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The City hosted the second annual e-Town Hall on July 10th, 2012. Olathe residents posted questions about the 2013 Budget which were then answered by the Council live during the e-Town Hall. City staff has prepared responses below to questions the City Council was not able to answer during the event. To view Council's live responses, watch the 2013 e-Town Hall video.
The following questions were not addressed during the e-Town Hall due to time constraints. Staff compiled the responses below. A list of questions that were answered by Council during the event is below.
What is the next stage in the plans to revive downtown Olathe? Is there any plan to draw restaurants or other businesses? (Submitted by Carl on CoveritLive)
The Council has taken actions to enhance economic development incentives to attract businesses to downtown Olathe, including the Neighborhood Revitalization Program for residential and commercial developments and property tax abatement. The City is constantly looking for opportunities to encourage private investment but the market has been difficult.
The Streetscape project is important because it will enhance the area, making it more attractive and pedestrian friendly. There have already been several new restaurants and coffee shops added to the downtown landscape in the past few years.
Instead of putting grass and a fountain where buildings were torn down in the downtown area why didn’t the City make more parking for events ( old settlers day, art fair )? (Submitted by Jan on CoveritLive)
In order to promote economic viability in the downtown area, the City strives to provide a balance between adequate parking and other infrastructure needs, amenities and aesthetics that make the downtown area a friendly atmosphere for residents and visitors. In March 2008, the City completed a parking garage expansion which increased parking capacity at this location by 312 parking spaces. Total capacity at the parking garage is 715 vehicles. Based on past visits to the garage and observing the usage in the garage, on any given day there have generally been 80 to 120 vacant parking spaces in the parking garage.
According to the Olathe CAFR for the fiscal year ended December 2010, Olathe has an unfunded liability for other post-employment benefits (everything but pension) of near $18 million. Why aren't you funding this? That's a lot of money to be promising employees upon retirement but not saving for. Stockton, CA is declaring bankruptcy soon, partially because of their OPEB debt. (Submitted by Steven on CoveritLive)
Very few governments in Kansas or nation-wide have chosen to fund this entire liability, and we are not required to do so per the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB). The City does meet obligations to fund retiree health premiums and claims. If the City were to fund the entire liability, it would cost approximately $1 million a year which could not be used for any other purpose.
The City has an unfunded actuarial accrued liability (UAAL) of over $19 million for other post employment benefits (OPEB) as of the most recent actuarial valuation (January 1, 2011). If the City chose to fund this liability, funds would have to be placed in an irrevocable trust to be used only for this liability. For more information, see the CAFR.
I would love to see a public sidewalk extend from the Iowa/Harold intersection connect to public sidewalk at Northgate/Harold. This area gets a significant amount of traffic so there is only an option to go into the grass/ditch or walk on the road that has virtually no shoulder. Public safety is a concern here. The city is building a new park at Iowa/Harold so people using this area will increase plus the sidewalk would link up to the sidewalk leading into the Streamway park system. There seems to be a portion of property here that would be an easy to add a sidewalk without impact to any neighboring homes on the north side. The nearest pathway from this intersection into sidewalks leading to Streamway is quite a distance away. I see this as a low effort, low cost, high value, safety improvement for the area. Please consider adding this to the CIP. (Submitted by Shane Johnson on Facebook)
Promoting walkability within our community is important to the City of Olathe. All new streets are required to be constructed with sidewalks to provide pedestrian-friendly facilities for our residents. Harold Street does not have sidewalks in this area since it was originally constructed by Johnson County to county standards before it was incorporated into the Olathe city limits. Harold Street, from Northgate to Iowa, is included in the 6 to 10 year Capital Improvement Plan. When improvements are made to this street, sidewalks will be constructed to provide a connection to the new park and streamway.
