The torch was figuratively passed from former Mayor Jim Sherow to newly installed Mayor Loren Pepperd at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting. Commissioner John Matta was appointed mayor pro-tem.
In remarks to his fellow commissioners and the audience, Pepperd said the City Commission has become a reactionary entity, but the future is where the city must look.
“As I look forward, the times are changing, and we must become more visionary to sustain the city’s continued growth and financial revitalization,” Pepperd said.
Pepperd said the city must develop a multi-year plan concerning the city’s fiscal policy and management of debt service, as federal and state governments will be financially challenged in the coming years. The most imperative part of Pepperd’s vision is the passing another sales-tax initiative.
“We will work with Riley and Pottawatomie counties to ensure optimal tax collections within our city, help reduce debt and provide funds for continued economic development activities,” Pepperd said.
Working with the other entities within the community and the region will also be important.
“We need a competitive vision and the resources to implement a multi-year plan,” Pepperd said. “This includes a strategic plan for the continuing implementation of the NBAF, National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, and similar economic development initiatives.”
Pepperd said the city must also work “hand in hand” with Kansas State University’s Vision 2025 plan and with Fort Riley, especially in preparation for a possible base realignment and closure or reduction in force. He said planning for growth on the edges of the community, including updating a land-use plan along the west K-18 corridor and along the east highway 24 corridor, must be a focus as well.
However, providing sustainable growth has its challenges. To that end, Pepperd believes the city should examine alternative solutions to “decades old and perhaps outdated practice policies and procedures.” He elaborated, saying benefit districts, zoning regulations, overlays, utility regulation, deed restrictions and city, state and federal laws have challenged the city economically.
“There is a growing shift toward compact mixed-use and walkable neighborhoods,” Pepperd said. “We as, city commissioners and staff, must embrace the changing times and develop this new vision into Manhattan’s growth.”
In a statement echoed frequently during his time as a commissioner, Pepperd also said during its growth the city should work to hold the line on current property taxes.
It will take hard work and close examination by commissioners and the city to achieve these goals.
“To do this we must have a keen eye for budget scrutiny and the courage of convictions to make choices that are best for the whole community, not just the loudest or most popular interest group at the time,” Pepperd said.