Voters residing in the city limits of Abilene will be voting for three to serve on the Abilene City Commission in the Nov. 5 election.
Advance voting started Thursday in Dickinson County and early voters can cast ballots before the Tuesday election at the Dickinson County Courthouse during regular hours, usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
A valid photo identification will be required.
Only voters living in Abilene will see five names on the Nov. 5 ballot. They will be asked to cast up to three votes.
The top two vote getters will serve four-year terms while the person with the third highest number of votes will serve a two-year term.
The Abilene Reflector-Chronicle asked all five candidates five questions, limiting each answer to 100 words.
• Wages. The city, in the past, has indicated a need for higher wages especially at the director positions which could be difficult to fill at current salary levels when the need arises. Your thoughts?
• Storm drainage. Within the city of Abilene are a couple of recognizable issues with storm drainage. One fix is estimated to cost $250,000. What is the city’s responsibility for storm water drainage in neighborhoods?
• Downtown. The city commission in the past has made the downtown a priority but has not been able to recognize what it can do specifically for the downtown area. How do you propose the city can help downtown Abilene?
• Organizations. In the past the city of Abilene has assisted in funding the Abilene Municipal Band, Omitama Sister City, Central Kansas Free Fair, Dickinson County Heritage Society, Old Abilene Town and Dickinson County Economic Development Organization. In the 2020 budget $10,150 is allotted to the sister city and $9,000 to the municipal band. What organizations do you feel the city should support?
• Highland Land Development. What do you think should be done with this stagnant area of land?
Based on a random draw for order of listing, here are the candidates’ responses which include a photograph if one was provided to the Reflector-Chronicle by the Oct. 16 deadline.
Member of Heritage Commission and Abilene Forward. Architect, designer, conceptual artist for thirty years with extensive experience in the design and presentation of traditional neighborhoods, mixed use developments, and themed projects. Professional degree in architecture.
Abilene has proven it can provide creative solutions to those director positions very successfully from within. There is a direct relationship between qualifications “on Paper” and salary—at a population of less than 7000, the town should not assume it has to pay top dollar for top leadership. With additional grooming or training, the best potential leaders already know the city from their experience of working in it.
Lots of factors lead to water problems — rubber stamping bad designs, wishful thinking, soils issues, and acts of God. The city’s first responsibility is to stop problems from being built. When problems occur, the city can provide clear, realistic assessments — from local effects to the decisions that caused them. If the city caused the problem by approving a faulty submission, they are the only ones to figure out the solution. If a property owner introduced the problem through unapproved means, it would be their problem. Either way the goal is to gain relief for those affected.
The first step is to define what Abilene thinks it is—culturally, economically and physically. By any standard the town is a beautiful, livable place with friendly people and deep historical culture—refine and amplify these with every decision. Some examples: Legacy of trees—save and plant them. Unify downtown retail/shopping with a green-way from the information center to the library. Use parking, north of little Ike, as a plaza . Create a liaison with business and shop owners with a sincere desire to support and promote their operations. Attract people with independent incomes by improving Abilene’s existing qualities--avoid outside consultants!
The city should support groups that enhance Abilene as a desirable place to live. City-assisted groups can add cultural dimensions that add to existing small town qualities. These can attract people who have independent incomes from around the country (i.e. On-line businesses, trusts, retirees etc....). In some ways this is better than adding jobs. Whether it is the sister city, band or free fair etc...we should examine the advantages to funding any group through the lens of how a resident might benefit from that group’s contribution.
Highland Land Development
First, learn from the mistake — avoid opportunism, focus on enhancing the city as it is, and emphasize the heart of the town rather than the fringe. Beyond that, it’s an opportunity to stage a series of promotional design events. These are public, sponsored sessions where qualified teams (KSU architecture students, planners, developers etc...) create rapid solutions for display and discussion. Possible themes: A water park, a recreation mall, organic green houses, or tiny housing developments. The results could be used to display Abilene’s vitality and forward thinking and generate interest in investment. Commit to escaping the existing burden.
