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Council drops idea of stipends
Idea brings much discussion, some passionate
council stipend discussion
Members of the Great Bend City Council discuss stipends for governing body members during a work session following the council meeting Monday night. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Asked City Attorney Allen Glendenning to draft a agreement allowing Joe Andrasek to lease the city-owned parking lot located on Williams between 11th and 12th streets behind Charlie’s Place. Andrasek plans to develop the empty lot north of the establishment from parking into a common meeting space, and wanted to be assured the back parking lot would remain available for parking.

• Approved a resolution to apply for a moderate-income housing grant for the Zarah Mall building.

Great Bend Economic Development Inc. is proposing that the city apply for the Moderate Income Housing grant on behalf of GBED. This grant does not require the city to put in any additional funds to see the project through.

• Approved applications for Great Bend Municipal Airport hangar tax exemptions, one at 9030 Fourth St. and one at 545 D St.

The City-owned aircraft hangars at the airport are essential to the operation of the airport, airport Manager Martin Miller said. Under Kansas law, all such property is exempt from all property or ad valorem taxes. 

However, Miller said two of the city-owned hangars are currently assessed property taxes.  

The application will go to the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals which will make the final determination. Miller said he is confident the structures meet the necessary criteria.

• Heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis. He noted the transient guest tax collections for the city in the third quarter were the highest on record.

• Heard a report from Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Hayden. She updated the council on several ongoing projects, such as the recruiting initiative, workforce development and the downtown building renovation efforts.

• Approved abatements at: 2310 8th St. for trash and refuse, Richard Ogle; and 200 Pine St. for a vehicle nuisance, Jamie and Robert Barlow.

• Held a work session to discuss stipends for council members. 

After much discussion, some heated, it was clear the majority of the governing body opposed the idea, so the matter was laid to rest.

• Held a work session to discuss outside agency budget requests.

In the end, the council favored revamping the forms sent to agencies to get more detailed information. Also, there may be discussion as to what agencies receive funding in the future.

After much discussion Monday night, some heated, it was clear the many on the governing body, including four council members and the mayor, opposed the of offering stipends to entice more people to run for the city offices.

Although divisions amongst the council members remained, it was the consensus following a work session that the matter be laid to rest.

The idea of the city offering some sort of benefit as an enticement first arose at the June 20 meeting, raised by Ward 1 City Councilwoman Lindsey Krom-Craven. It surfaced again at the next meeting July 5.

City Administrator Kendal Francis said Monday he had polled other cities, asking what they did. Most that responded offered some form of pay, ranging from a few dollars to over $900 per month with benefits (Ellinwood offers the mayor $100 per meeting and council members $30, and Hoisington offers $200 plus $10 per meeting for the mayor and $100 plus $5 per meeting for the council).

Ward 1 Councilman Alan Moeder and Mayor Cody Schmidt were the most vocal in their opposition to the idea. For the idea were Krom-Craven and Ward 4 Councilwoman Natalie Towns.

“I’m in favor of it because we need to do something so people will run,” said Towns. She passionately lobbied for the incentive. 

But, “are they running for the money or are they running because they care about the city?” Moeder said.

Krom-Craven said council members put in more than time. 

“You get trashed in the public eye for sitting on the council,” she said. This extends to their family members as well.

“This thing that you can’t serve if you’re being paid, you can’t serve selflessly because you’re being paid some money is ridiculous to me,” Towns said. “I think some people need to get off their high horse here and think that they’re selfless because they don’t want the money.”

This comment rankled many on the council, who called the remark rude.

“When I signed up for this job, there was absolutely no pay involved,” Schmidt said. “I knew that, I knew my family would take a beating and I’d take a beating. That’s the nature of the beast. I signed up for it. I love what I do, and I’ll continue to do it for free. My opinion.”

“I did, too,” Towns said. “But, people aren’t running.”

It was noted that Barton County Commission members get paid. According to the county website, these salaries  range from $25,000-27,000.

Something else City Clerk Shawna Schafer the council needed to consider was that any compensation would be taxable. Council members couldn’t opt out of the benefit, and even if they donated the money back to the city, they would still be charged income tax.

Other ideas emerging from the session were the possibility of restructuring the council with fewer members, keeping the same number, but making some members elected at-large.

But, in the end, the matter was dropped.