Town hall invites community input

7/30/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

While it doesn't have a specific agenda, tonight's town hall meeting is an opportunity for members of the public to talk to the Garden City Commission about any subject.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the commission chambers on the second floor of the City Administrative Center, 301 N. Eighth St.

The town hall is not a business meeting of the city commission. It is a chance for the public to bring comments and questions to the commission's attention. Town hall meetings, as near as city staff can tell, have been offered for at least four or five years and are scheduled every time there is a fifth Tuesday in a month.

A few commissioners were asked what issues they would like more public input about.

Commissioner Janet Doll cited a number of things, such as this month's Fourth of July fireworks season and issues people had or suggestions for improving festivities, as well as any thoughts or ideas that would make Garden City more dynamic.

"Whether it's entertainment or manufacturing, new industry, anything, we always want the community's input," Doll said. "I'd also like to know what people think about downtown, since we have a new master plan."

Commissioner Melvin Dale said he would like to see more people at the meeting providing some well thought-out questions, but he'd also like to hear from people about housing quality and safety issues.

"Not about the shortage of housing because we all know we have a problem there, and we're working as hard as we possibly can. I'm concerned with houses being rented and occupied that don't meet the standards we should expect in a property," Dale said.

Dale is concerned about rental housing in town that may not be up to code or safe for people who live there. Dale would like to hear from people about those types of issues, so the commission can get a sense of whether the community would support implementing some sort of a program in which the city could monitor and inspect rental properties, as is done in certain other communities.

Dale said he recalls the city talking about an inspection program in the past, a discussion that followed a January 2012 fire that killed Nichole Savoy, 26, and her two daughters, 6-year-old Bryn Abigail Savoy and 22-month-old Madelyn Rae Savoy, in a rental home that wasn't equipped with smoke detectors.

But the discussions stalled out, and Dale would like to know if there's any public support for that type of initiative.

Mayor Dan Fankhauser wondered if there are individuals who would like to talk about the city's zoning process, especially some of the often confusing terminology used and time frames involved.

"I'm not sure people understand zoning and some of the terms used. People get upset when they buy land and then find out they can't build what they want on it," he said.

The town hall would be a good time to talk about and answer questions about zoning or the development process, he said.

"Sometimes I think we need to do a better job educating people about those issues," Fankhauser said. "I think it would be a good time to come and ask those questions in an informal setting. Sometimes it's a lot easier to ask questions. And there's no such thing as a dumb question, so if you've got a question, ask it."

Those who can't attend the meeting in person can watch on Channel 8, if they are a Cox Cable subscriber.

For those who are not cable subscribers, but do have Internet service, Ashley Freburg, communications specialist with the city of Garden City, said the city expects to have a new feature on its website by tonight that will allow people to watch a live streaming video of the meeting on the city's website at www.garden-city.org.

Those who can't attend the meeting in person may still participate in a number of ways. Written questions may be dropped off at the city's administrative offices on the second floor of the administrative building. Questions also can be submitted by calling Freburg at 276-1166, or sending an email to cityinfo@garden-city.org.

People also can submit questions via Facebook, Twitter, or email up to — and during — the meeting. Freburg will check for questions submitted during the meeting and present them to the commission.

To submit questions via Twitter use #GCKSTownhall; or to use your Facebook account, go to the city's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CityofGardenCityKS.

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