Danedri Thompson
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City directors presented information about their departments and projected needs for the next three years to Spring Hill City Council members during a 2011 budget work session on July 8. Concrete budget numbers were not discussed, but a final budget must be approved and filed with the Kansas Secretary of State Office by Aug. 25.
“Obviously, this is six months before the budget takes effect, which even in a good year creates problems,” Jonathan Roberts, city administrator, told council members.
He said the end budget city staff will present at a 2011 budget that provides existing basic services.
“The end budget overall does have some shortcomings,” he said.
One shortcoming is that the city will not have funds for a citizen survey. The survey is used as a measure of how well the city is meeting citizen’s needs. Spring Hill last completed a survey in 2007. Ideally, Roberts told council, a survey would be completed every three years. However, due to budget constraints, Roberts said a new survey will likely be pushed out to 2012.
Only one item in the community planning department will likely be left out of a proposed 2011 budget. Jim Hendershot, director of community planning, said officials will hold off on updating its area trade profile. The profile – used by developers when considering locations for new businesses – was last completed in 2006.
All department heads cited the down economy as a budgetary challenge, but Hendershot said it may add additional work for the planning department.
Specifically, he told council members the department will have to carefully monitor foreclosures in the area. Foreclosed vacant home are often a target of vandals and neighbors may have concerns about weeds and lack of property maintenance.
“The average time copper pipe stays in foreclosed house is one week, because it’s stolen out of the house,” Hendershot said.
The police department is one of the few departments likely to receive new equipment over the course of the next three years, Roberts told the council.
Police Chief Mitch Hofmann said the department is in need of four new patrol cars. Hofmann said another short term goal of the department is breaking ground on a new police station, although there will likely be no money budgeted for such a project in 2011.
Over in public works, many projects the city has been putting off are becoming more and more necessary, Rory Hale, public works director, told council members. Older streets in town are in need of maintenance and repair.
“And we’re starting to see deterioration on new streets,” Hale said.
The city would need to spend more than $220,000 per year in order to maintain a minimum level of service for city streets.
“I’m throwing this number out, because there’s no way we’re going to have that amount in next year’s budget,” Hale said.
The department is trying to patch and “band-aid” as much as possible until funds are available, he told council.
Hale supplemented his presentation with photos of pot holes and cracked streets in town.  He also showed photos of damaged sidewalks, and suggested the community needs to find a way to fund sidewalk rehabilitation and replacements. It would cost approximately $2 million to add new sidewalks around the aquatic center.
Sidewalk maintenance is technically the responsibility of homeowners, but council members showed no interest in cracking down on residents who fail to maintain the sidewalks in front of their homes.
“This is the city’s responsibility to pay for this,” council president Steve Ellis said.
Hale also addressed challenges with the city’s storm water drainage. He said council must find funds to complete the Wilson Street stormwater project. A second phase of that project is scheduled to start this year. It’s being partially funded through county grants, but the city is responsible for funding $150,000 of the project.
He said the only way to address city storm water drainage is by creating a storm water utility. He suggested it’s time the city get started moving in that direction.
Mayor Mark Squire said that’s something the council has discussed for years, but hasn’t yet pulled the trigger on sending another utility bill to property owners.
“The data is ready to go,” Hale said. “We haven’t crossed that bridge with the governing body, because of the economy.”
In addition to storm water and street maintenance concerns, Hale said the city’s water department is also in need of funding for a new water tower and to repair the elevated tower.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to come up with those funds,” Hale said.
It will cost more than $150,000 to repaint and repair the structure.
A ground storage unit near the old swimming pool needs to be repaired at a cost of approximately $20,000 until it can be dismantled. Destroying the structure is estimated to cost $350,000.
In the meantime, city officials are exploring the option of sharing a new water tower and costs associated with it with a neighboring water district.
“That’s just to get us not ahead, but treading water,” council member Chris Leaton said.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is cracking down on the city’s wastewater plant, which is over capacity.
“We’ve got to get that out of service,” Hale said.
Melanie Landis, city business director, said the city has permission to acquire a loan to repair or replace the plant.
“But we don’t have the funds to repay it right now,” Landis told council members.
Landis told council members she hoped the presentations gave council members a good idea about the challenges the city will face in the next few years.
“I think you got a good idea tonight what we’re up against,” she said.
The next budget work session will cover details of next year’s budget. The next budget work session will start at 7 p.m. on July 15 at the Spring Hill Civic Center.