City Council accepts previously tabled benefit district policy
By Joel Walsh
The Lansing City Council approved a benefit district by petition policy and an amended 2007 budget in a regular meeting Thursday, Dec. 20.
Under the benefit district policy, the city would issue a bond to pay for road, sewer, drainage or sidewalk improvements in a "newly developing area," and bond payments on the debt would be paid for by annual assessments levied on property owners in the district.
Benefit district financing was used by the city in 2006 for Bittersweet Street improvements and the Conway Heights subdivision and is being considered for a current project that would extend sewer lines along West Mary Street.
Council members considered adopting the policy in a Dec. 13 meeting, but the issue was tabled due to questions about redundancy with a state policy.
At Thursday's meeting, council member Don Studnicka voiced his concern that, should foreclosure occur on one property in the benefit district, other properties would see increased taxes.
"I'm concerned for surrounding homeowners that might get pulled into a benefit district," Studnicka said.
Public works director John Young explained that a specific levy would be set when a district is formed.
"The assessments are level assessments regardless of what else takes place," he said.
City finance director Will Lundberg noted that should a property be foreclosed, the debt would be passed on to its next owner.
"The assessment moves with the property," Lundberg said.
City attorney Greg Robinson raised the possibility that the city, then, in the interim, would have to pick up a bit of the cost.
Ultimately the council passed the benefit district policy in a 7-0 vote (Harland Russell was not present).
Also unanimously approved Thursday was an amended 2007 budget that reflected adjustments to the city's general, employee benefits, bond and interest, special highway, wastewater and Kansas Regional Prisons Museum funds.
A $200,000 transfer from the general fund to the city's wastewater budget will pay for a wastewater treatment plant payment due by the first of the year, Mayor Kenneth Bernard said.
Bernard also noted an approximately $10,900 adjustment to the Kansas Regional Prisons Museum's $45,900 budget that will facilitate donations to the museum fund.
In other business Thursday:
¢ The council approved, 7-0, bylaws for the planned Kansas Regional Prisons Museum.
The by-laws call for a nine- to 13-member board of directors for the not-for-profit corporation two representatives from the Lansing Historical Society; two from city staff; one from each of the four prisons in Leavenworth County and one to five members of the community.
According to the by-laws, board members will remain in office until a resignation is received. If a resignation occurs, the board of directors would recommend a replacement to the city of Lansing by a two-thirds majority vote.
Ward three City Council member Janette Labbee-Holdeman said, "I'm not comfortable with lifetime positions on any board, because there's no recourse if somebody shows up and we don't see them again."
Lansing Historical Society treasurer Leonard Lockwood explained that the bylaws were drawn up to keep the city and the corporation separate for tax classification purposes.
"In common practice, if someone doesn't attend at least half of the meetings, we'll ask for their resignation," Lockwood said.
¢ Mayor Bernard introduced Lansing's newly hired finance director Rana Lacer. Lacer replaced Will Lundberg, who is moving to Plano, Texas.
"Thanks for a dedicated year of service," Bernard said to Lundberg.
¢ The council approved, 7-0, a cereal malt beverage license for Petro Deli No. 2 Inc. at 601 S. Main St.
¢ The council approved, 7-0, an ordinance for the assessment of delinquent weed abatement bills.