Friday, August 29, 2014

Officials trying to undo duplicate Pomona city ordinance after passing it without first reading

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 3/7/2014

POMONA — City council members in a western Franklin County community unwittingly approved two identical charter ordinances. And now they’re working to fix the mistake.

At a special Feb. 21 Pomona City Council meeting, council members discussed two charter ordinances — one that would allow the city to issue bonds for road improvements and another to combine the bonds for road repairs and previous bonds for the sewer lagoon for a lower interest rate.

POMONA — City council members in a western Franklin County community unwittingly approved two identical charter ordinances. And now they’re working to fix the mistake.

At a special Feb. 21 Pomona City Council meeting, council members discussed two charter ordinances — one that would allow the city to issue bonds for road improvements and another to combine the bonds for road repairs and previous bonds for the sewer lagoon for a lower interest rate.

About 15 community members attended the special meeting to voice concerns about issuing bonds for road repairs, which they said essentially would raise property taxes.

“This ain’t right. And now you throw it on the taxpayer because you can’t understand how to get spending under control, and I think it’s despicable,” Joann Hancock, former mayor of Pomona, said at the special meeting.

After hearing from community members during the public comment session, council members had limited discussion about the ordinances and passed them both unanimously — or at least they thought they did.

Both ordinances were published in The Herald’s Feb. 25 and March 4 editions, but the ordinances were identical in wording — a mistake Marie Seneca, Pomona mayor, said was made by the Pomona city clerk.

“[The ordinances] are supposed to be different,” Seneca said. “It was a mistake that was made by our clerk in presenting those [ordinances] to council [at the special meeting] and [council members] didn’t read them and voted on them.”

The mistake was set to be corrected at the city’s regular city council meeting Monday, but since not enough members of the council were present — two-thirds of the body was needed — the ordinances could not be corrected and the issue was tabled, Seneca said.

The ordinances stemmed from the city’s attempt to find funding for needed repairs.

Pomona recently received a $188,100 Community Development Block Grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce to repair intersections in the city, Seneca said previously, but the intersections of streets near West Franklin middle and high schools turned out to be more costly than just a normal repair, and funds had to be pulled from different areas of the city’s budget to cover the remaining cost of the repairs.

The city had to use $182,831.73 for the special intersection project, using money from the highway fund, general fund, the sales tax street project fund and the capital improvement fund, according to city documents.

The city has a 1 1/2 cent sales tax slated specifically for road repairs, but the money the tax generates each year simply isn’t enough, Seneca said previously.

“Many people felt when they voted [the 1 1/2 cent sales tax] in, we wouldn’t have to have bonds, but they didn’t realize the extent of how much repair we need and the enormous amount of money it will cost,” Seneca said. “The amount we raise each year would just be a fraction and other streets are deteriorating, and how do you decide which street is first? Why not all at once? Because the downside is that they all come up for repairs at the same time.”

To pay for the bonds for the street repairs, the city would have to raise the mill levy, which on average would be a 6.73-mill increase, according to city documents.

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