$850K from property sale will go to building new ball fields
By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
The Liberal City Commission approved the 2015 budget during its most recent meeting Tuesday night. The proposed budget is $36,087,000, which will represent a 3.798 mill increase.
There was a public hearing declared but no citizens stepped up to speak.
The presentation and explanation of the budget was given by Chris Ford, director of finance for Liberal. After Ford’s presentation, the budget was unanimously passed by the commission.
Before initial discussion began on the official agenda items came items from citizens, Liberal citizen Kevin Frauli approached the commission with a safety concern about worn-out traffic lines on city streets, particularly at Western and Pancake.
“If you go from the railroad tracks south and across, those lines for traffic are not clear, it looks like they’ve been ground out and never repainted,” Frauli said. “I personally can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cut off by traffic because of people not paying attention. I feel this is a huge safety issue.”
Currently, there is a city paint-striping crew out and Liberal Mayor Joe Denoyer said he would get the crew to that particular intersection and address the problem.
The first item on the agenda up for discussion was a lengthy presentation from City Manager Mark Hall on the construction of new ball fields replacing the ones at 7th and Western.
The current ball fields at Seventh and Western are presently being demolished and the new fields will be relocated to vacant fields near the airport. The city’s goal is for the new fields to be finished and operational by Dec. 1, in time for the Lady Redskins’ softball season.
There were also several members of various ball clubs in attendance at the meeting and a few members of that audience asked questions and gave concerns over the upcoming new fields, which the commission addressed.
After the presentation, discussion of funding for the fields took place. Staff requested commission consideration to temporarily move $850,000 from the Streets, Drainage and Other Capital Improvements portion of the Liberal 1-cent sales tax to help funding the fields. With the proceeds from the sale of the property at Seventh and Western, which closes on Friday, those funds will be able to be replenished.
Next up on the agenda was the final reading of Ordinance No. 4430, which concerns granting Wildflower Telecommunications, LLC, a contract franchise to construct, operate and maintain a telecommunications system in Liberal. The first reading occurred at the commission’s last meeting on July 22 and unanimously passed forward to Tuesday night’s final reading. The commission unanimously passed it again Tuesday night.
There was also a public meeting regarding the implementation of changes to the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, during which Liberal citizen John Smith expressed concerns over the changes.
“One thing I’m particularly concerned about is the program omits construction on single-family rental units,” Smith said. “I think the occupancy should not be relevant to satisfy the needs for housing.”
After getting slightly off-topic, Mayor Denoyer reminded Smith of the time restriction, and he then finished his remarks. After this discussion, Karen LaFreniere, director of Liberal’s housing and community development, addressed his concerns and clarified some items from the program, saying the program does in fact allow construction on single-family rental units and anyone with a project which meets the criteria can apply for this program and qualify for the rebates.
After the public hearing was the first and final reading of Ordinance No. 4431, which is approving and adopting a neighborhood revitalization plan. Both of these items were passed unanimously.
Next on the agenda will be discussion of Liberal’s first-time homebuyer program. The funds from the program have been depleted for 2014 and staff requested a line item change to the Housing and Community Development budget. Staff requested to take $30,000 from the Builder’s Incentive line and move it to the Housing Programs line item.
The program, in place since 2009, has been very successful, according to LaFreniere. The money will allow for 12 more grants, totaling 60 for this year. The motion was unanimously approved by the agenda.
Other items on the agenda included discussion of a project for the United States Citizen and Immigration Services. The Liberal Police Department also asked for permission for a purchase of line cars with equipment along with purchases of tasers and handheld radios. All were unanimously passed.
The next agenda items concerned the right of way by Airport Industrial Park. The commission unanimously passed the resolution.
After the regular items, Hall gave his report and then the commissioners also gave their items. After discussion of the vouchers, the meeting was declared adjourned around 8:30 p.m.