Bringing development and a healthy revenue stream to Shawnee are two issues that have weighed upon the minds of the candidates for the City Council in Ward 1.
In the council election for Ward 2, the two candidates have different top priorities, but promise the same thing — vigilance over how the city spends its budget.
In Ward 1, property asset manager Ben Terrill challenges incumbent Jim Neighbor.
Development has been a continuing issue in the city, which has been trying to build up more retail and commercial space to take pressure off property taxes. However, there have been some difficulties getting new construction in the hilly western part of town.
The first ward covers the northern part of the city, from its eastern boundary to about Monticello Road.
Terrill decided to run “to bring some business skills to bear on the management of our city,” he said. The city costs more to run than it should, to the point that taxes have to be raised to cover ongoing needs, he said. One example Terrill pointed out was the recent voter-approved sales tax increase for streets.
Shawnee leaders should be smart about how they encourage development, Terrill said. The package offered to help developers cope with extensive ground preparation for Shawnee Landing was an appropriate use of incentives, he said. (Developers backed away from that plan recently.) But he was more skeptical of another package for 10 Quivira Plaza. The city created a special taxing district for that project, which was later sold by developers. Terrill said he was bothered by the developers’ profit from a project the citizens helped pay for.
The impact fee revenue from the landfill should be focused on roads and infrastructure, he said, adding that the 50 percent of that revenue now going toward roads should not be diverted to other uses.
Neighbor said the city has accomplished much with the approval of the street sales tax. “But there’s still more work to be done to continue our momentum,” Neighbor said.
Shawnee needs more development and the city should encourage that in the west with incentives, he said. “The I-435 corridor is an ideal place to build but it’s topographically challenged,” Neighbor said. “The sheer volume of dirt to make it level is astronomical.”
Because of those challenges, the city is right to offer economic development incentives, he said. But the city also has to hold developers accountable and be fair to school districts and county government, which can lose tax revenue when the city offers certain types of tax incentives.
Neighbor said he had no problem with the current way the impact fee is divided, with half for streets and half for economic development. The new street sales tax will solve the issues with streets, he said, and the city needs economic development. He added that the buried sewer pipes in the city are beginning to wear out, and that subterranean infrastructure will be another major issue the City Council will have to deal with.
Second Ward incumbent Neal Sawyer, who has held the seat since 2002, is being challenged by Eric Jenkins, an emergency management consultant, to represent the ward, which includes much of the older, eastern part of the city.
Jenkins said transparency in government and a close watch on city spending would be his top priorities. Too often, he said, the council has served as a rubber stamp for the city manager’s office in such things as the hiring of a public information officer.
He would like to see more planning for emergency preparedness, for one thing. The city should take a more analytic approach to all decisions on spending, he said.
The city has been trying to get more development into the hilly western area and to redevelop inner shopping areas such as the Westbrooke Village Shopping Center at 75th Street and Quivira Road. Jenkins said the city has to look at incentives for developers on a case-by-case basis, but acknowledged that Shawnee must compete with what’s being offered in other nearby cities. He said he’d be open to looking at other possible uses for the Westbrooke shopping center.
He supports spending on road repairs. “Bad streets blight the whole community,” he said. Jenkins said the impact fee revenues from the landfill should be used exclusively for streets. The fee is currently split between infrastructure and economic development.
Sawyer said his priority in running for another term is to make sure the recently approved sales tax is spent on roads, curbs and gutters as the voters intended. Many streets in the ward lack curbs and gutters, he said.
The city has a sound financial policy, Sawyer said. He said he doesn’t like the idea of setting up extra taxing districts to help pay for development, but realizes that Shawnee has to keep up with other cities. “Every other city is using them, and for us to keep pace with development we’re going to have to do the same thing,” he said.
The Westbrooke center remains a challenge, he said. Sawyer disagreed with the council’s decision recently to pay for a third party to broker a development deal with Westbrooke owners. The deal never happened because the owners were not interested.
Sawyer said he’s not sure there needs to be any more retail in that area of town, but added the owners have the right to decide what to do with their property.
The impact fee revenues should be examined yearly to make sure there are still enough funds to adequately fund infrastructure, he said.
Education: Bachelor’s in pre-medicine, University of Kansas, 1965
Occupation: Retired United Airlines pilot
Elected experience: Shawnee City Council 2010-present
Education: Bachelor’s in political science, Southern Methodist University, 1979
Occupation: Self-employed property asset manager
Elected experience: None
Education: Bachelor’s in history, Southwest Missouri State University, 1970; master’s in geography, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, circa 1977
Occupation: Emergency management consultant, also retired Federal Emergency Management Administration, retired colonel U.S. Army active and reserve
Elected experience: Northwest Advisory Board of Shawnee Mission School District
Website: ericjenkinsforShawnee. com
Education: Bachelor’s in business administration and human resources, MidAmerica Nazarene University, circa 1991
Occupation: Retired facilities maintenance systems manager for a convenience store chain
Elected experience: Shawnee City Council, 2002-present