$865,000 Cricket Wireless amphitheater upgrade approved

An expansion at Cricket Wireless amphitheater was approved, without any discussion, during the Aug. 27 Unified Government Commission meeting.

Repairs and upgrades totaling $865,000 at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in Bonner Springs are planned. The amphitheater is owned by Wyandotte County. Approved at the Aug. 27 meeting was a $750,000 bond issue plus a $115,000 payment.

The UG and Bonner Springs are to provide the additional $115,000 in cash to begin the project, according to UG documents. Bonner Springs had to approve this project, also.

The facility is in need of major capital improvements to address safety issues and improve the appearance of the grounds and buildings, according to UG documents.

Although the UG Public Building Commission, which could be used to issue the bonds, was scheduled to meet on Aug. 27, that meeting was canceled. The Public Building Commission now will meet at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 31, in the ninth floor conference room at City Hall, 701 N. 7th, Kansas City, Kan.

At an Aug. 10 UG Standing Committee meeting, Chris Fritz, manager of New West Presentations, the operator of the amphitheater since 2008, said that the last big renovations there were in 1991, when about $3 million was spent. The amphitheater has been operating since 1984 near 130th and State Avenue and was formerly known as Sandstone Amphitheater.

Fritz described business as good until the economy experienced problems in 2008, and touring declined nationally. After a difficult year in 2012, New West changed the structure at the amphitheater from one exclusive promoter. Now it has opened concerts to different promoters, he said. In 2013, the amphitheater held 14 events, and in 2014, it held 18, he said.

This year there are about 35 events scheduled for the amphitheater, including 11 concerts, 10 community events and 14 other rentals, Fritz said. A balloon race is scheduled there in late October.

“We’re building and really confident our numbers are going to go up,” he said at the committee meeting.

Last year the amphitheater saw under 50,000 paid tickets, and this year it will be close to 75,000, he added. The ultimate goal will be 120,000 paid tickets, he said.

Joe Connor, UG assistant administrator, said at the Aug. 10 meeting that the UG financing would be based on the operator’s ability to repay the debt.

He said the concrete infrastructure needs to be replaced and fixed, for basic safety needs. Parking and walking surfaces are inadequate, he said.

The plan is to repair and freshen up the buildings, including concessions stand and restrooms, and make them look better, he added.

There also are some new seats planned, he said. The resolution also lists improvements to the stage area, irrigation, a backstage pavilion, fencing and gate improvements, plumbing, lighting, insulation for the stage, and other necessary improvements.

The $750,000 bond financing was planned for a 10-year period, he said.

New West pays an annual fee to the UG, according to UG officials. The user fee paid to the UG was proposed to be $50,000, reduced from the current $90,000, Connor said. Bonner Springs would accept less for the ticket fee, at $15,000. Currently it receives an average of $23,000.

New West would make an annual bond and interest payment of $92,500 per year, so that means its total annual payments would be $157,500 when the fees to the UG and Bonner Springs are included, according to UG documents.

The New West payments were based on revenue from 52,500 tickets sold at $3 per ticket, according to officials. After a 52,500 minimum number of tickets is reached, New West would pay an additional 75 cents per ticket to the UG and 25 cents to Bonner Springs, according to UG documents.

According to Bonner Springs city documents, New West pays sales tax, liquor tax and a 50-cent per ticket amusement tax to the city from the amphitheater. Over the last five years, this revenue has totaled $465,430. But in 2012, according to Bonner Springs documents, this amusement tax was not paid to the city and it is being paid back in smaller amounts over a 36-month period ending in May 2016. Bonner Springs is still expecting these funds to be paid back, according to Bonner Springs documents.

Riverview-Turner Diagonal area light industrial park project

A resident brought up concerns about traffic, stormwater runoff, envioronmental impact, and effect on taxes to the nearby resident’s property in regards to a NorthPoint development at 6925 Riverview Ave. Project developers said they had plans that would take care of traffic, stormwater runoff and environmental effect.

The project is a light industrial park in the Turner Diagonal area. A change of zoning to light industrial and industrial park district was approved. The commission added a stipulation that NorthPoint would replace pipes along Speaker Road, as the developer promised at the meeting.

Bodyguard issue

The Wyandotte Daily News is unable to report if there are any changes to the UG bodyguard and personal security officers program for the mayor and other public officials, whether the $250,000 expenditure was changed, whether the commission decided to go with a less expensive private security firm for bodyguards, or a less expensive plan, as suggested at the July 20 budget meeting, because that meeting on Aug. 27 was closed to the public.

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/.