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Mayor's Blog - 2009 Archive
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2009 Topics
New City Administrator
Stimulus Funding Uncertain
City Hosts SCAC
Online Bill Payments
Local Officials Recognized
Eagle Scout Project
Do You Care?
Storm Water Utility
Electronic Sign for City Hall
Web Site Redesign Approved
Reception for City Administrator
Planning Commission and Library Board Appointments
Online Polls
Communication
Chat with Mayor
Veterans Day Celebration
Interactive Ward Map
West Elementary 2nd Grade Letters
New Council Takes Office
President of Council Elected
Water Rates
7th Grade Council

Veterans Day



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Dates of Updates
3/4/2009
3/16/2009
3/20/2009
3/31/2009
4/1/2009
4/16/2009
4/21/2009
4/22/2009
5/3/2009
10/4/2009

11/02/2009






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November 2, 2009

7th Grade Class Holds Mock Council Meeting / Veterans Day Events Planned

City Administrator Joel Pile and I hosted 22 students from Mr. John Speer's 7th grade class at City Hall this past Friday (October 30th). The League of Kansas Municipalities sponsors an essay contest each year titled, "If I were Mayor, I would...". Mr. Speer made arrangements with me to have the students visit City Hall in order to get a feel of local government and to assist them in writing their essays.

Mr. Pile developed a mock budget, very similar to the budget Council approves each year. The students selected a Mayor and eight Council members, as seen in the photo below. The remaining students were the "residents" of the community, and were given slips of paper with issues similar to actual issues faced by Council. Some wanted amenities, while others wanted tax cuts. There were issues of matching grants, broken infrastructure, emergencies, etc. The student governing body in the photo below were, from left to right: Josh Spillman, Heidi Wiswell, Zach White, Dru Niles, "Mayor" Aless Garvey, Preston Owens, Shyra Wolff, Emily Schuessler, and Bryan Baxter. Mr. Pile is seated up front.

7th grade Middle School Students as Governing Body

The student residents addressed the Council with their concerns. Each issue had a dollar value assigned. The budget had a fixed amount of discretionary funds from which they could fund the projects. Obviously, there were more requests than there were funds. How realistic would it have been it they had enough money? The process of determining which items would receive the funding was the job of the "Council". When items were "cut" the "residents" had the opportunity to argue their case for why they believed the item should be funded. The student council members handled the exercise very seriously and discussed their reasons for approving or rejecting projects. It was a lot of fun watching them work through the exercise. "Mayor" Garvey did an excellent job keeping Council on task and ended up with a budget Council voted to approve. Valley Center, you may be seeing these names on election ballots in a few years!

Following the mock meeting, the students ate lunch and asked questions regarding the functions and operation of municipal government. The students spent about 90 minutes at City Hall and I am confident it was time very well spent. Armed with the knowledge they received, it would not surprise me to hear that one of these students wins the League's essay competition. Good Luck to you all! We are looking forward to  hosting the 7th grade students next year. Our thanks  go out to Mr. Speer for taking the extra time and putting forth the effort to give these students an experience that is not possible in the classroom.

This coming Saturday, November 7th, Valley Center will host a Veterans Day event you will not want to miss. The events begin at 8:30 AM and conclude with a USO show from 2:00-4:00. The schedule of events will allow you to pick the events you would like to attend. If you have any questions, please call City Hall for more information. Valley Center was selected by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as one of only three regional locations in Kansas. We share this honor with Emporia and Leavenworth. Mark your calendars and plan to spend as much of the day as possible with us as we honor those who have given so much of themselves to protect our families and our way of life.

The 2008 Veterans Day event was very well attended and very interesting. The event this year will be much larger and a more diverse schedule of events. It is something you don't want to miss. You can view the list of Valley Center men and women who have served our country. If you know of someone not listed, please notify me of the omission.

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Mike McNown, Mayor

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October 4, 2009

Fall Festival Success

Our hat is off to the Chamber of Commerce for yet another great Fall Festival! Each year the festival is bigger and better than the previous year. This year the fireworks display closing the event was nothing less than spectacular! Three of your Councilmembers and I were volunteered to put our dignity on the line to help raise money for a new public library. By all accounts the event was a great success. Councilmembers Lou Cicirello (Ward 1), Bruce Campbell (Ward 1), and Jake Jackson (Ward 3) took their turns on that seat that had a bad habit of dropping us in the cold water. I captured some of the action in the following photos of the Councilmembers.

Council members Bruce Campbell, Jake Jackson, and Lou Cicirello in Dunk tank

Council member Lou Cicirello takes a dip in the cold water of the dunk tank

As I said all four of us were in the tank many times, and in all honesty had a lot of fun. If possible, I believe some of my "friends" had more fun than I did. We all had a lot of fun for a great cause. If you put us in the water, or just tried, thank you for your support of the library.

