The Lansing City Council Thursday again looked over its two lists of priorities, one for next fiscal year and one for the four years after that, as it approaches the beginning of the 2014 budget process.
The council compiled the lists in two previous work sessions, one on March 9 and the other March 28, and they include long-held projects like improvements to Kenneth W. Bernard Community Park and the realignment of Kansas Highway 5 to Interstate 435.
“I want to make sure what's important to us, our priorities, are in the order that we want them to be so that staff can start working the budgeting piece of it, start working the resourcing piece of it, so when we come in the budget cycle, they're going to present you with all the options you have for each individual items on there,” Mayor Billy Blackwell said.
As the members of the council looked them over, a few of the listed priorities stuck out, specifically improvements to DeSoto Road. The city has a $2 million federal earmark for the work, and has already used about $500,000 for engineering work to redesign a stretch between Eisenhower and Ida streets that the council approved in July 2009. Public Works Director John Young said because of the stipulations of that earmark, the city must either start construction by the end of 2016 or pay back the money spent.
Since the city began that work, the Lansing School District proposed and received voter approval for a $73 million construction project, the centerpiece of which is a new high school on the other end of DeSoto Road, at the southern edge of the city.
“Given the fact that we're backed into a corner with the school bond,” said Councilman Don Studnicka, “DeSoto Road may have to move up.”
The project is No. 2 on the 2015-2019 list, but No. 6 on the 2014 list, between improvements to Willow Park and the addition of an assistant library director. Studnicka said because the district plans to have the new high school open by 2015, the city should think about both improvements to that stretch of DeSoto and the extension of sewer infrastructure sooner than planned.
Councilwoman Andi Pawlowski said she thought the K-5 project was more important for the city, but that it was also less dependent on the city and more on state or federal participation and thus a lower priority.
“I agree with that, but how hard do want us to push K-5?” Mayor Billy Blackwell said.
Councilman Jesse Garvey said, however, that the city is not obligated to pay anything back if K-5 does not materialize.
City Administrator Mike Smith said the district might not have known the extent of work necessary at the site when they proposed the bond issue. Furthermore, Councilman Kerry Brungardt said the city might not have as much work to do at the site as they think.
Page 2 of 2 - “I agree there's going to have to be some work done, but I don't we're in a dire situation right now,” he said.
The council decided to leave the priorities as presented.