Sunday, September 14, 2014

RAYTOWN'S LEADING NEWS SOURCE

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BREAKING NEWS
Raytown Park Board Votes to Close SuperSplash in 2015
On September 15, the Raytown Park Board voted to close SuperSplash Water Park for one year while a plan could be studied for the future of the entire park system.


“Generally, it was about the numbers,” said George Mitchell, Board Chair. “For several years the city has subsidized Super Splash as the park aged and operations costs increased. It was a difficult decision; it’s really all about the numbers. We had to be realistic about the future of the park and sustaining the park fund for the long term.” READ MORE



The Paul Livius Report
Raytown Board of Aldermen Budget Hearing – September 2, 2014

Mahesh Sharma told the Board they have hired Ben Hart to help with the Budget process since the Finance Director resigned.  Total expenditures will increase 4% over the last budget.  There has not been a significant pay increase in three years, and he is proposing a 4% pay increase across the board for all city employees.  The final budget will be presented to the Board on October 7, 2014.

Doug Jonesi, with the EMS department, said they have purchased new ambulances and upgraded the radio system.  They will reduce overall expenses by 5% in the upcoming year.

Public Works director, Andy Noll, said the clean-up coupon program is going well.  The Google Fiber installation is almost complete.  They plan to monitor the GIS data base to find the sewer backups and correct before it becomes a problem to homeowners.  The GPS upgrade for vehicles is saving the city money.  They plan on spending $250,000 this year on the 83rd Street Bridge and $350,000 in the next fiscal year.  They are not expecting any growth in sales tax revenues.  The city plans to spend $75,000 for the KCATA bus system.  The budget includes $800,000 for the City Hall renovations.  There is also a provision to replace police and public works vehicles.

John Benson, the Public Affairs director, told the Board the ads in the City’s newsletters help offset the cost of sending it out.  They have sold 2 out of the 3 rehab houses the city purchased.  They will send out requests for bids for the new animal services contract.

Police Chief Jim Lynch said the radio upgrade is ongoing.  He reminded the Board that the City had partnered with Verizon on the infrastructure upgrade and saved about $6.5 million.  The police department is looking to install a mobile ticketing system in the police vehicles that will tell the officers any outstanding warrants.  They are also looking to provide body cameras to the uniformed officers.  They need to purchase five mobile finger-printing ID kits.  There is a provision in the budget to upgrade the police building.

Judge Tracy Fann told the Board she hopes to work with the new Finance Director to install online payments for municipal tickets.  She also would like to replace two printers and a few office chairs.  Alderman Ertz said the Legislative Committee has been trying for two years to increase the fines for municipal offenses such as speeding.  So far, the General Assembly has not voted on that.

Park Board director, Kevin Boji, said in the past year, they replaced the equipment in two playgrounds, upgraded the tennis courts in Coleman Park, and were looking to acquire a new park on the north side of Raytown.  This year’s budget will spend $50,000 in maintenance at Super Splash.  Mayor Bower asked if the Park Board doesn’t spend the necessary money on maintenance, how will Super Splash stay open.  Mr. Boji said they had to reduce expenditures in order to balance the budget. 

Alderman Aziere said it would appear the Park Board is doing as little maintenance as possible in preparation of closing Super Splash in the near future.  Mr. Boji said everyone knows there have been challenges and significant losses at Super Splash.  The Park Board will have to make some difficult decisions in the future. 
Mr. Boji said there will be a new basketball program in partnership with the Raytown Schools.  The Park Board will handle the registrations and cover the cost of the uniforms, supervisors, and referees.  The School District will provide the gyms and prepare the schedules. 

Alderman Creamer said the parks sales tax is supposed to be set aside to pay for the parks.  Every park costs money.  The families need a place to go and the parks belong to all of us. 

Alderman Josh Greene said Super Splash lost over $100,000 last year.

He asked if the City should keep hemorrhaging money or do we save the rest of the parks.  He wants to keep Super Splash open if possible.  He also said the BMX Park is being overlooked.  He knows they are trying to get a national race.  He wants the Park Board to push for this.  It will benefit all of Raytown if the race is held here.
 
Alderman Aziere said three years ago, the Park Board went before the Board of Aldermen  and said Super Splash manager quit.  They said Super Splash wouldn’t open unless the Board approved the management company.
 
Mr. Boji said the management company would run efficiently.  Super Splash lost a lot of money with that management company.  He also pointed out that ten years ago, attendance at Super Splash was approximately 73,000 people.
 
Five years ago it was in the neighborhood of 46,000 people.  Last year, the attendance was 26,000 people.  A lot of money will have to be spent in maintenance if Super Splash is going to stay open, a lot more than what Mr. Boji has budgeted. 