The League of Kansas Municipalities is celebrating their 99th anniversary at their annual conference in Topeka this weekend. The League is a valuable resource for cities in Kansas. Valley Center is proud to be a member of this prestigious organization.

Council is looking forward to the Veterans Day celebration. Last year was the first and it is anticiapted this year will be even better. Councilmembers Kake Jackson and Hobson, both representing Ward 4, are pulling the plans together for this celebration to honor those who have and are currently serving our country to protect our nation. I will be posting more on this event later.

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May 4, 2009

Water Bills Explained

This past week I received an e-mail from a lady asking me to explain what our water actually costs. The answer to this is fairly simple; however, the process to get the answer is a little more complex. In this update, I will attempt to explain this often asked question, along with offering a brief history.

First, the history. As most who have lived here for any time know, Valley Center purchases water from the City of Wichita. Wichita water comes from the Cheney reservoir and wells. Wichita treats the water and distributes it to their customers. Valley Center is one of their customers.

When my family and I moved to Valley Center, in 1980, the municipal water supply came from wells, for which the City owned the water rights. The water was pumped directly from the wells into the water tower. As the city grew the water rights Valley Center owned were not adequate to supply the growing population. In addition the water was very hard. Additional water rights were very expensive to acquire. With this fact in mind, in 1997 City leaders decided to enter into a contract with Wichita to purchase water.

A water line was constructed connecting Valley Center to the Wichita water system. This first line was constructed along Meridian and a new water tower replaced the old tower. Two major benefits came from this action. First was an abundant supply of water, and secondly we got rid of the very hard water in exchange for relatively soft water. The biggest disadvantage was the increase in our water bills. Not only did we now have to purchase our water, we had debt for the construction of the supply line and tower.

In the contract, Wichita agreed to purchase our raw water at wholesale rates. They continue to do so. If we stopped pumping our wells, the valuable rights would be lost. Today, we pump this raw water to the west across the river and eventually into a pipeline system feeding into Wichita. Because this water is hard and Wichita water is soft, the two can't be mixed. The only way to do so would be to first treat our water.

Wichita has a three tier pricing schedule designed to encourage water conservation. The goal of each of us should be to not use more than is allocated in the first tier. During the months of December, January, February and March of each year, the water consumption of each water customer is measured and the average, known as the Average Water Consumption (AWC), during that time frame determines the water allocation. Your AWC during this time frame plus ten percent is the amount of water you can use per month and not enter into the second tier pricing. The City of Valley Center is billed by Wichita based on this tier structure. The City is allowed 110% of all water used during the winter averaging, and then the rates escalate.

Usage of 111% to 310% is in the second tier. Usage of 311% and above is charged based on the third tier rates. The rates I will give are based on rates established for 2009 for a 3/4 inch meter. Regardless of the usage, a base rate (Meter Demand Charge or MDC) of $15.69 is charged. For each one thousand gallons of water we use, we each pay $2.09 for that water. For each thousand gallons in excess of 111% of your AWC, a fee of $5.31 is charged. Water usage of 311% or more, raises the fee for each thousand gallons used to $7.29 per thousand.

Your water bill also includes a fee for the sanitary sewer service. This fee is based on your average water consumption, established in the above formula. The difference is that your sanitary sewer fee does not change with increased, or decreased, consumption. This fee is determined by adding the base charge of $15.30 plus $2.65 for each thousand gallons of AWC. This fee does not increase, or decrease, during the year due to water consumption.

Valley Center pays Wichita $1.26 for each thousand gallons of first tier water, $6.51 for each thousand gallons of second tier and $9.73 for each thousand of third tier water. The amount between that fee paid Wichita and the fee collected from customers is used to maintain the system and pay salaries of the employees in these departments.

There is also a Water Protection fee based on water usage. This is a fee imposed by and paid to the State of Kansas. In order to demonstrate how the monthly bill is calculated, I have prepared a chart you can download showing the cost of water, sanitary sewer, and storm water utility for a customer with an AWC of ten thousand gallons of water per month.

In the past Council has discussed the options for using water from city owned wells to supplement the supply from Wichita in order to prevent the tier 2 and 3 rates. There are some options available to use our own water. One is a process called reverse osmosis. At the time this and other options were discussed Council was not prepared to invest the capital necessary to treat the water.

Water is one of those commodities we take for granted, until we experience an interruption or shortage. The current contract with the City of Wichita will provide our needs through 2016. There is no reason to believe the contract would not be extended at that time. Wichita sells water to other cities in our area. Valley Center sells water to residential and business customers as well as the Rural Water District. Rural Water has their own independent distribution pipeline network they utilize in providing water to their customers.

