Home prices climbing

By Maura Wery

Riley County Appraiser Greg McHenry reported higher home and commercial sales and prices for the 2013 fiscal year Thursday.

McHenry told Riley County commissioners that the median sales ratio, a measure of how well appraised values align with actual values, dropped from 100 percent to 97 percent. That drop of 3 percent indicates that sale prices have increased since the 2013 values were established at the beginning of the year.

The median sales price for a home in Riley County – the value above and below which there are an equal number of properties — is around $165,000. At the start of the year the median sales price was $160,050.

Residential properties aren’t the only ones seeing an increase. McHenry said the median sales ratio for commercial properties has dropped to 91 percent. By state law, appraisers are required to maintain valuations between 90 and 110 percent of actual values, so the 91 percent reading suggests that it may be necessary for the appraiser to raise commercial property values next year to keep the ratio in line with state law.

McHenry also said that building permits are up for the year. In 2012, appraisers counted 246 permits for June. This June there were 253. McHenry has also seen an increase in the number of sales in homes. Last year they had sold 669 homes while in 2013 they are already at 717 homes.

McHenry said that Riley and Pottawatomie counties are still the “shining stars,” of the housing market. He said most areas in the state have seen stagnant growth or just small increases, while in this area, there has been steady growth since the recession in 2008.

Emergency drills

County officials announced plans for three emergency drills in the next few months, one of which will explore concerns posed by the imminent construction of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility here.

That drill, planned for Oct. 9-10, is not being presented as a direct response to NBAF. But its subject is foreign animal disease response, and the exercise is being put together regionally. Beyond Riley County, It will also involve Pottawatomie County, KSU, the Department of Agriculture, and the state Departments of Emergency Management, Health and Environment, and Agriculture.

Pat Collins, the county’s emergency management director, said planning for the exercise has been underway for a year, and remains ongoing. “We have a meeting this month that may shine a little more light on our roles in the exercise,” Collins told county commissioners.

The NBAF is a federal lab that will be tasked with studying threats to the nation’s food supply for which there presently is no cure. The Department of Homeland Security is constructing and will operate the facility.

Collins noted that DHS is not directly involved in the exercise, although he acknowledged that the state Department of Emergency Management is linked to DHS.

The county is planning two other drills in the near future. One, to be held Aug. 17, creates a tornado scenario. The second, slated for Aug. 27, will look at what are referred to as “next gen” 911 improvements.


Public building commission

Commissioners briefly discussed feedback they have received recently regarding their consideration of creation of a Public Building Commission. Commissioners Ron Wells and Dave Lewis indicated they both had been contacted by additional members of the public questioning aspects of the proposed commission.

The motivation behind consideration of the commission is a state law capping the ability of governing bodies to authorize the issuance of bonds to fund facilities construction at $300,000 without a public vote. Building commissions are under no such restriction.

Lewis wondered whether it would be possible to ask lawmakers to consider raising the $300,000 figure, but commissioner Bob Boyd speculated that there would be little if any legislative interest in doing so. Commissioners agreed that it might be useful to obtain a legislative history of the restriction, since all assumed it was very old and none knew when the $300,000 figure was last adjusted for inflation. “Three-hundred thousand might have built a courthouse” when the figure was set, Lewis said.

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