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Second time not a charm
Council again votes down term limits
new deh city council pic
The Great Bend City Council discusses term limits again Monday night. A revised charter ordinance setting limits failed. - 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:

• Rejected for a second time a charter ordinance for term limits on council members and the mayor. Councilman Cory Urban asked to bring up the matter and change the number of terms from three (as was voted down earlier) to four.

• Approved a revision to the city’s nepotism policy. Currently, no immediate family member of an employee would be allowed to work for the City. Under the new policy, immediate family members would be eligible as long as they do not work in the same department, Human Resource Director Randy Keasling said.

• Authorized the Mayor Joe Andrasek to sign an agricultural lease agreement with Carmen Schmitt. The agreement is for cash-rent of the 1,000 acres of farm ground at the Great Bend Municipal Airport for six years, plus two optional years, at $20.50 per acre, Airport Manager Martin Miller said.

• Accepted a bid from ACM Removal of Wichita for $4,780 for the removal of the asbestos in the Great Bend Events Center. In August, the center will get new carpet and flooring, but in preparing for this project it was learned the tile that makes up the dance floor has asbestos in the glue holding it down.

This is not a problem now, but it will be removed just prior to the replacement work.

• Heard a report from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. She focused on the revamped city website that will go live in August, the Community Service Day with Great Bend High School students coming April 25 and June Jaunt June 1-3.

• Approved an abatement at 1410 20th St. for accumulation of refuse, owned by Joseph Farris and Stacey Farris.

 Monday night, the Great Bend City Council again voted on a charter ordinance setting term limits for council members and for the mayor. Again, it failed to pass.

When the council met April 2, it discussed the charter ordinance that would limit governing body members to only three consecutive terms. This came at the request of Councilman Brock McPherson.

However, during the discussion of the ordinance, Councilman Cory Urban suggested the number of terms be changed to four. At the time, McPherson refused to budge, and the change failed to garner the required two-thirds votes from the council (six of the eight had to vote yes).

But, “since then, I have spoken to Brock and we have come to a compromise,” Urban said Monday. They both agreed to the four-term limit.

In order for the matter to come up again, the council had to vote to revisit the earlier charter ordinance. This met with a tie 4-4 vote as Urban, McPherson, Dan Heath and Andy Erb voted yes, and Joel Jackson, Jolene Biggs, Vicki Berryman and Cory Zimmerman voted no.

Mayor Andrasek cast the tie breaker in favor of bring the issue back.

Then, there had to be motion to amend the original three-term limit to four. This also met with a tie with the same council members voting for and against, and again Adrasek broke the tie by voting yes.

Next, the new revised ordinance had to pass by a two-thirds majority. This where it failed in another 4-4 split.

“Term limits get in the way of the democratic process,” Zimmerman said. “We have term limits, they are called elections.”

“I look at it as a continuity issue,” Biggs said. Sometimes long-term projects require long-term vision.

There were also concerns from some council members that there may be no one wanting to run and that having more experience on the council might be beneficial.

However, “the public has spoken,” McPherson said, referring to the many emails he’s received supporting limits. “This is what the pubic wants.”

“In light of the recent events of last year, the public needs to know the council is made up of people who represent the community,” Heath said. “This belongs to the people, not some ruling class.”

Besides, Heath said, if someone can’t get done what they want on the council in eight years, they should probably step aside and give someone else a shot.

How its done

How the governing body is currently elected is spelled out in charter ordinance 34. 

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 another ordinance 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.

The deadline to file for the November general election is June 1. There is one seat in each of the four wards up for election.