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Citizens speak out against proposed public building commission

By Maura Wery

Two more members of the public Monday opposed the creation of a proposed public building commission.

Ralph Wahl and Curt Porter addressed Riley County commissioners during the public comment section of the commission meeting, saying they felt creation of the commission would take away their right to vote on bond issues for building projects.

Creation of the public building commission was proposed early this month as a method of considering large building projects without the necessity of winning voter approval. That voter approval is currently required of projects exceeding $300,000 in cost. County commissioners are considering whether to appoint themselves to the building commission.

Wahl said that he was “100 percent against the creation of the PBC,” and would be prepared to fight an effort to create it. Both men asked several questions about how the public building commission would work, such as who gained ownership over buildings once a 50-year lease period was up, and whether the commission planned to lobby Legislature to increase the ceiling beyond which a vote is required.

Both also said they saw issues with the three commissioners constituting themselves as the building commission. Commissioners urged the two men to trust them.

“We have trusted you,” Wahl said. “but you have threatened to take away our right to vote.”

Commissioner Bob Boyd disagreed, saying he did not see the idea as threatening the right to vote. Commissioner Dave Lewis said the reality was there are growing space needs that were going to need to be addressed beyond the $300,000 ceiling above which voter approval is required. County officials have been engaged in discussions about construction of a new office building and also have discussed substantial renovations to the courthouse.

Commissioners told the men that they are happy the public is getting involved in the PBC discussion, and hope more will come forward as the idea progresses. They hinted at possible night meetings in order to get public opinion.

Wahl and Porter suggested sending an invitation to the townships and cities to keep them in the loop. Commissioners assured the men that they would include those townships in the future meetings and said there is no definitive timetable for action on the building commission at this time.


Rural fire numbers down

Emergency management director Pat Collins told commissioners his rural fire calls were down from last year from 229 to 170. Collins said the lower call number comes from the rain keeping away wildfires and fireworks calls. He said the numbers were down in all categories.

“This is definitely making our volunteers happy,” Collins said. “Less calls are better in our business.”

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