County “Held Hostage” by City in Resolving Expo Lease
Karen Shade - April 4, 2017 2:22 pm
County Commission Vice Chairman Robert Vidricksen said Tuesday that the County is “being held hostage” by the City over resolving the lease at the EXPO Center. He said he felt his “hands were tied tight” and he was “being backed into a corner”. The City owns the EXPO Center property; the County owns the buildings and a lease to use the property is set to expire in 2019.
Vidricksen began his comments by saying that he and perhaps others of the four newly elected commissioners had run because they wanted to provide visionary leadership. Vidricksen said he wanted to make it clear that if the lease wasn’t extended, such a decision would “cost taxpayers money”.
Chairman Monte Shadwick concurred. He said, “Taxpayers need to know that” City representatives “won’t meet with us”.”
Vidricksen said EXPO Center staff are currently booking events in 2019. He said some EXPO Center staff are wondering if they will have a job in the future and are considering transferring within the county or seeking employment elsewhere.
County Administrator Rita Deister said, “We can’t plan for a future if we don’t know” what the future holds. She said the EXPO Center functions as a “community service–with weddings, family get-togethers and social events”. She said the City had indicated they would send a letter four weeks ago that would contain additional information.
Vidricksen said he had a “gut feeling” that the City has “plans for the place”. He asked that the appropriate individuals from the City “let us know if they have plans”. Deister said such conversations would be especially relevant as the County is preparing its budget.
Commissioner Jim Weese said he knew there were “old wounds” between the City Commission and its officials regarding previous County Commissions. Weese said he’d like to talk with the City about tipping fees. Other Commissioners suggested that annexation and road maintenance agreements were part of the “bag of issues” they wanted to discuss with appropriate City representatives.
Commissioner Rodger Sparks noted that the County may soon have to deal with costs associated with securing the building as well as the “overpopulation of the jail”. Shadwick said the County Commission “could sit down and talk to” the City “about individual items or the bag”. He said the County “isn’t setting an agenda”.
Shadwick confirmed that it will cost taxpayers money if the County has to vacate the current EXPO Center location. He said he understood why our national and state officials might have difficulty communicating with each other, but noted that the City and County Commissions serve 85% of the same constituents.
In the meeting, Vidricksen didn’t elaborate on what those taxpayer costs would be. A few years ago, the City took control of Oakdale Park; in return, the City extended utilities to a county-owned property south of Salina. However, previous County Commissions have declined to designate whether that property might serve as a future home for some version of an EXPO Center. Some groups have expressed interest in housing any new EXPO Center in north Salina and other locations. If the County had to vacate its present location, it would have to remove and possibly re-build the structures that include Tri-Rivers Arena, Ag Hall and animal barns, the 4-H Building and Kenwood Hall.
Deister said that last week’s Farm EXPO was organized by the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. It had leased space from both the City and County to hold the various functions.
County Approves Road Vacations
In a 3-2 vote, the Commission approved a right of way vacation at Gypsum Valley Road at Crawford, at the request of Mike Henry. The motion to vacate was made by Commissioner Mike White. Shadwick and Sparks voted in agreement. White said that vacating the road would reduce by half a mile the number of roads the County maintains. Vidricksen and Weese voted against the vacation. Vidricksen voiced concern about setting a precedent. Rural Fire Department #1 had raised concerns about vacating the road.
In a 5-0 vote, the Commission approved a right of way vacation of Crawford at Donmyer; again at Mike Henry’s request. A representative from a nearby property said she was considering getting an easement to allow direct access to her property.
The Commission tabled a request to do a right of way vacation on Mahan Road that was requested by Pete Hocking. A mutually agreeable decision had been reached. County Counselor Mike Montoya requested that the agreement be notarized and recorded before the County approved the vacation.
County Clerk Jamie Doss Allen said she is in the process of revising the right of way vacation process so the process begins with a land owner making a written request for a right of way vacation. Other Commissioners said it would be helpful to have a written report from RFDs, utilities and others as they consider such requests.
In March, the County collected $337,243 in sales tax revenues. This is down 6.35% from 2016’s collections of $360,104. 2017’s year-to-date collects of $1,175,857 are down 2.53% from 2016’s collections of $1,206,377.
In Other Matters
The Commission also:
- Heard an overview of the North Central Kansas Regional Planning Commission from Doug McKinney.
- Proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. They proclaimed this week as National Crime Victims’ Right Week. They also proclaimed National County Government Month and Fair Housing Month.
- Approved spending $17,620 to purchase desktop computers.
- Heard Road and Bridge’s quarterly report. A used 2015 Bomag sheepsfoot compactor has been purchased for $82,000. Recent efforts at trimming trees and replacing culverts were shown. A spirited discussion followed about whether the County could seek damages when others damage bridges and culverts from hauling overweight loads. In the last quarter, 11 reinforced concrete box structures have been built.
- Learned that 30 different designs have been submitted as part of a contest to design a new County logo. Weese and Sparks agreed to serve on a committee along with Rebecca Seamans and Brad Bowers to whittle the 30 down to 10 possible options to bring before the Commission.
- Held one ten-minute executive session.