Methods to reduce your bill include the obvious of not wasting water and paying your bill when it is due. This will prevent expensive late fees. Late fees and fees to turn your water back on for non-payment, are both expenses to be avoided. Making sure you do not exceed your winter average by more than 10% is essential to avoid the increased expense of the upper two tiers of the fee structure. Making sure your lines are in good repair is also important. A leak consisting of a 1/32 inch hole will waste 170 gallons of water over a 24 hours time frame. That is 5,100 gallons in a month. A 1/16 inch hole wastes 970 gallons in 24 hours, or 29,100 gallons in a month; and a 1/8 inch leak wastes 3,600 gallons in 24 hours or 108,000 gallons in a month!

This was an excellent question. If you have other questions that have plagued you and you have not gotten an answer, please send me an e-mail and let me know. I will do my best to provide you an answer.

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April 22, 2009

New Council Members Take Oath of Office

At the conclusion of Old Business the four men elected during this past election took the oath of office administered by our City Clerk, Ms Polian. Afterwards they took their seats on the Council. Two are returning members, Lou Cicirello representing Ward 1 and Jake Jackson representing Ward 3. These men were elected in 2007 and served two year terms. This election renewed their term to 2013.

New to the Council are Harry Gerling and Al Hobson.  Councilmember Gerling takes the seat vacated by his wife, Jo Ann Gerling, who has represented Ward 2 the past two years. Councilmember Gerling brings a unique perspective to this council as the only member who is a business owner. Councilmember Gerling is the owner of a small business located in Valley Center, which he has grown over the years. Joining Councilmember Gerling is a face very familiar to Valley Center, Al Hobson. Councilmember Hobson takes the seat vacated by Councilmember Jack Townsley. He will represent Ward 4 the next four years. Like Councilmember Gerling, Councilmember Hobson also brings a valuable perspective to the Council. Councilmember Hobson served us on the Valley Center Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals for twelve years. Ten of those years he served as the Chair. The knowledge Councilmember Hobson brings to the Council on zoning issues will serve Council and the community well.

All four of these men will be working with the other four members of the Council, and myself, to make our community the best it can be. Even with the best of intentions and knowledge of the issues, we can't properly perform our duties without your input. We are entering into the task of completing the most important job with which the governing body is charged. That job is to set the annual budget. It is during this time that priorities are established and the course Council would like to see the city follow is set. You owe these dedicated men and women your input in order that they may make the decisions important to you.

Councilmember Jake Jackson was elected President of the Council. Councilmember Jackson completed the unexpired term as President of the Council vacated when Councilmember Virginia Black resigned. The President of the Council has the responsibility to conduct the meetings during the mayor's absence. The person in this position is also called upon to assume the position as mayor in the event the elected mayor is unable to complete his/her term of office. In this case the President becomes the mayor until the next election held every two years in odd numbered years. The elected mayor is a four year term; however, the President serves only until a regular election is held. It was from this position that I first became mayor in February of 2006 when Mayor Robinson resigned his position.  Councilmember Jackson will serve in this capacity for the next two years.

It is easy to sit back and ignore the day to day activities and then raise your voice when something is done with which you do not agree. Get involved and work with your elected representatives to shape your community into the place you want to raise your family. Yes, it does take some time out of your schedule and a little effort to communicate your thoughts to your representatives, but that is the best way to make things happen for the better. You have three elected representatives. Two from each Ward and myself. I encourage you to speak to all three of us, or at last one or two. You can call us, send an e-mail, write a letter, stop us at church or on the street when you see us out and about. You can also stop by and talk to me on the two Mondays I have recently set aside to meet with you at City Hall.

Send these public servants an e-mail of congratulations and encouragement as they work diligently to be good stewards of your tax dollars and make Valley Center the choice location to establish your business and raise your family. Their e-mail addresses can be accessed from the Mayor/Council page. Photos of all members of the governing body will be available soon.

We say goodbye to Councilmembers Jo Ann Gerling and Jack Townsley, but I am confident they will not be far away. Former Councilmember Townsley has assured me he will be stopping by to make sure we stay on the straight and narrow path. Former Councilmember Gerling is sure to be close by as she gives her husband advice regarding his new responsibilities. On a personal note, I will miss both of these outgoing members and I personally wish them all the best. While we did not agree on every issue, their dedication to the community was never in question. Good luck Jo Ann and Jack!

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April 21, 2009

Communication

As promised in the last update to the blog, I said this update would address communication issues. I believe we all understand what communication is, but the question is how to properly achieve effective communication that meets the needs of all stakeholders.

At the April 7th meeting of the governing body, a lady from the community asked why the residents had not been informed of the discussions regarding the Storm Water Utility and associated fee. I explained that the topic had been discussed off and on for over five years. That this information was on this web site and had been reported in the Ark Valley News (AVN). The AVN is the official city newspaper; however, this was not reported as an "official" publication, but rather as routine news coverage of discussions during the meetings.

