City pursuing benefit district at relaxed pace after discussion
A public discussion meeting for residents affected by a proposed benefit district for street improvements near the Eudora Nursing Center will tentatively take place this fall. Mayor Ron Conner said the city needed to continue looking at 14th and Elm streets in the long-range plan but that leaders should continue thinking about how the costs of improvements could be split between the city and residents.
The plan of action came after further discussion about whether the city wanted to pursue a benefit district to bring streets up to current standards in the area of 14th and 15th streets from Elm to Acorn. Of about 15 residents present at Monday nights' Eudora City Council meeting, none said he or she was interested in paying to improve the streets. Several retired residents of the area spoke up, saying they felt like increasing taxes were pushing them out of Eudora.
Discussion of bringing the streets up to standard arose with plans for the Grand Addition south of the area, which would increase traffic on the streets. However, those involved disagree on how much additional traffic that would mean.
Although some residents questioned why they should pay for what they thought would ultimately benefit the Grand Addition, on-call city engineer Cecil Kingsley said the streets in that area were built to an earlier -- and lower -- standard. He said increased traffic would be only part of the reason why improving the streets would be a good idea, if neighbors so desired.
All of the affected residents in attendance -- although no one was certain what percentage of the neighborhood that represented -- were unanimous in their rejection of a benefit district, Council members had different ideas.
"If there's going to be damage to the streets (the developer) should be liable for it," said Council member Don Durkin. "If the city wants to put in improvement taxes, fine, but we can't put it on (residents) because somebody else is building a new structure."
Fellow Council member Dan Gregg said he didn't feel strongly either way.
"My job is to support what the majority of you want," he said.
Kingsley emphasized the benefit district would be flexible in several ways, including the scope of the district, the materials used, and the cost-sharing ratio between the city and residents.
"The project can still be changed," Kingsley said. "The ultimate pavement design may change the numbers."
Although some criticized a proposal that extended the proposed benefit district area beyond the essential streets that would be most affected by new development, City Administrator Mike Yanez said because of economies of scale, improving a larger area would lower overall costs. Phasing the projects, as Council member Rex Burkhardt suggested, would increase costs for contractors rather than completing the project in one fell swoop.
Moreover, Yanez said the current economic climate meant interest rates and bids would probably be the lowest they would be for a while. However, he said estimates were presented as the worst case scenario, because cost would be a major factor in whether neighbors voted for or against a benefit district.