Alderman Van Buskirk said he noticed the shingles on the roof of the shelter house in Kenagy Park were missing.  He wanted to know when that was going to be fixed.  Mr. Boji said the damage was done when the storm came through on July 30.  They are waiting on the insurance company settlement before making repairs.



Paul’s Rant BY PAUL LIVIUS

My job at the Raytown Report is both a blessing and a curse. I love to watch the Board of Aldermen meetings and actually enjoy sharing with the public what exactly is going on at City Hall. I believe the more knowledge out there for the public to consume, the better off we are.


That being said, the downside is some of the stuff that spills out of our elected officials mouths. It makes you ache to hear it – it even hurts your fingers to type it. But if it is what gives an accurate picture of what goes on – so be it!

This week’s Paul Livius Report is one such example. I am glad to tell the story, but some of what was said, and, just as important, things that were NOT said (but should have been said) makes the story hard to report.
I will start with the simple and advance to the more complex.

Ward 1 Joe Creamer said . . . “the parks sales tax is supposed to be set aside to pay for the parks.  Every park costs money.  The families need a place to go and the parks belong to all of us."

Wow. Let me take that in. I think he left out the part that the water in the pool was wet! If you have something to say, say it. But spewing out that bit of wisdom really added nothing to the debate.
Okay. That’s out of my system.
There were some intelligent comments in the debate as well. Jason Greene asked rhetorically how long we could stand to see SuperSplash lose money in the six figure range before we finally admit this is not working.
Jim Aziere made some very good points about the declining use of the pool. Even in the god- awful heat two years ago the pool saw a historical decline in attendance.
Bill VanBuskirk mentioned how the roof of one of the buildings was damaged and needed repair. Kevin Boji, the Director of the city’s Parks Department said they were waiting on the insurance company to settle the claim. It made me wonder: that if it was Kevin’s home in Riverside, Missouri that was damaged if he would wait months before repairing it?  (The damage was caused by a storm in July!)
What is most bothersome about the debate was that one of the most poignant arguments was not brought up. People do not feel safe at SuperSplash. Anyone who tells you otherwise is being less than honest.
The reality is the population of Raytown has changed. We do not have the numbers of young children that used to fill up SuperSplash on hot summer days. Our population is aging.  At one time SuperSplash was the ONLY game in town when it came to municipal water parks. Not so anymore. There many more, both private and public that offer a lot more for the money, have more convenient hours, and offer a degree of safety that is not present at Raytown’s pool.
SuperSplash will continue to be a drain on the local economy, siphoning much needed tax dollars that could be spent on repairing our other parks, our streets, the list goes on and on. Maybe the Board of Aldermen will start to have some honest conversations to address the problem. If last week’s meeting was any example, we may have to wait a long, long time.


FIT BOTTOMED EATS BY KAREN
Buttermilk Oven-Fried
Chicken Recipe
My last When In Rome post made us realize that comfort food doesn’t necessarily have to be congruent with heavy, greasy, “I need to take a nap” food. I’ve often wondered how eating something that sits like a rock in your belly and makes you feel like hell afterward was ever awarded the nickname comfort to begin with.

Oven-fried chicken is just as tasty as deep-fat fried, is actually easier to prepare and won’t tempt you to loosen the top button of your trousers and make a beeline for the couch. Whip up a batch of mashed cauliflower like this one from EatingWell magazine, serve the obligatory green beans and iced tea, and you’ll have one fine Sunday meal. READ MORE


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Saturday, September 6, 2014

RAYTOWN'S LEADING NEWS SOURCE

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Breaking News

Firefighters were called to the Raytown Senior High School just before 2 p.m.
Smoke was reported inside the building.
Students have been evacuated as a precaution.






BY GREG WALTERS
Diversity of Charter 
Commission Pays Off

When the Raytown Charter Commission was elected last April there were many naysayers who predicted the process would fail. Ward One Alderman Joe Creamer gave dire predictions as he wove conspiracy theories as to the “real” plans behind the Charter. At one meeting shortly after the election he accused Ward 2 Alderman Jason Greene of conspiring with others to undermine the city’s ability to govern.

Randy Battagler, owner/editor of the Raytown Times, opined that the voters would not endorse creating a Charter Commission. Once the Commission was approved by the voters, he said the Commission was made up of so many parts that it was doomed to failure.

Apparently he had a change of heart. Two weeks ago he wrote “the Charter Commission seems to be doing a good job”. He went continued they (the Commissioners) are “staying on track”.

As one of the thirteen members on the Charter Commission I was happy to see Mr. Battagler coming around.

Then, in last week’s Raytown Post, Battagler re-joined the Creamer’s mantra of conspiracy theories. 

