Monthly Archives: August 2008

Blog on hiatus for politics, politics, politics

We interrupt our regularly scheduled banter to bring you to St. Paul, Minn., where most of the state’s top Republicans will soon gather for the Republican National Convention.

You won’t see much from Wichitopekington until after Sept. 9. But check in with The Eagle’s It’s Party Time blog for insights on both the Democratic National Convention in Denver and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. And, of course, please check back here in a couple weeks for more posts out of City Hall and elsewhere.

Update: Zebra mussels study underway; Cheney intake doing fine

The city is still waiting on a study to see how they can keep those problematic little crustaceans off of the city’s water intake lines at Cheney Reservoir. And it may be 2009 before a plan is hatched, says Angela Cato, spokeswoman for the city’s water utilities department. But, no biggie. Cato said the city has been monitoring closely for any more zebra mussels and hasn’t spotted anything since they first saw a few shells gather near the intakes earlier this month. That’s a good thing since zebra mussels have been known to congregate and clog intakes — in rare cases even shutting down city water supplies.

Bored? Want to learn more about this invasive species and its impact on Kansas?

Check out the state’s educational video at: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid707617912/bctid716496705

Or read about the little guys at: http://kdwp.state.ks.us/news/Fishing/Aquatic-Nuisance-Species/Aquatic-Nuisance-Species-List/Zebra-Mussels

Wichita’s City Council consent agenda isn’t as boring as usual

It’s an unexpectedly exciting (if that word can be used in a council blog) line up for this week’s city council consent agenda and workshop.

First off, it’s not really a consent agenda, as the council calendar and 9:30 a.m. meeting time suggest. The first item is the repeal of the Intrust Bank Arena area tax increment finance district. Read more about that in Tuesday’s Eagle or here. In short, it’s a reaction to Sedgwick County’s concerns that the district is too big and diverts county-wide tax money to things the city should fund on its own. We can hear the groans of downtown developers and the cheers of limited government advocates already. Read More »

George Kolb emerges again… this time in Pat Salerno’s stomping grounds

Former Wichita City Managers George Kolb and Pat Salerno (who left before he started) now have at least three things in common. They both interviewed for a manager post in Durham, N.C.; they each got Wichita’s top job; and, now, Kolb is a finalist for a post in Boward County, Fla., which includes the city of Sunrise, where Salerno used to work. That’s according to a blog in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

For more on the two managers’ history with Wichita, check out previous posts on the Durham manager interviews, Salerno’s welcome to Wichita and Salerno’s reappearance as a candidate in Deltona, Fla.

Wichita’s city manager search committee meets Wednesday

About three months after they thought they were done, Wichita’s City Manager Search Committee Wednesday will be back in board room at 1 p.m. Robert Slavin, president of the city’s chosen headhunting firm, Slavin Management Consultants, will meet with the 17-member committee, Mayor Carl Brewer said today. Brewer said he wasn’t sure whether Slavin will present any candidates yet. Committee Chairwoman Misty Bruckner said she doesn’t expect to hear about any candidates. Instead, she said, the meeting on the 10th floor of City Hall will include a short talk with Brewer, an outline of the committee’s time line and some more details on how the process will work. The meeting is open to the public, but some of the issues will be discussed in a closed-door session, Bruckner said. Read More »

Martens out, Bruckner in as chair of city manager search team

Round two of the city manager search is underway, and this time it will have a different leader. It’s Misty Bruckner, coordinator of community outreach at Wichita State University’s Center for Urban Studies. She replaces the previous chair of the search committee, Steve Martens, who is president of Grubb & Ellis| Martens Commercial Group, LLC. Martens said he told Mayor Carl Brewer he wouldn’t be available to lead the search committee this time. But he praised the committee members and said he believes the city is using the right process to find a new manager. Read More »

Council to increase funding for paratransit

Local agencies that provide rides to people with disabilities may get a little extra money next year. But it might not be enough to offset their rising costs or cover their estimated losses after years in which the city didn’t fully reimburse them.