In an AVN editorial appearing in the April 10th edition titled "Council had time to prepare city for fee", the opinion of the AVN is that our communication efforts fell short. While I know information on the issue was not purposely concealed, I understand the perception it was not adequately addressed. I believe it is obvious this is not one of those conspiracy theorist deals hatched behind closed doors, as it was discussed in public and a committee was publicly appointed to research the topic. The resulting report from that committee was posted and remains on this web site for public review. Does this meet the requirement for keeping you informed of the discussions? Technically, I believe it did, but apparently it fell short of meeting the goal. This shortfall is what we want to prevent in the future. Will we always succeed? Most likely not, but we will continue to make every effort to meet your needs.

Communication is a two way effort. You must have both a sender and a receiver. Sort of like a telephone. I can call you, but if you don't answer, communication will not take place. The difference with the telephone is that I know you did not get the message. When utilizing the print media such as newspapers, newsletters, and even the Internet, it is not known to the sender if the message was received. I have no way of knowing if you read these blog updates unless you send me an e-mail with your comments. With television and radio the same is true. These are passive modes of communication, wherein the sender does not know if the message was received until you the sender gives us some indication you heard the message.

How do we improve? How do we get the information out if you don't subscribe to the AVN or read this web site? I do have some ideas, and am also asking for your suggestions. As I mentioned in the April 16th" update we are looking into the possibility of broadcasting the meetings live on the local access cable television channel 7. The meetings would be archived so you could access them here and review any portion of any meeting. Rebroadcasts on channel 7 would also be available during the week. Newsletters are another option we are considering. These could be monthly, quarterly, or however often we need to publish them.

Both television and newsletters have costs associated with them. Those costs are being calculated and will be presented to Council for discussion and a decision. Again, all of these are passive and we don't know if we are hitting the target with the news from City Hall.

I received an e-mail from a resident regarding the Storm Water Utility fee. The tone of the e-mail demonstrated a high level of frustration on this gentleman's part. I responded to his e-mail answering some of his questions. The exchange of e-mail between us led to a face-to-face meeting at City Hall one evening. During this meeting we were able to discuss this issue and others. I believe I was able to clear up some misinformation and at the same time better understand his concerns. I am confident we did not agree on every topic, but I can guarantee that he and I had a much better understanding of each other and the issues we each face. What began as a very divisive issue brought us together, and I am glad to say we each left the meeting with a much better understanding of the issues on both sides. By getting to know each other, we established a rapport that paved the way for open communication of any future issues.

I have said many times that I believe at least 90%-95% of our problems are directly associated with communication issues. I have also found that if two people meet and openly discuss a topic, a better understanding of the issues can be achieved, void of rumors. In an effort to enhance this type of interactive communication, beginning May 4th, I will be available at City Hall to talk with you on the first and third Monday of each month. This is the night before each regularly scheduled meeting of the governing body. If this schedule changes, notifications will be made here.

No appointment is necessary. Drop in between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM to discuss any topic of your choice. I will stay later if you are there before 9:00. I sincerely want to hear your thoughts on issues of concern to you. I will most likely not be able to answer all your questions during these informal meetings, but will get back with you on those issues for which I don't have the answers. I know of a few mayors in other cities who set aside one or more evenings a month for meetings such as this. If you are not able to come in on Monday evenings, just send me an e-mail or call me and we will work out another time better for you. Saturday mornings are usually possible if I don't have another meeting already scheduled. The Monday meetings will be held in the mail meeting room. Drop in and we can chat. Even if you don't have an issue to discuss, we can get to know one another in a relaxed informal setting. If the large meeting room is busy, I will be in the conference room directly to the north.

I understand the importance of communication and will do what is necessary to meet those needs. You on the other hand must communicate to me, and/or your council representatives what works best for you. If we publish a newsletter, will it be just another piece of junk mail that goes in the trash? If you are not going to read it, we don't want to spend your tax money producing, printing and mailing it.

Remember, effective communication requires your active participation. If you don't tell us what works best for you, it is difficult for us to establish effective communication.

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April 16, 2009

Letters From 2nd Grade Class / Web Site Enhancements

This afternoon I had the great pleasure of spending some quality time with Mrs. McCormick's second grade class at West Elementary. A few weeks ago her students wrote letters to President Obama, Govenor Sebelius and me. In 2007 her students first wrote me with their thoughts and concerns for our community. My favorite from the 2007 class was the student who asked me if I knew George Washington! I visited their class and answered a lot of questions. I also explained that while I may look that old, I am not quite old enough to have personally known George Washington. I did concede that I thought he would have been a very interesting person to know, to which they all agreed. It was so much fun talking to the children in 2007 and then again today as I made every effort to answer their serious and not-so-serious questions. I have to admit, talking to these children is one of the most enjoyable functions I am called upon to fulfill while being Mayor of our city.

