Archive for Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mayor seeks support for study

Coucil’s questions from week ago to be revisited

November 10, 2005

Mayor Kenneth Bernard will try to get a feasibility study for the Lansing Regional Prisons Museum back on track after a one-week derailment.

Bernard will present information to the Lansing City Council about the study for the museum during a study session scheduled for 7 p.m. today, Nov. 10, at City Hall, 800 First Terrace.

During last week's council meeting, Bernard pulled the plug on the $38,300 study being done by Overland Park-based Project Explore. The move came after several council members raised questions about how the contract was awarded, its cost, how it was being financed, including whether public funds were used, and why council members weren't notified about the study before it was undertaken.

"At the next meeting, we will discuss it in great detail," Bernard said after coming under criticism from council members Billy Blackwell, Harland Russell, Andi Pawlowski and Dee Hininger. "I will cancel everything that's been done, and at the next meeting we will proceed."

Tonight's study session originally was intended to discuss a single topic: possible revisions to the city code. But on Monday, an amended agenda for the study session was released, with the feasibility study as an added topic.

Bernard included in the agenda packet several documents related to the study, including Project Explore's proposal "assessing the potential for the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum."

Another document delineates the payment plan for the study and how the study will be funded.

The first two payments - two equal installments totaling $25,534 - are being picked up by the Lansing Historical Society. The third payment, also for $12,767, draws $8,000 from Lansing DAZE festival revenue, $1,000 from a donation to the city by Corrections Corporation of America and $3,767 to be raised by Kansas Regional Prisons Museum Committee's funding subcommittee.

The first installment already has been paid to Project Explore by the Historical Society, City Administrator Mike Smith said today.

The funds from the Historical Society were a point of contention at last week's meeting.

Russell and Blackwell pointed to an Aug. 4 council meeting in which council members approved the city's takeover of operations of the Lansing Historical Museum from the society beginning Jan. 1. At that meeting, the society's president, Linda Lockwood, told council members the society anticipated being able to transfer more than $20,000 to a new building fund for the prisons museum.

"What they said was that money was going to be transferred to the city into the building fund," Russell noted at last week's meeting. "Now we're being told it's being used to pay for the study?"

When Blackwell asked why the city was doing business like that, Bernard replied, "I think because we got in a hurry to get the funds earmarked. And there was nothing hid. All the members of the board agreed to do that. The executive board also met with the study sponsors and it proceeded from there."

Council member Bob Ulin, who also serves on the prisons museum committee, said the committee would be competing for an earmark in the 2007 federal budget and would need to show plans for the prison museum to members of the state's congressional delegation before the end of January 2006.

"We're up against a deadline of possibly getting some federal funds : and if we don't have the study, that (earmark request) is moot for another year," Ulin said.

Ulin's rationalization fell short for Blackwell.

"I understand your problem, Mr. Ulin, but I don't think it justifies moving forward and spending funds," Blackwell said. "I mean, we went down this road with an employee here a while back who had an issue with that problem and got in trouble over it. I don't think we obligate money we don't have for a study."

The incident Blackwell alluded to was not clear and no council member elaborated on it.

Breakout

In its proposal to the city, Project Explore, which has worked on such projects as the Liberty Memorial Museum in Kansas City, Mo., says its feasibility study and the strategic plan for the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum will provide these benefits to the city:

¢ A solid basis substantiating a go/no-go status of the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum

¢ Development of a consensus strategy so that the focus is clear and palatable to all concerned

¢ The likely scope/size of the project feasible for the city to undertake

¢ The provision of new insights or information. This new information can help avoid the "unanticipated consequences" of such a venture, avoiding costly mistakes as well as uncovering exciting new directions, particularly when the intended audience is part of the process.

¢ The rational and statistical foundation necessary for producing strong and fundable grants

¢ Establishment of the most suitable and likely direction for an education program, including the best potential audience, whether it be at the high school or college level

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