The Shawnee City Council on Oct. 8 approved the series of steps officials will take to fill the seat vacated by former council member Justin Adrian.
Council members voted 7-0 to appoint an immediate fill-in next month and schedule a special election to find a more permanent replacement.
Adrian, who was serving the first year of a four-year term representing Ward 3, resigned from the board on Sept. 12, shortly before being charged with having unlawful sexual relations with a student at his teaching job at Olathe East High School.
The council will take applications from those wishing to fill the seat through Nov. 1. After interviewing the candidates, council members will appoint a replacement during a special meeting on Nov. 13.
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That person will serve until the results of a Nov. 5, 2019 special election to formally fill the remaining two years of the term.
During Monday’s meeting, two potential candidates for the position lobbied the board to either push back the date of the interviews or allow hopefuls to participate in the interviews remotely.
Kurt Knappen said he was interested in joining the council but said he would be out of town on business when the council meets with candidates. He pointed out that the council earlier this year changed city policy to allow council members to attend meetings and vote on city business over the Internet.
“I do think that’s a move in the right direction if you have people who work and who are on the council,” Knappen said.
Lisa Larson-Bunnell, who said she also is considering the position, said she supported Knappen’s request.
“I want the pool of candidates for Ward 3 to be as diverse as possible,” Larson-Bunnell said.
Council member Stephanie Meyer supported Knappen’s request and attempted to amend the council’s schedule to allow remote applicants. Her motion, however, failed 2-5 with only council member Matt Zimmerman voting with her.
“We (allowed remote attendance) for emergencies for council members,” said Mickey Sandifer, who voted against the measure. “We don’t need to open that up to the public. That could really create some problems down the road.”
Member Lindsey Constance said those who aren’t appointed to the interim position can still run for the seat next November. Knappen responded that as an incumbent the appointee would have an advantage in the election, if he or she chose to run.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve a 76.8-acre mixed-use development in the 7900 and 8000 blocks of Monticello Road. The development would include a 71.4-acre, 136-lot single-family home subdivision, which would be a continuation of the Bristol Ridge West neighborhood and proposed Bristol Highlands subdivision in Lenexa. An adjacent 5.4 acres would be developed with space for three office buildings.
The council also discussed the possibility of using a special taxing district to pay for the proposed community center envisioned to be built on 26 acres at West 61st Street and Woodland Drive on the west side of town instead of with a city-wide property tax increase.
Voters still must approve the project in a ballot question currently scheduled for next April. Designers have estimated the center would cost $34.7 million with the potential addition of a swimming pool adding between $5.6 million and $7.5 million, depending on the pool’s size.
Paying for the project has split opinion on the board and among residents.
Shawnee resident Ray Erlichman suggested the idea of a taxing district to the council. He said it would be unfair to force people on the east side of town to pay for the center, which he said he doubted many of them would travel across the city to use.
Residents in the eastside Ward 2 have roughly half the median income of those living in the westside Ward 3.
“My contention is you have an element of the city on the east side, and these people, including myself, it’s a different lifestyle than what’s on the west side,” Erlichman said.
Council members Eric Jenkins and Mike Kemmling, who represent Ward 2, said they would be interested in looking at details of a special taxing district.
Other council members, however, said city government regularly requires all residents to pay for services that they may not use, such as roads or sidewalks far away from their neighborhoods.
Meyer, who represents Ward 3, called the discussion “disrespectful” of lower income residents.
“So we’re going to say, ‘I’m sorry, because you don’t make enough money we’ve determined that you would not be interested in having a community center in your city, so you’re not in our special district so you don’t get to take advantage of this service,’” she said. “I don’t know how we make that determination.”
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