The city’s proposed budget offered $360,000 more to several local agencies that provide transportation to people with disabilities. Now, Vice Mayor Sue Schlapp says she’d like to increase that by $400,000, getting the providers closer to breaking even on their expenses. Council members who heard the proposal earlier this week appeared to agree, and they plan to include it in the 2009-2010 budget, which the council will vote to adopt Tuesday. Read More »

Not so fast: Old Town TIF district stays open

Former interim city manager Ed Flentje proposed spending another $1.6 million on the Old Town tax increment finance district and then end it two years earlier than expected. Now city council member Sharon Fearey says the district should remain open for a little longer — long enough to fund $750,000 worth of resurfaced public parking lots and security projects. Her council counterparts seem to agree and plan to include those projects in their 2009-2010 budget Tuesday. (Here’s the list of projects… old-town-tif-2008-2012.)

The Old Town TIF was created in 1991, and a total of $4.3 million in bonds was issued to pay for the Old Town parking garage and sidewalk and street improvements, according to the city budget. Now it produces more money than it needs, and Old Town Association members and the city keep coming up with new projects to spend the money on rather than putting the property tax dollars, which have increased 423 percent since 1993, back on the general tax rolls to fund citywide projects.

The TIF district was to die naturally in 2013. But Flentje told the council that closing the TIF in 2011 would make about $250,000 a year for the city, Sedgwick County and the Wichita School District, all of which split property tax dollars. Under Fearey’s proposal, it would close whenever the projects are funded, which she and finance officials estimate would be in 2012.

Pat Salerno reappears as a city manager candidate in Florida

Just a month after ditching his commitment to become Wichita’s next city manager without any real explanation why, Pat Salerno has re-emerged. He’s a city manager candidate in Deltona, Fla., according to a report in today’s Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Salerno, just one of 56 applicants vying for the Deltona job, is familiar with the area. From 1980 to 1985, he was assistant manager of Volusia County, which includes Deltona. And, most recently, he spent 18 years as city manager of Sunrise, Fla., a Fort Lauderdale suburb about 250 miles south of Deltona. He was forced out of that gig in January. In May, he was announced as the only guy to get an interview for Wichita’s top post. And he so impressed city council members here that they offered him the job for $215,000 a year, the biggest salary in city history. He took it, signed the papers and called the mayor a week before he was supposed to start and said he just didn’t feel right about the job. He did not respond to about a dozen calls to his cell phone from The Eagle (or apparently anyone else from Wichita) in the weeks following, and he has not offered any public explanation for why he backed out.

Only time will tell if Deltona is a better fit. The News-Journal reports that a search committee will start to trim the list of applicants today and that interviews may start in late September. Deltona’s mayor couldn’t be reached immediately this morning to comment on what impact, if any, Salerno’s history with Wichita would have as their city whittles down its list of candidates.

Deltona is different than Wichita is many respects. Its population is 84,000; Wichita’s is 358,000. Deltona is a planned retirement community and home to one of Florida’s largest sinkholes. Wichita, well, we’re sort of a mix of industry, agriculture and university on the south side of a state many compare to a pancake. Deltona’s modern history dates back to about 1962, when the planned community was first laid out. Wichita has its cowtown and Native American roots. Both cities got to know, however briefly, Pat Salerno.

City Hall departments told to cut gas use by 10-15 percent

With high gas prices, many of us are trying to cut back. In City Hall, it has nearly become a mandate. Public Works Director Chris Carrier last week sent out a memo to all city department heads asking them come up with plans to cut their fuel usage by 10 to 15 percent. He said he didn’t specify how they should do that because each department is different. For example, he said, the need to leave a vehicle idling is different for police than for public works.

The catch: the city can’t track gas usage very well. They know how much they buy. Employees file mileage reports. But they can’t see day-to-day, week-to-week usage by each department and employee. So Carrier is asking the city council this week to fund a $1.4 million fuel system that would track gas usage, perform diagnostic tests at the city pumps and help prevent fuel thieves by coding pumps so that they’ll only give gas to authorized vehicles. Council members have grumbled about the cost but appear poised to approve the system Tuesday.