A theme of communication ran through Thursday’s Riley County Commission meeting. Riley County Police Department Director Brad Schoen commented on improving relations between the department and Aggieville business owners regarding Fake Patty’s Day, including a rebranding of the event. Commissioners also commented on relations between the city and the county regarding the potential renewal of the countywide, half-cent sales taxes.
Schoen was present at the meeting to give commissioners a brief preview of crime rates that will be presented to the Riley County Law Board next week. He told commissioners that crime rates in the city and county for the previous year once again declined, something that was also true nationally. He also said that crime in the “impact zone” near Aggieville fell by about 8 percent.
County Chair Karen McCulloh asked Schoen about progress on a more coordinated Fake Patty’s Day plan. The unofficial drinking holiday is typically scheduled the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day and has been a frequent topic of discussion as March approaches. Commissioner Dave Lewis noted that county, city, Aggieville and RCPD representatives have met several times to better plan the event. Lewis also revealed that it will be marketed as “Green Break” this year.
“It sounds like we’re starting to get more of a cooperative relationship between the PD and the bar owners down there,” Schoen said.
Schoen said the Aggieville Business Association and Aggieville bar owners still have a lot of planning to do but he termed communication between Aggieville and the department productive.
Commissioners also touched on the renewal of the half-cent sales tax originally passed in 2002. The county has used its portion of the revenues for infrastructure improvements, while the city has used its portion for economic development.
Despite months of discussion, the issue is still contentious. McCulloh and Lewis both said the two parties need to come to some sort of mutual agreement. Commissioners hoped to raise the idea of an uninvolved third party at Thursday afternoon’s intergovernmental meeting.
County officials prefer using language comparable to that used in 2002 to pass a similar tax. They feel the ballot language used in 2002 requires the county to present the same question to voters again. However, a majority of city commissioners have expressed preference to move away from that. They wish to proceed with a citywide half-cent sales tax, which they feel would be beneficial because of the retail revenue it would capture from the portion of the city located in Pottawatomie County. Commissioner Wynn Butler had also suggested two separate taxes, a citywide quarter-cent sales tax and a countywide quarter-cent sales tax.
County commissioners unanimously supported soliciting the Attorney General for an opinion on the matter. Lewis said it would facilitate a more definite course of action and McCulloh said it would also show a willingness on the county’s part to “go the extra mile.”
“If we are not obligated (to present the same question) then maybe we can come to a consensus with the city and hold hands together and sing ‘Kumbaya’ in our educational meetings,” Lewis said.