Upon receipt of these letters, I scanned them and have posted them to this web site along with a brief comment to each student. You can also read the letters I received in 2007, which are also posted to the web site.

Receipt of these letters made my day! It is refreshing to hear from the children and to read their comments. Many express their likes and dislikes with regard to various aspects of our community, but a few show some deep thought went into writing their letters. One in particular wanted selves set aside in the library and reserved for books written by students from her school. Not only did she have a unique idea, she also asked if I would support such a project. Please set aside a few minutes of your day and read these letters. I promise you that the effort will bring a smile to your face and brighten an otherwise routine day. It definitely improved my day!

Mrs. McCormick's 2009 2nd grade class
Photo of 2nd grade class

Work on the new web site is progressing. The planned implementation date is in mid-August. The new site will have a updated look and new features to make it more interactive and useful. As you can tell from this blog, I like to work with web pages and have made some changes to the current site that I would like to bring to your attention. I also want to draw your attention to other new aspects of the current site. Granted, some of these will change in looks, but the concept will be carried forward into the new site.

The first feature is not really a feature, but rather a series of three pages on the site. Working together, Councilmember Kate Jackson and I developed an area to feature events in the community. The first of which to be featured was the Veterans Day celebration. You can access these pages from the home page. In the left hand column you will see an "EVENTS" tab. This will open sub-sites of the various events. Currently, there is only the Veterans Day tab. This will take you to a page with photos from the 2008 event. Future events such as the Fall Festival, Tree City Celebrations, etc. will be found here. From this page one can access one of two lists of veterans from Valley Center. The first lists veterans from Valley Center by the war or conflict that was prevalent during their time of service. The second is the same list of veterans, but they are listed alphabetically by their surname. If you know of any veterans from Valley Center who are not included in the list, please let me know in order that we can have the information verified and their name added.

A page has been added offering an interactive map of the four Wards has been added. By simply clicking anywhere in one of the four wards you will be redirected to a page dedicated to that ward and the two Councilmembers representing that area of our city. In the future, brief biographies of these representatives will be available. This is one aspect of the site that will be changing with more information added as the site matures. Photos of the newly elected Councilmembers will be posted once they become available. The terms of office will also be updated.

Online polls have recently been introduced on the site. Various poll questions will be posted to solicit your input. If you have ideas for questions, please send me an email with your suggestion(s). All suggestions will be considered for inclusion in a future poll. The results of the polls will be posted in order that you can review past polls. These polls are NOT scientific, but should add an interesting interactive aspect to the web site.

Nobody likes paying bills, including me, but we all know bills are a fact of life. In an effort to make the process a little more convenient, we have added online bill payments. Utility payments can be made using a credit card in conjunction with the secure online payment feature. This feature was added several weeks ago and is being utilized by more and more as the word spreads regarding the availability of this option.

Other pages have taken on a new look. For example the Mayor/Council and the Boards and Commissions pages each been reformatted with a new look, but the information contained on these pages has not changed significantly. A couple other pages have undergone similar changes, but the big change in the look of the site will come in August.

The cost of the above described enhancements had little or no cost associated with them. Council is very aware of the value of tax dollars and makes every effort to get the biggest bang for the buck. Criticism regarding lack of communication has not been ignored. The upgrades to the Web site and the pending installation of the electronic sign at City Hall are all efforts to improve communication. Yes, these efforts do come with a price tag. The benefits are weighed against the cost and a decision is made.

An example of this is the purchase of the electronic sign Council approved. This sign will cost the owner of a home with an appraised value of $100,000, a one time expense of approximately $9.52. Not only will this sign allow us to keep the community informed of events at City Hall and in the community, we will be able to offer paid advertising to business to help offset the cost. The total cost also includes a five year warranty. Not all within the community agree the purchase of the sign was prudent, but the intent was to address requests from the community for more interactive communication. Discussion of a sign of this nature has been on the back burner since I have been on the governing body. Recent changes at City Hall and the new Meridian frontage, prompted the decision to implement this new communication outlet.

If you have an idea for a web site improvement, please send me an email or let your Council representative know. We will look into the suggestion and discuss them with our service provider to determine if they are possible and cost effective. Your idea may be something you have seen on another city's site, or for you programmers, a idea for which you have a concept. The interactive map is one that I have seen on one or two sites. I liked the feature so well, I made an interactive map for our site. A lot of late night hours have gone into that map, but I believe it offers something to improve the usability of our site while providing you with more information regarding your Ward and those representing you. Future planned improvements will add to this usability.

Poke around the site and see what all is offered. Let us know what you like, and even what you may dislike. The site is a waste of time, effort and money if not utilized. Send an email with your suggestions on how we can make the site more useful and provide the information/services you want/need.

