The Unified Government Commission is scheduled to continue its budget workshops tonight, July 17, at City Hall, 701 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kansas.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. in the fifth floor conference meeting room at City Hall.
According to an announcement at the last budget meeting, July 13, the topics for July 17 will be public safety, police, fire and the traffic unit.
At the UG budget discussion last Thursday, July 13, the topics included the UG’s blight reduction program called SOAR, with information about beautification and demolition of old structures; streets and sidewalks; the Kaw River levee; Fairfax funding; the parks master plan funding and community center funding; and lakeside ball fields.
UG officials reported using up half the budgeted amount for boarding vacant structures, with $13,214 left, and are expecting to get almost 150 houses boarded through September.
Funds of about $1 million would allow the UG to demolish just over 100 houses a year, according to officials. There were about 200 properties on the demolition list, according to officials.
There was a discussion about a need for more funding to demolish more old structures.
Mayor Mark Holland asked if there was a way to debt-finance the removal of the last 200 houses on the demolition list.
UG officials said it could be done, and talked about researching grant funding for it and asking UG staff members to apply for grants.
Commissioner Hal Walker suggested that if the UG goes forward with this, it might save money in taking bids for one contractor to do demolitions in bulk rather than bidding out individual demolition projects to six or seven contractors, as they do now.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan said although it might be an attractive idea, he wondered if it would be worth it to borrow $3 million and pay back $4 million for demolition. He asked if the UG could continue on a cash basis, looking for efficiencies and grants.
He said it was important to grow the tax base, and that it was important not letting existing homes and buildings get to the point of decaying so they had to be demolished. Commissioner Mike Kane said he wanted more information before making a big decision like this.
Commissioner Jim Walters suggested putting a little less of the ending fund balance into the bank and using it for cash funding for demolition, without having to borrow.
Doug Bach, the UG administrator, said the budgeted amount is right on the line for 2018, he believes.
Commissioner Harold Johnson said when the UG talks about adding debt financing, he is not necessarily opposed, but it needs to be done as part of an overall financial discussion, with some sense of how one thing affects another. He also said there needs to be a consistent quality of care in the UG’s work, such as mowing, throughout the community.
Commissioner Gayle Townsend was interested in getting rid of the 200 structures on the demolition list more quickly, if possible.
Commissioner Melissa Bynum asked if the UG has budgeted enough for the SOAR blight reduction project.
Commissioner Jane Philbrook was in favor of getting rid of more properties on the demolition list, if they didn’t have to go into debt financing, and if they could do it responsibly.
The UG administration is expected to bring back more information at a later date on options to eliminate the 200 structures on the demolition list.
Improvements in the Fairfax industrial area will include $100,000 in the budget this year and $200,000 next year, for curb and gutter projects, and some mill and overlay, according to UG officials.
Improvements for the UG parks, according to UG officials, include $90,000 in restroom upgrades and $25,000 in shelter improvements; and $459,751 for the Argentine Community Center upgrades.
Commissioner Ann Brandau Murguia said the Argentine center upgrade, besides $72,000 of Argentine grant money, will include an additional $200,000 grant to build a new kitchen and expanded conference room area. She said it is almost a 1-to-1 match with grant funds.
There was also a discussion about UG athletic fields in the parks. UG parks officials stated that the baseball fields were used 70 percent this year, as compared to 83 percent of soccer fields being used.
According to UG officials, a review of the fees for parks and recreation is underway. Mayor Holland said he is in favor of a sliding scale for fees, with higher fees for teams outside of Wyandotte County.
There also was some discussion about a project to put a new park near I-435 and the Wolcott area, on the site of a former go-kart attraction.
Commissioner Kane asked about setting aside $100,000 to $150,000, so that when the project was ready to start, there would be funding for it. They are discussing sports fields and a walking trail for the park, but no buildings on it.
The parks master plan also was discussed, with some commissioners feeling there was a need for more study of parks facilities needed. There was a discussion about whether to pay for a study, or whether to use the funds directly to pay for a park. Commissioner Murguia was in favor of a sort of design-build approach to the new park.
The mayor asked the staff to come back with a recommendation.
For more details, view the UG meetings online, with the July 13 meeting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESz-BndFVxU.
Future UG budget meetings, which are subject to change, according to an amended agenda:
• 6 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at the fifth floor conference room, City Hall;
• 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 24, final UG and CDBG public hearings, at the UG Commission Chambers, lobby level, City Hall;
• Immediately following the public hearing, Monday, July 24, a budget workshop is scheduled if necessary;
• 5 p.m. Thursday, July 27, budget workshop, if necessary.
• Adoption of the budget was scheduled at the 7 p.m. UG meeting Thursday, July 27.