Would it be possible to expedite code enforcement email responses within 24 hours for online submissions that included pictures? (Submitted by Sarah Curtis on Facebook)
We currently provide a response to code enforcement complaints in less than 24 (business) hours, assigning an inspector to investigate the issue the next working day. The 2013 proposed budget includes an additional full time community enhancement officer and increasing a current part time position to full time status, increasing our property maintenance enforcement capability by over 25%. In addition, we have streamlined the enforcement process to deal with repeat offenders, ensuring more swift and efficient enforcement of problem properties in the future. The City takes photos of investigative issues and typically does not send these to homeowners; however if requested the photos can be shared.
Is there a way the city can encourage neighbors to speak with each other before reporting code enforcement issues? (Submitted by Fia Sinclair Swartwood on Facebook)
The Codes Enforcement Division certainly encourages neighbors to cooperate with each other when possible; however, the officers do not get involved in personal matters between neighbors. If the City receives a codes enforcement report, certain procedures are followed. Prior to any citation being issued a community enhancement officer is required to visit the property in question to investigate the situation and attempt to make contact with the property owner to gain compliance. All initial visits involve knocking on the door. After the problem is verified and the officer is unable to gain prompt compliance, a notice of violation with a deadline for compliance is given. Only if that deadline for compliance is missed does further action such as a citation become necessary. In any case, the community enhancement staff is always open to discussing the matter with the property owner and can be reached by phone on any work day between 8 and 5.
Instead of an email, could a code enforcement official speak with us? (Submitted via Facebook)
It is the Codes Enforcement Division’s policy to speak with every homeowner about the issue.
Could the city organize volunteers to help out those individuals with code issues who don’t qualify for help? (Submitted via Facebook)
When people receive citations, Housing Services staff can often provide assistance with issues like painting and wood rot. In certain cases, staff can recruit volunteers to assist the homeowner. Volunteers have done wonderful things for our citizens, so we need to be sure we are sending them to our residents most in need (the elderly/disabled). Grants are available and limited to $3,500.00 for each home, as long as funds are available.
What's the status of the bike lanes on the new section of 127th Street between Blackbob and Pflumm? Heard that those had been taken out of the plans ... that'd be a huge and costly mistake! (Submitted by Jay on CoveritLive)
127th Street, between Black Bob and Pflumm, will be constructed with 8-foot sidewalks and wider outside lanes with “share the road” signs in order to accommodate bicyclists. At the request of some members of the bicyclist community, the City evaluated options including 4-foot wide bike lanes to match what was constructed on 127th Street west of this project. After evaluation of this option, it was the City’s decision to design this road with “share the road” signs due to the additional costs for land acquisition and redesign, potential project delays, as well as concern from adjacent property owners.
What is the status of the 119th street improvement? Will it connect to Northgate or just create another sub-division? (Submitted by Steve on CoveritLive)
Extending 119th Street east of Woodland Road is not within the City’s current list of priorities due to the geometrics and cost associated with crossing the railroad and Mill Creek.
Funding for street preservation continues to be unrealistic given current and future requirements. What is the City going to do to address this serious shortfall? (Submitted by Joe Forlenza via Citizen Connect)
Street preservation remains one of the highest priorities to the Council and citizens as indicated in the annual citizen's survey. Each year as part of the annual budget process, the City allocates a certain amount of operating cash and debt financing for street preservation. The 2013-2017 Capital Improvement Plan proposes a 5-year total of $23.3m for street preservation, street reconstruction, and bridge repair, funded through a combination of cash, general obligation bonds, and grants.
The City recognizes the long street preservation funding needs far outweigh the funding available, and are working towards developing a long term funding solution. In the short term, the City believes the funding allocated for street preservation adequately funds the most immediate needs.
I would like to see an improvement in our Olathe libraries—we need more books and bigger buildings. What is the future of the budget for the Olathe libraries? (Submitted by Vickie Johnson on Facebook).
