Archive for Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Letter: A preposterous portrayal of our city councilwomen

August 14, 2002

To the Editor:

The most audacious, preposterous misrepresentation I have ever heard was Doris Elliott-Watson's portrayal of the ladies on our City Council as a "political machine" because they supported a budget item that protects the taxpayers of Bonner Springs. Her propaganda didn't mention that the remnants of a real political machine opposed that budget. That would not have served her purpose.

The once omnipotent ruling clique of Bonner Springs is upset because the budget motion made by Councilwoman Amber Sechrist provides for a full-time staff position of city engineer. For decades, city staff has given most of the city's work to a favored engineering firm, without competitive bids. On very large projects, that firm was employed to advise the city government and to prepare a request for proposals (RFP). Then, they were allowed to bid on the engineering work after they wrote the RFP (with an obvious advantage).

When engineering, planning or construction failures occurred, neither the city staff nor the engineering firm would claim responsibility. When a 52" tile collapsed under Kansas Avenue, no one was responsible. A civil engineer not employed by the city inspected the tile and determined that it was installed on a type of sandstone that just washed out from under the tile. The tile was eight years old. The replacement cost was $33,800. There are other examples.

Last year, the city of Bonner Springs paid $331,117.90 to out-of-town engineering firms. A staff city engineer certainly could have performed enough of that work to pay his keep. A staff engineer would relieve our over-burdened city clerk of responsibility for engineering. For large projects, he could write the RFP while representing only the citizens of Bonner Springs. A staff city engineer could provide the City Council with professional engineering opinions from someone that did not bid on city work (and was not lobbying to get work without having to bid). A full-time city engineer would have no conflicts of interest. Inevitably, that would save money for Bonner Springs taxpayers.

These savings will not occur the instant we hire a city engineer, and the city's cash flow must be protected. Therefore, Sechrist red-lined the city engineer position until late February. That means the position will not be filled unless city revenues then meet or exceed the present estimates.

The published budget squanders no money. The reformers cut out everything frivolous in order to provide (at least begin to provide) what the public was promised by prior councils. In addition to funding the position of city engineer, it still provides reserve cash in case receipts decline. It is the first budget ever to begin funding a Capital Improvements Fund to provide for future public needs. It funds some limited work to preserve the 1918 school building. The old machine never funded these things, even though they sold the public on a sales tax for restoration of the old school and other capital improvements.

All of the men now on the council were part of a real political machine that ruled Bonner Springs for decades. They had many years of opportunity to reform city purchasing procedures. They never did. They consistently oppose doing it now.

We should all be thankful for the valiant ladies on our City Council, and for our mayor. Please come to the meeting at 7:30 pm. Monday, Aug. 19, at City Hall, and give them your support.

Ms. Elliott-Watson has already put out the call for the old political machine to be there to support the good ol' boys.

Henry H. Chamberlain

Bonner Springs

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