Future Updates to the Blog

Future Updates to the Blog will include a more in-depth discussion regarding communication. Is there a topic you would like to see covered in this forum? If so, please send me an email and let me know the topic. I make every attempt to update the blog with news I believe is important to most who read the blog. If I am missing the mark let me know how to improve my aim. I sincerely look forward to hearing your suggestions.

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The day following the posting of this update, staff prepared a very informative online document to help answer your questions.

April 1, 2009

Storm Water Utility

We all began receiving bills for the Storm Water Utility in the mail today, April 1st. I, as well as Council members, began receiving phone calls and e-mails almost immediately from citizens asking what the fee was for. There has been some confusion on this topic. I will attempt to address the issue.

Over five years ago, the Governing Body heard that unfunded mandates from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were required, and a Storm Water Utility was a possible way to fund these requirements. More specifically the mandate comes under the name of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). These regulations require that we monitor and clean up the water being discharged into the river as a result of storm water. A NPDES FAQ is available online.

Testing the water for contaminants was one of the requirements of NPDES. The requirement to comply was not optional. What was optional was how to fund the compliance efforts. Up until the creation and funding of the Storm Water Utility, the efforts were funded out of the Special Highway Fund.

Ditches with excess debris, water runoff carrying fertilizer and pesticides, and even grass clippings blown into the streets or dumped into storm drains are some of the areas addressed. Council did not want to impose another fee on the residents, but the funding had to come from somewhere. Many cities have adopted a fee similar to this new fee in Valley Center. The question was how to spread the fee fairly.

Council discussed several options, including doing nothing and funding the effort from property tax. The issue is impervious surfaces where water is not able to soak into the ground. Examples are the area upon which our homes cover. Driveways, parking lots, and any other area with a hard surface.

I appointed a committee made up of two Council members, business leaders and non-elected citizens to study the issue and bring a recommendation back to Council. It was not an easy task, but they did their job. One business man on the committee told me that he did not like the fee, but realized the mandate had to be funded, and he felt the recommendation they presented to Council was the best method to fund this mandate. The committee report and recommendations can be viewed starting on page 24, in the Council packet for October 21, 2008.

The fee structure adopted by Council in October 2008 established a flat rate for all residential properties. A fee of one dollar per month was determined to be the residential fee. This fee would be billed on water bills to those residential properties connected to the Valley Center municipal water supply. To those properties with private wells, and not connected to the municipal water system, an annual bill will be sent in the amount of twelve dollars. Non-residential properties with 1,000 sq. ft. of impervious surface area pay the same fee as residential properties. The fee structure for other non-residential properties reaches a maximum of twenty dollars per month for properties with over 100,000 sq. ft. of impervious surface area.

The fact we must enforce and abide by the regulations is not disputable. The question is how we are going to pay for it. We will pay it either through this Storm Water Utility Fee or through our property taxes. After a lot of discussion, the majority of Council felt this was the method that would spread the funding burden in a manner that was as equitable as possible.

This fee is paid by all residential and non-residential properties regardless of their tax status. The only exceptions to this are a very small number of residential properties that are connected directly to Wichita water service. This is to say their water bill comes directly from the City of Wichita. These properties are not assessed the fee, because they have been paying a higher fee all along to Wichita. Council felt it was only fair to exclude them from the Valley Center assessment.

I realize some do not like the fee, and for that I am truly sorry; however, it was a difficult decision Council had to make. I assure you it was not a decision easily made. This is evidenced by the long time span over which it was discussed.

I hope this very brief explanation has helped to answer some of the questions.

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March 31, 2009

DO YOU CARE????

Did the title of this update get your attention? Make you just a little curious? I want to take a few minutes of your time to strongly urge you to vote on April 7th. You will have the opportunity to choose the men and women who will be part of the leadership of your city council and school board. Still not concerned? These are the people who will decide how your children are educated, which city services will be offered, and how much all this and more is going to cost you!

It is often said that those who don't vote, don't care. They are happy with the way things are going and therefore are not motivated to get involved. This thinking is evident from watching attendance at the meetings of these two groups. When things are going along smoothly the meetings are not heavily attended by the public; but if there is a topic with a little controversy, the meeting rooms are packed. Understandably, people get involved when they feel threatened or are upset with a proposed action. It is like this with the majority of groups.

Those who wish to see changes in the status quo will often throw their hat into the ring and run for office. Many candidates run for office simply because they want to contribute and make a positive impact in their community. Both are excellent reasons to seek an elected position.

Now that these individuals have stepped up and made the decision to run for office, it is your job to make the selections. It is often said that voting is our responsibility as citizens. I believe educating yourself of the issues and the views of the various candidates is the real responsibility of every voter. Only then can you make an informed choice. Voting during April elections does not require standing in long lines. The wait times are typically very short, if there is any wait at all. Stop by and cast your vote. It does make a difference!

