Basehor City Council candidates offer views at forum
Five candidates for the Basehor City Council offered their views on sewer rates, economic development and other issues Tuesday at a “Meet the Candidates” event at the Basehor VFW Post 11499.
A crowd of about 50 people sat along the dinner tables at the post. Iris Dysart, a council member since 2003, said it was the biggest turnout she'd seen for such an event.
Incumbents Dysart and Bill Moyer and newcomers Fred Box, Richard Drennon and Travis Miles participated in the event. They answered questions prepared by the event's sponsor, the Basehor Chamber of Commerce, and then took questions from the audience.
Candidate Bob Moore did not appear at the event.
The six candidates are running for three city council seats up for election on April 5.
Below are excerpts from some of the candidates' responses and statements on different topics.
On the 40 percent sewer rate increase passed by the council in December:
• Moyer (who voted for the increase): “For years, city council members before I came to the board should have started to increase the sewer rates when we knew we were starting to build the new wastewater treatment facility. And they failed to do so, so we had been living under artificially low rates.
“And now it's time to pay off these sewer treatment plant loans, and we don't have the money because we don't have the folks moving into the community to pay the sewer connection fees.”
• Box: “We don't need to pay that off all at once. We could have paid it off slowly, and if we'd have paid it at 8 percent, or 9 percent, or even 10 percent, and then if the economy would have come back, and we'd have had more hook-ups here in town and more rooftops, you wouldn't have had to raise it anymore.
“If you don't get the rooftops, yeah, it's going to have to go up. But I think the citizens of Basehor need to know why the council does what they do, and I think there needs to be more public hearings when a vote like that comes up.”
• Dysart (who voted against the increase): “My point was that, instead of raising it that much, I would have gone for a 7.5 percent raise to just kind of keep us a little bit solvent. … We could ride it out for maybe a couple of years and maybe the economy would pick up. So that was my reasoning for voting no. I just thought it was really too much to put on the taxpayers.”
On future growth and development in the city:
• Miles: “As we see Western Wyandotte County continue to grow, the Legends area, it's going to push that development closer to Basehor, especially along (U.S. Highway) 24-40. We have a lot of property zoned there for commercial.
“It's going to come back to more businesses coming in there. Those businesses can hopefully create new jobs, which will draw in new residents, so commercial development and future growth is going to be able to provide, hopefully, a recovery for our residential developments as well in this area.”
• Drennon: “If we put the new road in (the proposed extension of Wolf Creek Parkway), which I know it's not a sure thing yet if we do or not, that will hopefully draw some businesses in here, too. … The school district is an A-1 school district. It's a great school district. I want people in this district and surrounding areas to think the same thing about the city of Basehor.
“When they're looking for a house: 'Gosh, you guys gotta check out Basehor.' That's what I'm looking forward to, that we can create this city into something that everybody may want to move to.”
In response to a question from resident Susan Guy asking if the candidates would consider a discount on sewer rates for senior citizens on fixed incomes:
• Miles: “If we could provide some relief to fixed-income families, I think that would be a good thing. But at the same time, if we do provide that to a fixed-income family, somebody else is going to have to pay that portion of it that we provide that relief to. That's the drawback of it.”
• Dysart: “As a senior citizen, I would like to see a little rebate if the city could afford it. … I think if we spend $400,000 for the Field of Dreams and $30,000 for nonprofit organizations, then we ought to be able to figure out some kind of a break for the senior citizens on their utility bills.”
• Drennon: “Until we get in there and dig around … I don't know how to answer that for sure. Do I want to do that? You bet I would. I think they all deserve a break.”
• Moyer: “What I would like to do is find a way to go to the general fund, which is the money that comes in via your property taxes, and look to cut the budget enough to give you back a break on your property taxes that equals the increase in the sewer rate.”
• Box: “I'm a senior citizen, and I'm on a fixed income. However, I would look at it a different way. I wouldn't say just all senior citizens. I think if we're going to give a rebate, it ought to be based on the income of that family.”
In response to a question from resident Carol Washington asking how candidates would like to increase communication between the city council and Basehor residents:
• Box: “I would say that if any interested resident of this city wants to ask me a question, I'm available. I don't care what time of day; you feel free to call me. And I will take my time to talk to you. And any city councilman that don't, doesn't belong up here.”
• Moyer: “If you're not going to subscribe to the paper, most everybody of voting age has a computer. And I think we could work harder to use social media: Facebook, blogs. … I think the council and the city government need to get out of city hall, and my idea is to start getting out to the homeowners association meetings.”
• Drennon: “The city did start a new email service in the last couple weeks that I just signed up on. And I understand that not everybody has a computer. There's other ways to look at that. Eventually maybe we could get a sign to put out there: 'City council meeting tonight.' Maybe we could rent the bank sign, or something like that.”
• Dysart: “I will be happy to talk to anybody anytime about anything and any way I voted, even if you want to swear at me for the reason I voted. I would appreciate it if you would just listen to my position for voting the way I did. … I wish there was some way we could get more info about what the council's going to discuss at the meeting.”
• Miles: “Social-networking technology — we can explore a lot of different avenues to connect with people. For myself, for my campaign, I created a website for myself and added a contact form on there. … I would look at what's something that everybody in the city receives on a monthly basis, and that would be your sewer bill. Everybody gets that. So could we place notices on that to send out to people?”
Asked to give a closing statement:
• Miles: “I hope to have a lot of community involvement, hear a lot of opinions from a lot of people. I hope to connect with the community and ensure that the decisions that I'm making, or the vote that I'm placing, is the vote that you would want. We're making decisions for our community.”
• Dysart: “I just want to tell you that it has really been an honor for me to serve as city council person for the city of Basehor for the last eight years.
“I have a sincere desire to continue serving, and I hope that you will re-elect me. My focus has been to make sound and informed decisions on behalf of the people that elected me and the city of Basehor.”
• Drennon: “I think being on the city council, we have to work together as a team — not only the city council, but we're going to have to work as a team with the city staff, all the organizations in Basehor and the people of Basehor. If we don't work as a team, we're just going to spin our wheels.”
• Moyer: “If you vote for me and bring me back for another four years, I'm going to work just as soon as I get into the city hall in April to begin working with the city staff to cut expenses by $200,000 this year, marked for next year. … I'm going to urge the mayor to develop and initiate an economic development council, to find homebuyers and bring homebuyers to the community and find that first anchor tenant for Wolf Creek. We've got to find someone to replace that grocery store.”
• Box: “If I'm elected, I will definitely work for you. I'm about this town every day. You'll see me somewhere in town here every day. … I'm available here (the VFW Post). I also work a lot with the different groups around Basehor here.”