Moon Letter to Editor

October 26, 2010

Dear Editor,

One of the ways Webster defines misinformation is as information supplied in a suspicious manner. You know, the kind of things that get said in such a way that leads the reader to form incorrect conclusions because of misleading or missing facts that the writer leaves out in order to gain support for their cause? If the story is crafted well enough, these conclusions turn into rumor and spread quickly and can be difficult to get corrected. I hope to try to straighten out a few of the facts from last week’s letters concerning Ordinance 13, aka the (proposed) Stormwater Utility.

First, let’s get the facts straight about the amount of money the City will spend on street improvements vs. the golf course. In Mr. Rick Fisher’s letter, he leads you to believe that the City will spend over twice as much on the golf course as it will on your streets in 2011. What he fails to tell you is that the golf course also generates its own revenue through memberships, green fees, cart rentals, and the snack bar. The $313,000 budget he speaks of is an operating budget, and only if the golf course revenue falls short of this mark will the city actually spend any of your money. In the poor golf-weather year of 2009, the city had to make up only $30,000, far less than any other recreation expense in your community (parks, swimming pool, and ball fields). When telling you about the street improvement fund, he also fails to add to it the public works fund and the bond and interest fund, which pays for the loans the city took for street projects. From 2007 to 2009, the city spent approximately $2.6 million on Osawatomie streets. In 2010, the city will spend $1.45 million on Osawatomie streets (both figures include some stimulus funding). In 2011, the city will spend $2.06 million on Osawatomie street projects ($750,000 of which will be paid over time through bond and interest).

Now let’s talk about the proposed stormwater utility. There are many reasons why your Council felt it important to put this measure on the ballot for your approval. Stormwater is defined as runoff as well as accumulated rainwater, snowmelt, and yes, even flood waters that (hopefully never again) make their way into town. This ballot proposal would create a separate and dedicated fund that would allow the city to improve the handling of these waters and also pay for current (and possible future) federal mandates that certify to Uncle Sam our proper management of these waters. Stormwater management is greater than the curbs and gutters and drains that can be seen on our streets. It also includes underground tunnels, storm sewers and ponding areas, and the discharge of these waters into the rivers and streams.

The city was in dire financial straits just a few short years ago when we were given a deadline by FEMA to certify our levees. Even though the levees were built and are inspected annually by the US Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA needed an independent certification by engineers that, when completed, will maintain the current flood plain boundaries on maps. Without the certification, the flood plain is drawn into portions of the city proper, forcing affected homeowners and tenants to purchase flood insurance if they want financial protection from flood damage. Obviously, this levee certification MUST be done, but will cost you, the taxpayer, nearly $400,000 when completed as the money currently comes from our General Fund. This process will need to be done approximately every 10 years with future re-certifications costing less. There has also been talk of expected (costly?) federal certifications as it concerns the discharge of stormwaters back into streams and rivers. The proposed stormwater utility is not expected to generate enough revenue over 10 years to pay for all of these costs, but rather to take the pressure off of the General Fund, which is funded almost entirely by your tax dollars.

In Mr. John Farley’s letter, he stated that someone “didn’t do their research” when proposing the flat fee rate structure. Prior to Mr. Farley’s service on the Council, when discussing Charter Ordinance 12, the City Manager stated very clearly that there were two ways to handle the fee structure. One was a flat fee, used by several smaller communities, and the other was a more complicated calculation by measuring impervious surfaces (roofs, paved parking, etc.). He recommended to the Council at that time to begin with the flat fee to get the revenues flowing, and then change over to the fairer and more accurate calculated method after the properties could be measured. We used this same logic when beginning discussion of Ordinance 13, but the Council decided after professional consult to go ahead with the calculated method, which was admittedly later in the process. This was certainly not a lack of research, but rather a change in direction to make the plan fairer for its citizens.

I think I can safely assume that Mr. Fisher and Mr. Farley would expect the city to maintain our flood plain boundaries and have these levees certified. They also would want, like all residents of this proud community, ongoing improvements to the handling of other stormwater and runoff, yet they offer no solutions as to how to pay for it. Without this utility, the full costs will fall back on the General Fund (taxes). With this utility, a fair amount of the burden can be diverted away from the General Fund.

Let’s be honest, either way the vote goes the costs of these improvements and mandates will be paid for by the citizens, either through taxes or the utility. Like many of you, the economy has been very difficult on me and my business. I will pay more for this utility than most due to the size of my building and paved parking lot, yet I ask you to join me in support of Ordinance 13.

Mike Moon

City Council Member

Ward 2

Short URL: http://osawatominews.com/?p=499

Posted by admin on Oct 27 2010. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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