Thursday, Oct. 25 2012 4:52PM
Councilmembers squabble over capital improvements committee
Lee’s Summit residents can let their leaders know what projects they’d like to see put on the ballot next April.
The city will be able to borrow money to finance new infrastructure as it’s paying of old debt without increasing taxes.
The City Council is looking at a possible April election and at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at City Hall an ad hoc committee will hold its first meeting to get the public’s opinion on a list of about $145 million in projects.
That’s an opportunity that’s booked, even though the council has a tiff with political undercurrents over who is leading that discussion.
Projects proposed range from specific streets to building a parking structure or adding monument city-limit signs on highways like Interstate 470 to greet people entering the Lee’s Summit.
Residents can also make comments online at http://engagels.net/projects/capital-improve-
Criteria the council plans to help sift the projects include public safety, economic development, cost of the project and potential public benefits.
The proposed bond issue is to be between $7 million and $12 million, depending on whether the council decides to issue debt for 10 or 15 years.
The projects are expected to be added to a $2.7 million package of cultural arts facilities recommended to be on the ballot.
Councilmember Allan Gray, in his role as mayor pro tem, appointed the ad-hoc committee to sort through the list and testimony and recommend a package. At the Oct. 18 council meeting, Councilman Ed Cockrell asked the City Attorney Teresa Williams to provide him the ordinance creating the committee and minutes of the meeting where the council approved committee members.
Cockrell, in an interview, said he thinks the full council could hear the proposals for the bond issue, including meeting with the public. He said the committee is an unnecessary step that could blunt input from other councilmembers.
He also contends the committee hasn’t been properly authorized because the city charter calls for committees to be formed with “advise and consent” of the council.
Cockrell said that when he was mayor pro-tem and proposed members for a Budget Committee he was ready with a list of appointees. The appointments were delayed until the city acted to formally create the committee by ordinance and voted to confirm its members, he said.
“I got ahead of myself,” Cockrell said. “Bob Johnson called it right out, and he was correct.”
Cockrell was present at meetings where the Gray had proposed appointing a Capital Improvements Project Committee and when its members were announced but had not objected at that time.
Gray had also given the city clerk a list of council members appointed to the committee. Mayor Randy Rhoads had asked the council whether it agreed to create the committee and no one objected.
Cockrell said the issue had been brought up during an inappropriate time on the agenda and he wasn’t prepared to get into a lengthy debate at the moment.
He contends the proposed committee should have come back on the agenda as an ordinance.
“I didn’t have a shot, I got cut right out of the discussion,” Cockrell said.
Cockrell said that silence from the members didn’t necessarily mean agreement.
“I don’t think there was any consensus at all,” Cockrell said.
Rhoads said that because this is an ad-hoc committee, appointed for a limited time and purpose, so it doesn’t “rise to the level of an ordinance.”
“Once you define the projects, the need for the committee goes away,” Rhoads said. “Ultimately it will come to the full council.”
Rhoads said he had himself appointed an ad-hoc committee of community members to work on Diversity and Human Relations issues which didn’t require an ordinance.
The council did, however, vote on a resolution to create that committee and appoint members, according to City Clerk Denise Chisum after a check of city records.
Rhoads said he thought there was a consensus of the council for the committee.
The city charter says committees will be created by “advise and consent” from the council, but isn’t more specific.
Gray said he thought the process of creating the committee had been handled correctly.
“The council is trying to the best of its ability to operate in an open and transparent manner,” Gray said. “The Capital Improvement Project Committee is a clear example of the council’s commitment to bringing forward to the public an open and visible process.”
The public will have opportunity at the meeting to be fully engaged and present their ideas to the council, he said.