There are opportunities for you to become aware of the viewpoints of these individuals. The Ark Valley News offers all candidates the opportunity to answer questions they believe are important to the community. They do a great job in their selection of questions. While they select good topics of interest to most everyone, there are many other questions on the minds of voters. It is for this reason candidate forums are sponsored. At most of these events, the audience was given the opportunity to ask candidates to answer those questions of specific importance to them.

The forum sponsored by the Library Board on March 26th was the most recent of these forums. My disappointment was the small number of individuals who attended. This leads me back to the topic of this update with the question...DO YOU CARE.

I realize we are all very busy and our free time is precious. If you are happy with the way things are going, then vote and make sure those candidates who share your position are elected/re-elected. If on the other hand you believe a candidate has a better idea of how to improve our community, then you should vote for that candidate. The choice is yours to make. The question to ask is whether or not your representative will listen to you. You don't always have to agree with each other, but the communication is important in order that your views are known.

The wrong action is to let someone else make this decision for you by allowing them to vote and your vote going uncounted. As bad as it sounds, if you don't know the issues or how the candidates stand, this is most likely your best choice. It is still not too late to get to know the candidates and make your choice in the voting booth.

I sincerely admire each person who has made the decision to run for elected office. Those chosen by the voters have a huge responsibility to contribute and make the Council or School Board better. It is easy to sit back and criticize the actions of your representatives, but quite another to be willing to step up and take on the challenge.

Vote for your Council and School Board representatives on or before April 7th. Then be willing to communicate with them throughout their term of office. Don't let it be said that the candidate "I Don't Care won." Those votes not cast are, in all reality, cast for the candidate I Don't Care.

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March 20, 2009

Reception for City Administrator / New Sign and Web Page / New Appointments / and more...

Council met March 17, 2009. Council had some difficult decisions to make. From my perspective, I believe your Council is fiscally conservative. This attitude in handling the finances of the City is the most desirable. Due to this fiscally conservative posture, Council understandably gave mixed support regarding some of the issues.

Discussion of the Federal Stimulus is a topic of discussion for us all. Most of the information received indicates that when the funds become available, they will be directed toward "shovel ready" projects. This is to say the project must be ready to go. The dilemma is that in order to get a project "shovel ready" some funds must be expended, with no assurance of funding from the Stimulus package. Council considered funding an engineering development plan for a bike path/sidewalk that would extend from Lions Park to 7th and Meridian.

Cost to develop the plan was projected to be a little over $25,000. On one hand the sidewalk has been discussed over the past few years, but lack of funding has caused it to stall. If stimulus money were to become available for this project, the opportunity to add this to our City would be very nice, with little cost to the residents. On the other hand, there is no assurance the project would receive stimulus funding. Ultimately, in a mixed vote, Council chose to not take the chance, and declined to fund the engineering work. While this does save the cost of this work, in all likelihood it closes the opportunity of receiving stimulus funds, should they become available.

Information exchange is critical. It is important that information get from City Hall to the community. Council approved the purchase of an electronic sign to be placed in front of City Hall. The sign will incorporate an electronic message board that will be used to pass along information. While the cost of the sign is around $35,000, I believe it is a good move on the part of Council, and will be well utilized.

On this same goal to keep the community informed, Council approved a redesign of this web site. The current site was a good first step when it was implemented, but recent capabilities made it important to redesign the site to incorporate those new features. In addition to the ability you already have to pay utility bills online, the opportunity to take online polls will be available, as well as more interactive information. Common forms will be available without the need to visit City Hall. The goal is to develop a "virtual city hall" for the community. Ideally, most of those tasks you now have to do in person will be accessible online. It is important for the face to face contact, but sometimes it is just not convenient to make that trek to City Hall during regular business hours.

Inclusion of Council member profiles and ward maps is a priority of mine. I would like to see more information available in order that you get to know your representatives better. A brief bio along with methods to contact your representatives will be a part of the new design. You may know which ward you live in, but do you know the boundaries of those wards? Maps showing the ward boundaries will be available when the new site is in place. I received word yesterday the projected date for the newly redesigned site will be this coming September. If you have ideas for the site that you would like to have considered, please let me know.

As you know, we have a new City Administrator. Tomorrow morning, Saturday, March 21st, we will host a reception for Mr. Joel Pile at City Hall. The reception will be from 10:00 AM - Noon. Please take time to drop in and meet Mr. Pile and welcome him to Valley Center. Stop in a get something to eat and drink. Most members of the Governing Body will be available to talk with you one-on-one regarding your concerns. Remember, the budget is in the very early stages of development. This is a great opportunity to let us know what your priorities are for Valley Center.

