Monthly Archives: July 2011

“Yes!” and “No!” commissioners joke

Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan didn’t know he was stepping into a comedy club this morning.

At the end of commissioners’ weekly meeting with staff, Buchanan told the board “I need to get an answer from you on something.”

Before knowing what Buchanan was asking about, Commissioner Jim Skelton exuberantly answered “Yes!”

“No!” Commissioner Richard Ranzau retorted.

(Turns out Buchanan was asking about a detail related to public hearings on next year’s budget.)

Ranzau looked at his colleagues, and joked along the lines of “Well, you knew I was going to say ‘no.’ “

Proposal keeps Saturday buses on the road, but at a price

Wichita staff is proposing to tap a reserve fund for $700,000 to keep city buses rolling on Saturdays for the next two years — while raising fares 50 cents to $1.75 a ride.

That alternative replaces an earlier recommendation by City Manager Robert Layton to raise the fares and cut Saturday service to reduce the cost of operating the system. The earlier plan provoked a strong reaction from bus users who said it would keep them from shopping and running necessary errands on the weekend.

City Council members Lavonta Williams and Janet Miller discuss actions to save Saturday bus service.

The new proposal was announced today by budget officer Mark Manning at a news conference to distribute paper copies of the city’s annual budget to the press.

The plan for preserving Saturday service will need the council’s OK to tap into the city’s “permanent reserve fund.”

The $1.8 million was set aside by the council starting in 2008 and is not part of the city’s $22.6 million general fund reserve, Manning said.

If it can get through the next two years, expected federal grant funding should put the transit system on firmer financial footing, Manning said.

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Saturday bus service retained in proposed city budget

The city will continue to offer bus service on Saturdays, but fares will increase by 50 cents under City Manager Robert Layton’s proposed budget.

The $549 million budget does not increase the city’s mill levy. In order to balance the budget, Layton is proposing an early retirement program similar to Sedgwick County’s, fuel conservation efforts and the likely delay of a new downtown library that had been budgeted for construction next year.

The city also plans to develop new policies for how suspects are charged by police. In some cases where the law allows discretion, such as driving without proof of insurance, defendants may be cited instead of being booked into jail. Those measures are aimed at limiting how much the city pays Sedgwick County to house inmates in the county jail.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is slated for July 19 and August 2. The city council will vote on the budget August 9 after a final public hearing.

Fireworks helped push Wichita past EPA ozone limits

Sparklers, firecrackers and flaming fountains of sparks helped push Wichita’s ozone levels past  Environmental Protection Agency standards on Independence Day, city officials say.

But the city is still walking a tightrope between maintaining acceptable levels of ozone and exceeding the EPA standard, which requires an average of fewer than .075 parts per million of ozone particles during an 8-hour period.  If the city has four days with 8-hour averages above that limit, it will have to produce a plan to reduce ozone that could cost taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars. Read More »

Accidental e-mail gives behind-the-scenes peek into pro-choice press release

You may have seen that commercial where an office worker accidentally hits “reply all” on an e-mail, and then races around town swiping laptops and smart phones from everybody he doesn’t want to read it.

Sometimes, reality imitates television.

An accidental e-mail today gave the Kansas press corps a peek at the sausage-making that goes into the news releases we get all day.

The Trust Women Political Action Committee issued a press release objecting to Wichita pro-life lawyer Rick Macias being appointed to the Board of Healing Arts.

But they also inadvertently included the rough drafts and editing notes that led up to the final statement.

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Two Sedgwick County commissioners defend right to speak out at meetings

Sedgwick County commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau spoke out this morning about what they said was their right to talk about whatever they want at the end of their meetings.

Commissioners have time at the end of every Wednesday meeting, called “other” on the agenda, to tell residents about upcoming events, issues of importance or other matters.

Chairman Dave Unruh recently told The Eagle he thought it was time for commissioners to “reel” themselves in a bit and stay focused on county business.

Peterjohn and Ranzau stressed today that they had a First Amendment right to speak. Peterjohn noted that President Obama talks on his Saturday radio program, and Gov. Sam Brownback has his “State of the State” address.

Members of the public are limited to five minutes when they address commissioners, but commissioners are under no such time limit at the end of the meetings.

Unruh did not respond to Peterjohn and Ranzau from the bench. He used his time at the end of the meeting to talk about the upcoming Sedgwick County Fair. Commissioner Tim Norton did not take his turn to speak. Commissioner Jim Skelton was not in attendance.

Sheriff’s reserve deputy “retires” after 37 years of volunteering

Sharron Webster volunteered longer for Sedgwick County than many people stay in their regular jobs.

Webster served as a Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy for 37 years. Commissioners thanked her today for her service. Chairman Dave Unruh noted it was an unusual accomplishment both for length of service and for a shootout in which Webster was involved.

Wearing the blue uniform of sheriff’s deputies, Webster said she had been honored to serve as a reserve deputy for almost four decades.

Mauled pony goes home, dog owner says angry ex may be to blame for dogs’ escape

Amy Long, a kennel technician at the Blair Doon Veterinary Hospital, leads Storm the pony to the trailer that took him home to O.J. Watson Park Friday, three weeks after he was seriously injured in a pit bull dog attack.

Laura Apsley shares a kiss with her pit bull dog "Chaos." She said she believes an ex-boyfriend kicked a hole in her fences, allowing Chaos and her other dog, "Mama," to escape and maul a pony at O.J. Watson Park.

Storm the pony returned home Friday after three weeks in an animal hospital, and the owner of the pit bulls that mauled him says she thinks the incident was caused by an angry ex-boyfriend kicking a hole in her fence.

City officials this week filed two citations against the dogs’ owner, Laura Apsley.

She will go to Municipal Court July 18 on charges that she allowed the dogs to run at large and attack another animal. She also faces charges of failing to provide full proof of licensing and vaccination.

Veterinarian Jenny Sullivan of Blair Doon Veterinary Hospital, who volunteered her services to care for Storm, said the pony no longer needs full-time care.

“He needed to get back to his pony friends” where he’ll have more room to roam around, she said.

Storm is owned by the city of Wichita and is one of seven ponies kept at a shelter at O.J. Watson Park to provide rides for children.

He suffered serious wounds to his flank, neck and mouth when he was attacked by two pit bulls inside the pony shelter at the park the morning of June 11.

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