Will Ravenstein

Wellington Daily News

The Wellington City Council passed a resolution, 4-2, authorizing the City Manager to sign a design engineering services agreement for streets, water and sanitary sewer for the Sumner Campus of Cowley College Phase 1 with MKEC Engineering out of Wichita for the amount of $84,200 during the meeting Tuesday, Aug, 1.

“This is the design for Cowley College for the street, public portion of the water and public portion of the sanitary sewer,” City Manager Shane Shields said. “I will reference, as the sewer design contract that we approved last meeting with PEC. We are approving this before the final developers agreement. It has been approved and comes to you.”

After much debate and mis-wording by the council the resolution allows for the timeline set by Cowley College to proceed as planned for the opening of the campus in the fall of 2018.

City of Wellington Director of Public Works, Jeremy Jones, stated that the design contract was going to be a single contract for the design of the streets, public storm sewer, public water and public sanitary sewer rather than three or four different contracts.

“Total cost for design on this is $84,200 with MKEC, who is representing Cowley on this entire project,” Jones said. “Overall improvements with this work is a little over $650,000 it looks like. We would be paying this up front initially and then as we work through the details with the developers agreement this would be one of the things we work out.”

Council member Jim Valentine questioned if the money would come from the utility fund, and if so how much was currently in that fund.

“We are not in any trouble with the utility fund, it is moving the other way,” Shields stated. “The answer to you is yes, this would come out of the utility fund.”

Shields continued with informing the council members that the developers agreement was provided to Cowley College, who earlier in the day responded.

“We did get their return late this afternoon about 4 p.m.,” Shields said. “I saw it at 4:30 p.m. and have not had the time to review that in great detail. But, for your knowledge we do have their developers agreement back on what they are proposing.”

Mayor Shelley Hansel stated that she had also seen the agreement that Shields had worked up and asked Jones to explain how the design would give opportunity for expansion of the eastern corridor.

“This is pretty standard, yet out of sequence, this is standard that this contract would come to the city,” Jones said. “Then, ultimately the bids for the construction would come to the city. Difference being typically we would have who is ultimately going to pay up front or city portion or through special assessments would already be done through the developers agreement. Possibly even bonds and temporary notes working through that system. This is just ahead of normal schedule. This is not uncommon for this to come to the city to approve.”

Council member Valentine verified that funding would be in the form on a bond, which Shields confirmed with the bond taking effect in 2019.

Shields reminded the council of their hopes to combine the Cowley College project, the runway extension at the airport and the Westborough project into one bond to pass savings that it would provide.

“What I want to make clear is that I don’t care if it’s a bond issue, a lease-purchase or an increase in sales taxes — we are talking about people’s money here,” Valentine said. “This is what I think got skirted, and I’m sorry to say that. I don’t feel, looking down the road, we will be solvent here. With the latest demographic you got.”

Mayor Hansel retorted with this is the way to turn that trend around.

“But the way to turn the trend around is to bring in something like Cowley College, that is going to offer tremendous opportunity,” she said. “I understand. I’m a single mom, and everyday I pray that I have the money to pay for my utilities, my mortgage and groceries. I totally get that. There is nothing more that I would love to do, is say that we will have a huge decrease in taxes. But in order to stop the erosion of our population, and the erosion of people leaving Wellington we have to do something. And we have to do something drastic. We have a college, secondary education, higher education that wants to come to Wellington and make a difference.”

Director Jones reminded the council that the developers agreement will decide who pays for what or what percentages of the cost will be covered by whom later. The topic of discussion was for the design contract to move the project forward to meed the Cowley College timeline.

Council member Kelly Hawley asked if there would be an issue looking at the agreement before making a costly decision.

“From what I understood, Shane you have the developers agreement on your desk now,” she asked. “So, realistically you can review it, council can have time to review it and we may push this time frame back just a few weeks, correct? Let’s make it clear, it’s not our time frame here. It’s Cowley College’s time frame. The more I sit up here, the last thing I want is to vote to spend $84,000 when we have no idea, in the end, what we will be responsible for. It’s like the worse business plan ever.”

Hawley referenced an agreement the council made before, where they agreed to pay for something and would later figure how to pay for it.

“I understand that, but ultimately it’s our job to do it the best way we can with the information we can,” she said. “(I) Can not spend money without actually really knowing. I think we did that a year or two ago, we authorized the purchase of something, and said we will find the money later. I’m not doing that again.”

Council member Kip Etter, weighed in on the subject before making the motion to approve the resolution.

“I think my feelings reflect a lot with what Mrs. Hawley kind of said,” Etter said. “But, I’m in a little different position with regards to this particular vote. For me, the way I see this, I see this as the discussion as to how the funds are going to be paid, where they are going to be paid, the percentages of where they are going to be paid is going to be handled in with regards to the agreement. I see this decision today as the City of Wellington showing that developer, that entity, a business, a college whatever it maybe - a development of some kind is who already has secured funding is our ability to work with them. To show them we are more than willing to work with you. We as a council have the ultimate ability to vote later on and haggle, if you will, back-and-forth with what percentage we will be reimbursed for this expense.”

Council member Vince Wetta questioned when previous bonds were set to mature.

After looking through a binder council member Jan Korte was able to give an answer.

“We have a GO bond that will mature on May 1, 2022,” she said. “That’s the first one. Then a GO bond that will mature Oct.1, 2022. Those are the next two, that’s five years and they are pretty good size.”

Korte added later her feelings about paying the up front costs.

“I can not believe us paying any of this up front will have any affect on the negotiation,” she said. “We discussed in work session and there was a consensus brought forward, and I agree with Kip. We are supporting the college coming to our town. I certainly want that and we are very pleased that it is coming to our town.”

Before the vote was called after discussion, council member Hawley wanted to clarify her request.

“All I’m asking for, is to give us two weeks to give the council or at least me the piece of mind to do my due diligence looking at the developers agreement,” she said. “I don’t believe that any future business that may be considering Wellington is going to run away and be upset because we asked for two weeks to look at the developers plan. I think they would actually appreciate that. I think we have to actually do our due diligence and give it some thought.”

Hawley and Valentine were the votes against the resolution while Etter, Butts, Korte and Wetta voted to approve it.