Next thing you know he is writing editorials claiming (once again) that the charter effort is doomed. He points to a split among Charter members on a vote over a residency requirement for the City Administrator.

Let’s get this straight. Ten of the members on the Commission, voted to require the City Administrator to live within the city limits. Only two Commissioners voted against it. One member was absent

That’s right, 77% voted “yes”. Only 2 voted against it. I don’t know how Randy counts votes, but in the real world a 77% vote in the affirmative is not a split vote. It is a landslide. 

You try to figure it out. I am past the point of worrying about people whose only concern is protecting the status quo.

Frankly speaking, I am very pleased with the progress of the Charter Commission. To be sure, it is a very diverse group of people. The Commission has stalwart Republicans and Democrats (four of who have seats on their respective parties Central Committee), a number of independent voters, at least one or two members who match the definition of the Tea Party. There is even one member who would fit comfortably in the Libertarian Party.

Mix them all together and you have a group of people who have one thing in common. They want the City of Raytown to prosper and grow. More importantly, they want the people of Raytown to share in that prosperity.

The Commissioners have cobbled together a unique document that guarantees the strengths and rights of the individual and creates a strict set of responsible rules for the city to be governed. The Commission is creating a Charter in which the words “transparency” and “accountability” means more than just something politicians say at election time

How was this possible with such a diverse group?

We saw the need to come together as a group with one goal in mind. Despite our differences and despite the ill wishes of detractors, we have determined that we will write a workable and successful Charter for Raytown.

I am proud to be a member of the Raytown Charter Commission. It is a unique group of people elected by the voters to improve how Raytown is governed. As we move forward with our work on the Raytown Charter I urge everyone to take the time to learn all they can about it.

To view those sections of the Charter the Commission has completed use the following link, and make up your own mind on what the Commission has produced. I think you will be pleased with what you find.


Use this link to view RAYTOWN CHARTER PROGRESS
To view the last Charter Meeting use these links:




PAUL LIVIUS

The Paul Livius Report 
Thanks to Greg for covering the meeting two weeks ago.  Also, many thanks to our readers for their kind words during my family crisis.

The Board also heard from the department heads in preparation of the upcoming Budget.  We will report on that next week.

The Board approved a change order for the 2014 Concrete Repair Project with A & A Concrete Company in the amount of $125,000.00. The change order is for an increase of $35,000.00 for a total amount not to exceed $160,000.00.  These costs will be paid for with funds available through planned annual expenses of the Transportation Sales Tax that is budgeted for the amount of $772,572.00 for 2014 street maintenance.  With this additional work, more concrete areas are added to fix trip hazards and places with voids underneath the sidewalks and curbs. There was also an increase in concrete replacement within the project locations.

The Board approved an agreement with Trekk Design Group for the design of the 59th street Sidewalk project and the Blue Ridge Boulevard bike lanes project in an amount not to exceed $196,492.75. The staff has secured a grant for each project. As a requirement of the Missouri Department of Transportation, detailed construction plans are required; therefore, the services of a consultant are needed. The base contract is an hourly not to exceed contract of $77,165.25 for the 59th Street Sidewalks project and $119,327.50 for the Blue Ridge Blvd. Bike Lanes project.

The Board heard the first reading of an ordinance establishing the annual Property tax levy rate for the City of Raytown general operating fund and the Park fund for the year 2014.  The City has received its notice of 2014 Assessed Valuation from the County. The finance department has recalculated the levy rates using the formula supplied by the State Auditor's Office. These calculations indicated the City could levy a rate of $0.374 (up from $0.3694) per $100.00 assessed valuation for general city operations and a rate of $0.1845 per $100.00 assessed valuation for park operations. The 2014 proposed rates represent a net increase of $0.0046 over 2013.

The preliminary Adjusted Assessed Valuation:

 Real Estate values decreased by $1,274,200 or 0.54% from last year's amounts for a 2014 value of $233,860,218

 Personal property value decreased by $3,011,763.00 or 5.4% from last year's amounts for a 2014 value of $52,755,542

State assessed utilities values had a 2014 value of $8,831,865

Total adjusted assessed values decreased by $3,536,192 for a 2014 total value of $295,447,625

Based on the assessed valuation and the proposed mill levy staff is projecting that approximately $1,104,446.00 will be generated for the General Fund and approximately $551,625.00 will be generated for the Park Fund. However because actual collections are closer to 95% of assessment staff will budget for slightly less than the projected amount.


Paul's Rant BY PAUL LIVIUS 
This column would be more appropriately named “other people’s mail”. Greg shared the following email “blasts” generated by Raytown City Hall and Jason Greene of the Raytown Charter Commission. A little background would probably helpful so let me explain.