A new appointment to the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals along with a reappointment to the Library Board were approved by Council. It was my pleasure to appoint Mr. Rick Shellenbarger to fill the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals vacancy brought about by the resignation of Mr. Jason Pedruzzi. Mr. Shellenbarger's term will expire in October of 2010. These terms are for three years, but since this appointment it to fill an unexpired term it is a shorter duration. I would hope to be able to extend the term to a full three years at that time. Council also approved my reappointment of Mr. Jerry Davidson to a four year term on the Library Board. My sincere thanks to these two men and all the others men and women who serve as volunteers on the various boards and commissions in our city. They receive no monetary payment and very little recognition for the great service they provide. We owe them a great big round of applause! If you would like to join their ranks and volunteer to make our community better, call me or send a letter or e-mail telling me of your area of interest. I will keep your name on file and consider you for the next opening in your area of interest.

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March 16, 2009

City Hosts SCAC / Local Officials Recognized / Stimulus Funds Uncertain

Valley Center hosted the March meeting of the Sedgwick County Association of Cities (SCAC). This group meets the second Saturday each month, in various locations in Sedgwick County to discuss issues of interest to the governing bodies of the various member cities. As the host city, we were able to showcase Valley Center to the 33 area officials in attendance. This provided an excellent opportunity to promote our great city. My thanks to Councilmember Gerling and City Staff who working together made the meeting a success by shining a positive light on our city.

The meeting was attended by 33 city and county officials. State Representative Steve Huebert gave the group an informative update regarding current legislative activity in Topeka.

The group recognized the training accomplishments of four elected municipal officials. Those recognized have achieved various levels of training from one or more of the following.

My personal congratulations go out to those who strive to improve their knowledge as elected officials, and their efforts to make their cities better. The following is the list of those recognized, along with their accomplishments. Take note that one of our own Council members, Kate Jackson, was amongst those recognized. Take a couple minutes and join me in congratulating her by sending her an e-mail or calling her.

Name
City
Accomplishment(s)
Keith DeHaven, Mayor
Sedgwick

MLA Level 1

MLA Level 2

NIMS/ICS

Kate Jackson, Council Member
Valley Center

MLA Level 1

MLA Level 2

NIMS/ICS

Stacy Rogers, Council Member
Mt. Hope
NIMS/ICS
Terry Somers, Mayor
Mt. Hope

MLA Level 1

MLA Level 2

Discussion regarding the level of funding from the Federal Stimulus package filtering into Kansas has been a topic of the last two meetings of SCAC. I have been contacted by residents and other elected officials regarding this topic. We are keeping an eye on the issue; however, the details regarding distribution of the funds has not been finalized. The decisions regarding distribution of the funds continue to change. It appears funds designated for transportation in our area will be distributed through the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WAMPO). We have not been able to determine the level of funding, or requirements, for other infrastructure projects.

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March 4, 2009

New City Administrator Hired / Eagle Scout Project Recognized

Mr. Joel Pile was hired by Council during the March 3rd meeting to fill the City Administrator vacancy left by I.D. Creech. As you may recall, Mr. Creech resigned to accept the position as County Administrator for Harper County. Since Mr. Creech's resignation, Mr. George Kolb has filled the vacancy until a permanent replacement could be selected.

After meeting in a short executive session, Council approved an employment agreement and starting date of March 4th for Mr. Pile. Mr. Pile, his wife Diania and their three year old son attended the meeting and met those in attendance. As most already have heard, Mr. Pile comes to Valley Center from Rose Hill. While having served as the City Administrator for Rose Hill, he also served as the Community Development Officer for the community. Prior to moving to Rose Hill, he was an elected member of the Council in Haysville. His background gives him a perspective of city government that should serve him and Valley Center well in the coming years.

Mr. Kolb has agreed to stay and assist Mr. Pile with the transition for up to 4 weeks. Mr. Kolb's service to the community, while short in tenure, has been extraordinary. Council and I have greatly appreciated Mr. Kolb's service to Valley Center.

The Governing Body will host a reception on Saturday, March 21st from 10:00 AM to noon at City Hall. This will give the community an opportunity to meet Mr. Pile. Mark your calendar to meet and welcome Mr. Pile to Valley Center.

It was my honor to recognize and thank Kevin Deihl, one of our local boy scouts. Kevin is an Eagle Scout candidate. As part of his journey toward Eagle Scout Kevin chose to build six benches for placement in Arrowhead Park. The photo below, shows Kevin sitting on one of the benches he built. I am confident Kevin's contribution will be well utilized by those visiting the park in years to come.


Photo of Kevin Deihl

The journey toward Eagle Scout is a long and difficult one. It is very refreshing to be able to recognize those who have the determination and drive to achieve their goals. Good luck Kevin and thank you for your contribution to Arrowhead Park!

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121 S. Meridian | Valley Center, KS 67147 | P.O. Box 188 | Ph. (316) 755-7310 | Fx. (316) 755-7319
Valley Center Kansas