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Council rejects term limits
Measure fails to meet two-thirds majority
GB city office web

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

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

• Rejected an ordinance setting term limits. The charter ordinance would have term limits for both the mayor and council members. 

• Authorized the Mayor Joe Andrasek to sign the Kansas Department of Transportation City Connecting Link Improvement Program resurfacing agreement.

This is a KDOT program where it will pay 90 percent of the cost of construction and construction engineering up to a maximum of $300,000 per fiscal year. 

This resurfacing agreement will be used for US-56, from Hickory Street to 1,300 feet west of Kiowa Road in fiscal year 2019, engineering technician Karl Otter said. The project is estimated to be a shade over $300,000.

• Adopted the resolution to add the network administrator position. The resolution amends the position classification to add the network administrator position. The minimum salary for the position is $44,658 and it tops out at $75,868.

 • Authorized the mayor to sign the Motorplex Operating Agreement with the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association. It will operate the Great Bend Drag Strip for five years and to pay the city an annual fee of $10,000, Suelter said. 

• Authorized the mayor to sign the Motorpark Operating Agreement with H.A.M. Enterprises LLC. of Great Bend. It will operate the motopark for three years and to pay 2 percent of gate entrance fees in 2018, 3.5 percent of gate entrance fees in 2019 and 5 percent of gate entrance fees in 2020, Suelter said.

• Authorized the Mayor to sign the facility use agreement with Great Bend Bat Cats for use of Al Burns Field at Veterans Memorial Park. The team will use the facility from May 1 to Aug. 1, for $1. It was going to be $750, but was changed to allow the team to use the extra money to purchase equipment to drag the field.

• Approved a street closing for the Family Crisis Center. The center requested to close Broadway from Kansas to Main from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.  

• Approved a $500 sponsorship for Cinco De Mayo and approved a street closing for the event on May 5. 

• Approved a change of venue request for the Relay for Life of Barton County. The June 8 event will move from Jack Kilby Square to Veterans Memorial Park. 

• Heard an economic development report from Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters. Highlights included lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., and the Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo this week.

 A charter ordinance setting term limits for the Great Bend mayor and City Council members failed to garner the required two-thirds council majority to pass Monday night. The proposal came at the suggestion of Councilman Brock McPherson.

The new ordinance 36 would have set term limits for both the mayor and council members. It stated that starting with the next city election, no person shall be eligible to be elected to serve as council member or mayor for three consecutive two-year terms, City Attorney Bob Suelter said.

Since it was a charter ordinance, it needed the two-thirds vote, or six of the eight council members voting yes. However, it failed on a 3-4 ballot.

Voting in favor were McPherson, Dan Heath and Andrew Erb. Against were Cory Urban, Joel Jackson, Jolene Biggs and Vicki Berryman. Councilman Cory Zimmerman was not present.

Had it passed, it would have still have required publication in the Great Bend Tribune, Suelter said. The change would have taken effect 61 days after final publication, unless a sufficient petition for a referendum is filed and a referendum held on the ordinance in line with the Kansas Constitution, in which case the ordinance would become effective if approved by voters.

The discussion

“We’ve operated for some period of time without term limits,” McPherson said, adding many on the council heard complaints about this following the turmoil around former Police Chief Clifton Couch last summer. “If you haven’t gotten done what you want to get done in six years, it’s time to step aside and let someone else try.”

But, “I do know that when I came onto the council, I found great benefit from people with experience,” said Jackson, noting he wasn’t planning on seeking another term anyway. Besides, “we do have term limits. They are called elections.”

“Trying to find people to run is a big deal,” Berryman said. “Nobody wants to get involved.”

McPherson said that is changing and there are more people taking an interest in civic government. Also, what may have scared people away in the past was the challenging of well-entrenched incumbents.

If no one runs for a council seat, it is up to the mayor to appoint someone.

Urban saw pros and cons. 

On the negative side, limits erode the democratic right to choose, there has been a lack of candidates, it could create a lame-duck mentality and effective leaders may be kept from staying in office, he said. On the positive side, new ideas and fresh faces would challenge conventional ways of doing things.

He asked McPherson if he’d amend his motion to five two-year terms, but McPherson balked.

How its done

How the governing body is elected is spelled out in charter ordinance 34, which was amended when city elections were moved from April to November. 

The governing body consists of the mayor, who is elected by the city at large, and eight council members, two elected from each ward of the city. All governing body members serve two-year terms, with only one council member from each ward being elected at a time.

The mayor and each council member shall hold office for a term of two years. 

Elections take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each odd-numbered year.

The new ordinance would have amended section two of ordinance 34 to read “No person shall be eligible to be elected or to serve as council member of the City of Great Bend, Kansas, or Mayor of the City of Great Bend, Kansas, for more than three consecutive two-year terms. After serving the maximum allotted time in office one must remain out of office for a period of at least two years in order to again become eligible to hold said office. Service prior to the adoption of this ordinance shall not count in determining length of service. Service for more than one-half of any term counts as a full term.”

The approval of ordinance 36 would have repealed ordinance 34. Other than the term limits, all other provisions of ordinance 34 would have remained in place.

Currently, Berryman and Heath represent the First Ward, Jackson and Biggs the Second Ward, Urban and Zimmerman the Third Ward, and Erb and McPherson the Fourth Ward.