Lee’s Summit City Council is one step closer to whether there will be a bond election in April 2013 to finance cultural arts facilities and two road projects.
The City Council on Dec. 20 voted to draft an ordinance which would put three separate questions to citizens asking if the city should borrow:
• $2.9 million to enhance the Legacy Park amphitheater, renovate a historic post office for the Lee’s Summit Historical Society museum and build a small stage and festival space adjacent to that building
• $1.6 million to add paved shoulders to Pryor Road
• $3 million to reconstruct Orchard Street between Douglas Road and Independence Avenue, adding sidewalks, new storm sewers and fixing grades
The council could amend its decision when taking a final vote on the ordinance scheduled for Jan. 10.
Council members voted unanimously for putting the arts facilities on the ballot. The arts facility proposal is a slightly modified version of a recommendation of citizen’s task force which had proposed renovation of Arnold Hall for the museum.
One topic that could see more debate is whether the three facilities should be broken three questions, to allow voters to pick and choose. Or the council could consolidate the Orchard Street and Pryor Road issues into one proposal. A close decision adding Orchard Street to the ballot got the most debate.
Council member Ed Cockrell championed the project, which had been left off the recommendation from the Capital Improvements Project Committee, which had recommended improvements for Pryor Road.
He noted Orchard was in one of the pockets of older Lee’s Summit that are neglected as newer areas such as Lakewood, Winterset and Raintree Lake get needed repairs.
He said that with very-low interest rates on bonds available and low construction prices due to the economy, now is an opportune time to fix Orchard.
“Now is the right time to pour concrete,” Cockrell said.
His motion was first voted down, with a tie between council members and Mayor Randy Rhoads voting no.
Councilmember Allan Gray, after the vote on the cultural arts facility, changed his mind and asked the council to reconsider adding Orchard to the ballot.
The following vote on Orchard passed with Cockrell, Gray, Rob Binney, Brian Whitley and Kathy Hofmann voting yes, Bob Johnson, Derek Holland and David Mosby voting no.
Cockrell had questioned why Pryor Road should have precedence over Orchard.
Hofmann added the neighborhood has a lot of children and Orchard is not safe for pedestrians.
“The only way we’re ever going to get Orchard done is with a bond issue,” Hofmann said.
A justification for overlooking Orchard has been that it serves a smaller number of people and isn’t a main road. The city has a long list of competing projects waiting on funding.
City Manager Steve Arbo told the council said his staff had suggested it as a bond issue candidate because it does add to connectivity of downtown, providing sidewalks between Douglas Road and Independence Avenue.
But because of the $3 million expense, it falls into a no-man’s land of being too expensive for the street maintenance program, but too small to compete against major thoroughfare and highway improvements.
Gray said the city needs to be working on ways to fill the gaps in services.
“This is an opportunity to right what I think is a long-time wrong,” he said.
Holland, chairman of the committee, said the committee’s recommendation had not been an easy one because all of the projects were needed and worthwhile.
But he argued the city should preserve some of its so-called “no tax increase” bonding capacity for the future economic development projects. City officials calculated the city could borrow about $12 million on a 10-year loan without raising taxes.
The total for the issue as now proposed would be $7.5 million.
Holland said he voted against Orchard because of the smaller number of people it benefits compared to the city overall. He also voted against putting Pryor Road on the ballot.
“Orchard is not alone,” Holland said. “Let’s get ready, there’s a lot of other ones we need to do as well.”
Mosby agreed with Holland.
“Try to keep the lid on this as much as possible,” Mosby said. “Maybe down the road we can get to it.”