Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 5:08PM
LS choosing projects for April election
Committee to recommend projects for April bond election
By Russ Pulley
The Lee’s Summit City Council is working on which of $147 million in unfunded projects will round out a proposed no-tax-increase bond issue.
Most won’t make the cut.
City officials are looking at projects to put before voters for an April election, with a deadline of early January to submitting its ballot questions to the election board.
Some ideas are individually pricey like $5 million for a new parking garage on the west side of downtown, a suggestion from Councilmember Ed Cockrell.
Others are potentially controversial, like $5.5 million to provide the local match to continue expansion of Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport. Or $3 million to buy the street lighting system from KCP&L, instead of leasing it, a move the city thinks would save operating costs.
The council could bundle several street projects in the $50,000 each range. Or finish the last $2.5 million of sidewalk rehabilitation needed throughout the city.
Councilmember David Mosby would like to see reconstruction of the intersections at Third Street, Ward Road and U.S. 50 to solve traffic problems.
This discussion follows a recommendation in September by the Cultural Arts Facility Task Force for a $2.7 million package for arts that includes refurbishing Arnold Hall, adding an outdoor stage and venue downtown and enhancing the Legacy Park amphitheater.
City Manager Steve Arbo said the city could finance $7 million in improvements if it issues bonds for 10 years or up to $12 million if it wanted to extend the debt to 15 years. The general bond issue wouldn’t require a tax increase, but also taxes wouldn’t go down as the city pays off other debt.
The question is what will be in the final package put before voters.
Councilmember Allan Gray, in his role as mayor pro tem, has appointed a Capital Improvements Project Committee to begin sorting through possibilities. Its members are Mosby, Gray, Brian Whitley and Derek Holland, with Holland serving as chairman.
Holland said the committee would welcome comments from the public.
“It will certainly be an open process,” Holland said.
Residents should contact City Hall or email committee members with their suggestions or preferences. The committee is expected to begin meeting this month. City Council contact information can be found on page 4A of the Journal).
City staff had a list of unfunded projects it prepared when getting ready for a November 2010 bond issue, which financed a shooting range at the police headquarters, radio upgrades and work for Strother and Tudor roads.
“I dusted off the list and looked at them again,” said Assistant City Manager Brian Scott, who also asked department heads for their opinions.
He said the staff developed a point system for prioritizing projects, based on criteria like economic development and safety. That will help lend some order to the process.
Scott said all the projects are needed, some of them could be simply too expensive or complex to be practical for the April package bond issue.
For example, he said, solving the U.S. 50 or Missouri 291 traffic problems at Third Street or Langsford Road probably would also involve construction at other intersections along the route as well, and the cooperation of the Missouri Department of Transportation, which would own much of the right-of-way.
And MoDOT doesn’t have funding either.
The city could take an interim step of paying for some engineering to be ready to move those projects higher on MoDOT’s priority, or applying for grants, to be ready for inclusion in a future bond issue or some other financing method.
Mosby said he expects a lot of debate on particular projects.
“I’m of the opinion of let’s get it down to a few and let the people decide, do some surveys,” he said.
The city could do a quick mailing or use its website for informal surveys, he said.