City to consider stormwater fee increase

By The Mercury

City commissioners will consider several items related to the 2015 budget at a meeting Tuesday evening.

Among the items on the agenda are increasing stormwater rates, raising admission fees for the Flint Hills Discovery Center and Sunset Zoo, and increasing wages in an agreement with the firefighters’ union.

City administrators are recommending a 4-percent increase in stormwater fees for 2015.

Under the current fee structure, which was established in Manhattan in 1996, residential and commercial properties are charged differently.

Residential properties are charged a flat fee per month as part of the utility bill. That fee would go from $4.42 to $4.60 under the proposal.

Commercial properties are charged based on the surface area of the property that contributes to stormwater runoff.

A business with less than 20,000 square feet in runoff surface area would go from $7.18 per month to $7.46 per month for a difference of $3.45 annually.

The increase is intended to provide sufficient funding for stormwater projects, according to the commission agenda.

The commission will consider changes in admission fees at Sunset Zoo for the coming year. The proposal calls for increasing adult admission from $4 to $5, and raising admission for children ages 3-12 from $2 to $3. Children 2 and under would still be free.

For comparison, adult admission for the Topeka Zoo is $5.75, and admission to Salina’s Rolling Hills is $12.50.

The proposal also calls for changes to program and membership fees for the Discovery Center.

Program fees will “provide the FHDC with the ability to develop and implement new programs,” according to the agenda.

And a membership fee structure will offer higher levels of membership for personal and corporate members.

The zoo increase is expected to raise an additional $60,400 for 2015, and the Discovery Center increase could raise $32,839. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has recommended approval of the measure.

The commission also will discuss changing an agreement with the firefighters’ union, Local 2275 of the International Association of Firefighters.

The current agreement expires at the end of 2014.

After a salary study in February, the city agreed to move personnel closer to the average annual wage and to implement an annual step system.

The proposal calls for firefighters to receive a 1.7-percent cost-of-living adjustment, which is in line with what other city workers get.

It also changes the promotion system for firefighters, adjusting job titles, time between promotions and raises.

For example, instead of Firefighter I, entry-level employees would be called Probationary Firefighter. Promotion to the next level would include a 5-percent salary increase and the time before promotion would increase from 6 months to 1 year.

The city is budgeting an overall wage increase of 3.7 percent.

On Thursday, union leaders told city administrators that union members had ratified all articles.

Also on the agenda are three rezoning items:

• Rezoning the proposed Turnberry Addition (northeast of Grand Mere Parkway and Colbert Hills Drive) from R-S, single-family residential suburban district to R-1, single-family residential district.

• Annexing and rezoning the proposed Tract 8, Colbert Hills Addition, Unit 4, (west of the intersection of Kauffman Drive and Vanesta Drive) from county residential planned unit development district to R, single family residential district.

• Annexing and rezoning the proposed Muirfield Addition (1,300 feet northeast of the intersection of Grand Mere Parkway and Colbert Hills Drive) from county residential planned unit development to R, single-family residential district.

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