Currently, members of the Library Board and City Council, along with two other Olathe residents, are participating on a Joint Task Force which is seeking to determine how to provide the best library services for Olathe residents at the most economical cost over the next 20 years. To answer this question, the Task Force is working with an outside consultant to develop a new master plan for the Library. The Task Force anticipates that the new master plan will set a new vision for how library services are provided in Olathe by recommending ways to leverage emerging technologies and make strategic decisions for future library facility locations that will strengthen the role of the Library in our community for many years to come. The master plan should be presented to the City Council by the end of 2012.
Why are you increasing Water & Sewer rates in 2013? (Submitted by Chuck on CoveritLive)
The proposed 2013 budget includes proposed increases to residential water and sewer rates. For details, see the Utilities budget presentation from the June 5th City Council meeting. The Water and Sewer Fund is an enterprise fund, meaning it is support by fees for service rather than by taxes. Fees are calculated to reflect the cost of providing that service to customers. The City is proposing increasing Water and Sewer rates in order to reflect an increased cost of doing business. Costs are going up due to minimal account growth; continued decline in base consumption; aging infrastructure; increased operation and maintenance costs; and increased capital demands and associated debt.
The following questions were addressed during the e-Town Hall event. View the video above for Council responses.
Can you talk about what looks to be a rather sizable increase in funding for street projects/street rehab? Olathe doesn't appear to have the degree of deterioration on its streets of neighboring communities, so curious about the funding increase? (Submitted by George on CoveritLive)
Seems like the residential streets in the older part of town are not in good conditions. We haven't seen anything done for a couple of years. How many blocks of residential streets are in Olathe, and how many of those will get resurfaced in the 2013 budget, and at that rate how often will streets be resurfaced. Will that amount of resurfacing keep our streets at their current condition or are we falling behind? (Submitted by Norm on CoveritLive)
Is the city working towards becoming more walkable and bikeable? It's the most important thing we can do to improve the quality of life for everyone? (Submitted by RR on CoveritLive)
There are many residents in the City of Olathe who have chosen to ignore the City's code enforcement policies, and the City often fails to do anything about these code violations. Is the issue of code enforcement even addressed in the City's 2013 budget? (Submitted by Bob on CoveritLive)
I hear that there is a new Community Center being built in Olathe. What is this project costing the City, and why does the City feel that it is necessary to allocate such a great amount of money to one project, and not allocate these funds to numerous smaller projects that are needed throughout the City in order to get more bang for our buck?" (Submitted by user on CoveritLive)
What kind of investment is the City making in its youth? I don't see alot in the budget geared toward improving opportunities for young people in Olathe. Maybe the Community Center as a place to hang out, but most kids won't consider that a hangout. (Submitted by Kaylee on CoveritLive)
The Teen Forum was a great way to get fresh insight into City business. The teens brought up an interesting point related to downtown. Besides the streetscape project, what is the City doing to make downtown more attractive to businesses, and thus more inviting to residents and visitors? Why not look at what cities like Independence (Independence Square) and Lee's Summit have done to revive their downtowns with locally owned restaurants and shops, live entertainment, etc. Not sure we can make that jump with a downtown that includes the jail, courthouse, bail bonds offices and ample attorney offices! (Submitted by Stephanie on CoveritLive)
I see the Public Works department is gaining the most new positions in the proposed budget. I would be interested in the Council's opinion on funding public works positions versus funding public safety positions. (Submitted by Jennifer on CoveritLive)
What types of opportunities is the city currently exploring or taking advantage of to partner with other entities like Johnson County and the Olathe School district to make sure there is no duplication or redundancy of certain services? (Submitted by RK on CoveritLive )
I feel that park safety is an important element of quality of life here in Olathe… [where are park safety efforts concentrated , and do they include pools?] …(Submitted by Jeff Holmes on Facebook)
We have empty buildings ...old Dillon’s store (Santa Fe & Buchanan). What is the City going to do with it? Just let it sit and rot and be an ugly eye sore? (Submitted by Jan on CoveritLive)