Daily Archives: May 2, 2007

The dust hasn’t settled on paving the city’s dirt streets

Five months after the City Council first discussed ways to make it cheaper for people to get dirt streets paved, the conversation continued this week. It wasn’t much more than an echo. They even saw the same PowerPoint — complete with thrilling photos of empty gravel roads and bar graphs. As one long-time City Hall official put it in a different context this week: “Things in City Hall have two speeds: 0 MPH and 1,000 MPH.”

Council member Jim Skelton has anxiously advocated for a solution to get more of the city’s 96 miles of dirt roads paved, including dozens in his district in southeast Wichita. It’s clear from listening to him that he feels this is one of those 0 MPH issues. Skelton got little support for his ideas to use more bar ditches to reduce costs drainage costs in areas that aren’t flood-prone and extending the time people have to pay off the special assessments (a state legislature issue). But, when he suggested the city could let more people low incomes defer paying special assessments by increasing the city’s poverty guidelines, he got some support. As it is, a family of four must make less than $30,600 a year to qualify for deferral (it’s an annual process). That’s considered “very low income.” City finance officials said the city could use the “low income” level instead, allowing a family of four that makes less than $48,950 to forgo payments until they move or exceed the set income level.

City Manager George Kolb said the issue will get more serious consideration when the Council prepares its capital budget in June. Council members already say they expect things to be tight. It won’t help if the Council approves a three-year contract with the police union next week that pushes them $6.5 million beyond what they had budgeted for (See story). And things could get even tighter with Sedgwick County Commissioners’ decision to charge the city for the suspects it houses in the county jail (See story) and revenue lost from statewide business property tax exemptions. (See a PDF about petitioning for paving here.)

District 1 race stocked with names and experience

Maybe it’s because they won’t have to raise any money. Maybe it’s because only 15 people (the District Advisory Board and City Council) will be voting. Or, maybe it’s just the most politically active district.

Whatever the case, more people filed to fill the Distinct 1 City Council vacancy than ran in any of the other districts during this spring’s elections. And with a state representative, former state representative, former Council member, a pastor and three District Advisory Board members, the District 1 roster may also include more experience and name recognition than any of the races voters saw this spring. Some in City Hall say that Rev. Lincoln Montgomery, the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, was also going to submit a petition — and probably be a top candidate. But his name wasn’t on the list by the noon deadline.

“There’s no doubt, it’s a strong bunch of people,” said Carl Brewer, who left the seat to become mayor four weeks ago.

Brewer said that he doesn’t think there is a clear front runner.

Starting tonight, the advisory board will begin interviewing candidates, then it will forward four or five names to the City Council, which will vote until a majority agrees on someone. They could also agree to reject the candidates and appoint any other District 1 resident for the position.

Read More »