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Sunday
January 20th, 2019

1 8 18 city recap chris fordFinance Director Chris Ford answers a couple questions from the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening regarding some changes to the city’s KDHE loan. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Development has been happening in Liberal throughout the past several months and recently, a project set to take place at Liberal Plaza took another step forward thanks to a vote by the Liberal City Commission. 

Tuesday evening, the commission voted unanimously to establish a Community Improvement District (CID) for a project at Liberal Plaza set to start in the near future. The item began with a public hearing and then discussion of the CID itself. 

“Jeff [Parsons] and I started talking about this about two or three years ago as we started to envision what we could do as far as updates or a facelift to that area,” RBS Group representative Bob Slechta said. “Most of the tenants are national retailers and have experience with these types of facade updates and lighting updates and parking lot updates. We’ve shown everyone at least the concept drawings and we’ve heard mostly positive response about what we showed them. We’ll be looking at the physical features of the property and see what we can do to update all that.”

“We really appreciate you investing in Liberal,” Commissioner Jack Carlile said. 

“Are there any prospects coming to Liberal we can help with?” Commissioner Tony Martinez asked. 

“We actually opened Glik’s back in August and they’ve been doing really well,” Slechta said. “And that took me down to just two small spaces and started me visualizing what else we could put. People make decisions in boardrooms nowadays as far as where to go and where to stay and we want Liberal to be part of those conversations because of all the commitments we’ve made and what we’re willing to do.”

Local citizen Karen Wilson then asked a few questions of the commission regarding the project. 

“How will this get paid for as far as Liberal is concerned? Will it be tax dollars being refunded through, where is this all coming from?” Wilson asked. 

“The way a CID works is once the district is approved, the tenants in that district will charge an additional 1-cent sales tax,” Economic Development Director Jeff Parsons said. “It’s not city dollars going toward this, it’s the customers helping pay for the improvements in a way. What happens is they pay that additional tax and that revenue then circles back through the city and will be refunded to the owners. It will last either 22 years or until the improvements are paid for, whichever would happen to come first. So it’s not city money, it’s customers’ money.”

“All of our taxes around here are pretty high, so do you find the retailers are comfortable with things like this?” Wilson asked. 

“The retailers I’ve spoken to during the past few weeks have been pretty positive toward this,” Slechta said. 

“And we already have some companies here in town charging that extra for the CID like IHOP and Old Chicago and some of the hotels,” Carlile said. 

“And 99 percent of the time consumers don’t even notice it since it’s so miniscule,” Liberal Vice Mayor Taylor Harden said. “And it’s the same way with CIDs in Wichita and Garden City and similar towns.”

Ultimately, the commission unanimously approved the creation of the CID after closing the public hearing. 

Another serious matter talked about during Items from Citizens was about abandoned property and was brought up by local citizen Reita Isaacs. 

“About 10 or 12 years ago there was a house on South Pershing Avenue that was right off 7th Street. It was so bad and of course we’ve had a drug problem all these years,” Isaacs. “I proceeded to find out all I could about it and I was finally able to get the city to get the place razed. It was about a block and a half away from that school and children could go in and out of it before it finally came down. I got a phone call last Thursday about a property on Seward Avenue, you can’t miss it. It’s an abandoned property and I was told about an abandoned dog there in the backyard and possibly in the house. I did go and I did take photos and there was a beautiful Boxer who had clearly been out there in the 6-degree weather for some time with no food or water and the neighbor there came out and told me she and her family had been putting out some food and water for that dog. Then Animal Control came and said she couldn’t do that and basically said to just let the dog go and they would get the photos they needed and let it all go from there. That set me off and I went around back and this dog’s water was frozen, there were feces everywhere and just a little doghouse. Then I later went back and it turned out there was another dog in the house. There was filth and other horrors I hadn’t known about, this house needs to be condemned. The conditions in and out of the house, how long does it need to take for something to be done? This place needs to come down for safety of the children who may walk through that area and also anyone else who lives in that area.”

Liberal Police Chief Dennis Mulanax then spoke about the case, in particular regarding Isaacs’ ire about being off-limits to feeding the aforementioned dogs. 

“We have to follow due process. If people just start walking on other people’s property there are just too many things that could go wrong,” Mulanax said. “I know both sides of the case and I agree it needs to be condemned, but we do have to follow our due process, as unpleasant as that may be.”

“I’m going to hold you on that,” Isaacs said. “I’m not in good conscience going to sit back and let a dog go cold and hungry just because of some code.”

“And that’s totally up to you, but there is procedure we have to follow,” Mulanax replied. “With trespassers and burglars, there’s just too much that could go sideways with such a situation. We’ve done everything we legally can and now we’re going to keep up with the case. I agree animals shouldn’t be abandoned in 6-degree weather, but we also can’t condone people just going on to other people’s property.”

In other business, the commission also unanimously approved a small amendment to City Manager Cal Burke’s contract and unanimously voted to award the bid for the 2nd Street water line replacement project to the Middlecreek Corporation. 

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