Monday, October 20, 2008
Questions That Need Answers
Contributors to this blog questioned some news stories in a recent edition of the Raytown Post regarding the proposed 2008/2009 budget. Sorry it took so long to get back to this (I had originally promised to have it posted by last Wednesday), but it was difficult to get some definitive answers to some of my questions. Here is what I have found: FITNESS CLUB MEMBERSHIP FOR POLICE: The police department has pulled the request for $30,000 for fitness club memberships for police officers from the city’s budget. Whatever the reason, it will not happen this budget year. I also found out that police personnel have been paid overtime for approximately the past two years to train in certain police techniques. Officers were allowed up to three hours at time and one-half their regular pay per week for the compensation. The Chief of Police, Jim Lynch, tells me that he has discontinued the program for lack of participation and budgetary reasons. One writer asked my views on the program. I cannot speak for the rest of the Board, but I was not aware such a program existed. Indications are that none of the BOA was aware of the three hours of over-time policy per week for training/exercise either. The city funded the purchase of exercise equipment for use by city employees a number of years ago. The equipment is set up in the Raytown Police Department. Sources at City Hall tell me that is mainly used by police personnel, but that other employees use it as well. In my view, there is nothing wrong with providing this opportunity for employees. Many private sector businesses have done so as a means of increasing productivity and the over-all health of employees. However, I do not believe anyone should be paid to exercise. The reward for wise life-style choices is good health. EMS EXERCISE EQUIPMENT: Which brings up another request by the EMS (ambulance service) Department. They have requested $5,000 for exercise equipment at their headquarters located at 67th and Raytown Road. In my view, the purchase of such equipment would be an unnecessary expense and duplication of what is already available for ambulance crews at city hall. The mobile nature of their work is such that they can respond from any location as well as their headquarters. In fact, for a period of about two years, the ambulance service was housed in the police department – at which time they argued that response times were not hindered by the location. Or perhaps a cooperative agreement could be reached with the Raytown Fire District allowing ambulance personnel to exercise at their facility. Cooperative agreements between the Fire District and the City of Raytown are not new. They city dispatches emergency calls for the Fire District’s emergency calls. The firemen and EMS personnel are represented by the same union. It would be a good fit for the two emergency care providers who already have so much in common. $275,000 SET ASIDE FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Speaking of Cooperative Agreements . . . The City Administrator has asked that $275,000 be set aside to create an office of Economic Development. The Board of Aldermen have been told this would be part of a cooperative effort between the Chamber of Commerce, School District and the City of Raytown. I believe the request is ill-timed and of questionable value during a recession. At a recent meeting of the Board of Aldermen, one member opined that what Raytown needs is to hire a really sharp individual, well-versed in economic development, to get things going in Raytown. I am not sure that person exists. Let’s say you have a house to sell, you want the best you can get for your investment. So you hire the very best realtor in the business. He sells the house, but for far less than you expected. Why? Because no matter how good that realtor is, he or she cannot set the market. Retail America is currently in a non-growth period. Read your newspapers and news magazines. Corporate America is not expanding, it is constricting, and doing so at an alarming rate. The recent buyout of America’s investment/banking industry is not a boon to business, but a band aid to keep the economic engine running. The practices that created the sub prime mortgage crisis have yet to be addressed. It is unclear what repercussions of the recent bail-out of corporate America will have on the economy. What is known is that the Midwest, and Kansas City in particular, is caught up in a recession. Patience is what is needed. It will be some time before the economy can grow back to an era of unfettered development. A better plan would be for the city to use that money to repair and update the city’s infrastructure. There are people in our community begging for streetlights and repair of the streets in their neighborhoods. Use that money to jumpstart a program to address the maintenance of our city’s infrastructure. Shine this town up like a new penny and businessmen will take notice. Another question to be answered is how much will the Chamber of Commerce and School District chip in for this program? The Chamber has been divesting itself of community based activity as witnessed by the discontinuation of the Raytown Round-up Days Parade and Event. The Raytown School District, which has been the one local beneficiary of all the building activity at the 350 Highway Walmart, has yet to make a concrete decision whether or not to join in the effort. Those questions should be answered before the City throws over a quarter of million dollars of the taxpayers money into the mix.