At the last meeting of the Raytown Charter Commission, Commissioners, by an overwhelming majority, voted to require the City Administrator to live in within the city limits of Raytown, Missouri.

During the debate, Commissioner Jason Green shared with the Commission information he had gathered of what requirements other cities use to determine residency of their City Administrators.

Greene’s list included 22 cities. ALL of them required the City Administrator to live within their respective city limits.

I hope that gives you an idea of what all the emails are about. The letters follow . . . my comments are at the end.
 
Teresa Henry wrote:
Jason,

The Mayor has contacted me and asked that my office gather some information regarding residency requirements for the City Administrator and Department Heads along with information on Charter/4th Class Cities that have elected Department Heads.

During the last Charter Commission meeting, you stated that you had done a little bit of research on this topic in general and of the Charter Cities in Missouri you had yet to find one that did not have a residency requirement for the City Administrator.

So that I do not duplicate my efforts, would it be possible to get a copy of the information you put together or have gathered?

It would be greatly appreciated.

Teresa M. Henry
City Clerk

Jason Greene wrote:


Interesting.....



I have looked through a very large sample size of Charter cities in Missouri and as I stated in the meeting, each had a residency requirement for the CA.  Being said, are you looking for a list of cities I looked at? The Raytown Charter website  on google docs has dozens of charters to examine and is a good resource, are you familiar with the site or need a link?


As for a requirement on all department heads, I did not collect information on such as my remarks were reserved for just the CA as stated in the meeting.

 Jason Greene
Alderman Ward II, City of Raytown
 

Teresa Henry wrote:
Jason,

I’m not sure of your definition of a “very large sample size” since I think there are less than 50 Charter Cities in Missouri, but a list of the Cities that you looked at would suffice and certainly be helpful.

I am aware of the links which are on the Raytown Charter Commission Google site; however, my compilation of information will be a little more intensive than just looking at the City Administrator, which is why I have asked for information so that I did not duplicate my efforts.

Teresa M. Henry
City Clerk

Jason Greene wrote:
Teresa,

I'm well aware of the number charter cities in Missouri, in fact as of 2014 I believe there are 39. Out of these cities with a charter I have examined close to 20, so I would consider that a "very large sample size".

Send me the name of the cities you wish to investigate and I will check to see if I have the information for you.  Again this was just the CA residency requirement.

Jason Greene
Alderman Ward II, City of Raytown


Jason Greene wrote:
Teresa,

I found my list, this is only 22 of the 38 or 39 charter cities in MO. I didn't look at any more but, if I have time I would be more than happy to check into some others.

St.Joesph
Cape Girardeau
Joplin
Webster Groves
St. Charles
St.Louis
University City
Springfield
Richmond Heights
Neosho
Hazelwood
Ferguson
Fulton
Independence
OFallan
Jeff City
Columbia
Sedalia
Lees Summit
Kansas City
Grain Valley
Blue Springs

Jason Greene
Alderman Ward II, City of Raytown

Paul’s Comments . . . 
What I find amazing about this exchange is what reads like someone is trying to make a mountain out of molehill. Teresa Henry keeps asking for information about Department Head residency -- a topic that has not even been discussed by the Commission. If my sources are correct – it is unlikely that Department Head residency will even be broached by the Commission.  

I also wonder if the Mayor has crossed the line in using city staff to gather information for what appears to be political purposes. He could haves simply called Mr. Greene, is one of the Commissions most acccesible members, to find out what he needs – rather than use the City Clerk to check out Greene’s information.

It shows a disconnect between the City Administration and the Charter Commission that may foreshadow political infighting down the road.

A few observations . . . 
The Commission has become a very interesting body of to watch. There is genuine give and take by the Commissioners in their deliberations. The members seem to have grasped the ideals of compromise and transparency. When watching the meetings you get the impression that you are watching true democracy in action.

A small group of anti-charter activists seems to be taking shape. Ward 1 Alderman Joe Creamer, Ward 2 Alderman Jim Aziere, Commissioner Mary Jane Van Buskirk, Randy Battagler (Pubisher/Owner of the Raytown Times), and now based on his use of city personnel for political purposes, Mayor David Bower  appear to be coalescing into an anti-Charter group.

On the other hand, with the exception of two members, the Charter Commission is definitely becoming a dynamic force. The members are well aware of the challenges in writing a document to bring Raytown up to speed with other communities.

To say the least, the next few months should prove to be interesting.


BY KAREN

FIT BOTTOMED EATS

Gardening Triumphs

and Woes of 2014 

The first year Bill and I planted a small garden we didn’t have much success. I like to blame it on the heat wave of 2012, which didn’t help, but in actuality our lack of general gardening knowledge was the culprit. But this year we had a plan….READ MORE

 
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