ground as fast as possible.

“I want to do it right and I want to leverage this $30 million joint capital investment for a transformation of our whole downtown,” Mayor Holland said, “where 2 plus 2 equals more than 4.”

Commissioner Brian McKiernan, Commissioner Gayle Townsend and Commissioner Harold Johnson expressed support for the one-year extension.

“I understand that it looks daunting but we’ve done a lot more daunting things in Wyandotte County,” said Commissioner Jane Philbrook.

The UG has been funding the Eighth Street YMCA for a few years, while waiting for the new YMCA building to go online. About $75,000 is proposed from the UG budget for the Eighth Street YMCA.

Commissioner Kane said a lot of people, especially youth, use that facility and he didn’t want to see it shut down as the UG plans another facility.

Some commissioners wondered how long they would have to keep giving money to the Eighth Street facility.

“I just have a real heartburn with another $75,000,” Commissioner Townsend said. “It’s not as if we haven’t given them something already.”

“I share in Commissioner Townsend’s heartburn,” Commissioner Johnson said. “Since we already made a commitment to the Y, up to this point, we probably at least need to fund them for one more year. It pains me to say that, until we know the outcome of the fundraising.”

He said maybe the commission ought to decide that this payment would be final. Commissioner Kane suggested telling the Eighth Street Y that this is it and they have a year to get it together.

Commissioner Hal Walker said realistically, if the mayor comes back in a year and says he has the money for the new Y, then they’re still looking at two more years of keeping the Eighth Street Y open until the other facility is built, unless some of the funds raised go toward that purpose of keeping the old facility open while construction is going on.

Mayor Holland said at this time next year, they will know whether they will build the new Y or not. A transition plan could potentially be incorporated into the cost of the Y, he said. The Y might need to come with a transition plan that can show how their fundraising plans will help bridge the two years of keeping the Eighth Street facility open while they’re building the new Y facility, he said.