Timothy B. Shafer
Education/qualifications: Hutchinson High School 1971; Washburn University 1978 BA; Kansas State University 1982 MA; University of Nebraska Lincoln 1993 Ph. D.; US Army 1971-74; Abilene City Commission 2015 to present
Indeed that is a common theme. However, the city commission has commissioned a study of our pay levels. We will then see if there is any truth to this past discussion. Conventional wisdom would give weight that higher salaries might be warranted, but I prefer to wait until the results of the study are reported to the Commission. At that point, the commission will determine what happens.
Storm drainage is another discussion filling my past four years on the Commission. Storm drainage certainly can be a city issue, but not always. Probably the two areas most visible to our community are the northeast drainage and the southeast drainage areas. These two areas are on the menu for continuing discussion. To make a blanket statement about who is responsible until all the information discussed, would, in my estimation, not be helpful in finding the best solution to the problem.
As I understand it, maybe 10 years or so ago, the city commission authorized a design development for the downtown area. The design proposed met with some resistance from the community, which was then shelved. I would certainly be willing to have the commission engage in discussions about the downtown. However, the city does not own the buildings in the downtown area, which limits the city’s options in any plan developed. This does not mean the city can’t, or shouldn’t, be involved in the planning. I would entertain ideas on traffic flow and downtown beautification.
The reason my wife and I stayed in Abilene after my retirement was the quality of life we found here. For the most part, these organizations contribute to this entity called Abilene. To the east and west are larger cities, but we have something special here, and assisting these organizations financially helps Abilene keep that charm which is so attractive to our citizens and visitors.
Highland Land Development
To call the Highlands a stagnant area of land is a bit harsh. There is an opportunity here, we just haven’t found it yet. The Commission identified the Highlands as a top three priority. Over the past term on the Commission, plans and proposals for the Highlands development saw fits and starts, but nothing so far, developed. That is not to say that the Commission stopped seeking solutions. I support continued explorations so that we may find the opportunity that has so far eluded us.
Education/qualifications: Associates Degree of Applied Science, 20 year veteran of the United States Army
I would have to see the pay scales and the qualifications for each position, and depending on the experience of the person applying for the position and other outstanding qualifications of each individual. I would have no problem with a pay raise. For those just filling a slot and not doing their jobs, then I see no reason for any raises.
If the areas are owned by a developer the drainage should be paid for by them. Areas that are normally taken care of by the city of Abilene, such as street drainage, then the city should take care of it.
One way I think that we can help the downtown area would be to have a cash incentive for the landlords/tenants/owners to clean, paint or refresh the outsides of their buildings and if possible to show Abilene’s history in some way on each one building.
I think that the city should support all of these organizations as each of them brings in money, tourists and helps to support jobs within our community.
I believe it should be sold to anyone who wants to buy all or parts of it so the city can stop paying the taxes and upkeep on it. Let individuals build a house there, not just a developer.
Age: A woman of a certain age with a lot of life experience. I am younger than Ronald Reagan was when he won the presidency, but older than JFK.
Education/qualifications: City Commissioner 2015-present; Bachelor of Science Marymount College (double major in Bus. Admin and Accounting); Master of Business Administration Kansas Wesleyan; Certified Public Manager Kansas University; Kansas Department of Corrections Leadership Academy; 17 ½ years as Business Administrator/Dept. Head; KDOC wrote and administered a $29 million budget; Public-Non-Profit-Private Business Budgets and Accounting; Professor KSU, KWU, Benedictine College, Statistical Analysis, Principles of Accounting I & II, Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Federal Income Taxation, and Computer Science.; 45 years as co-owner of BILLDEE, Inc. trucking company.Wages
Our community needs to have wages that are in line with Abilene’s businesses, corporations, and our geographical location. That being said, I have sat on interview boards for the city and have witnessed losing qualified candidates because of low pay.
The city is currently engaged in a pay plan study. So far, this study indicates that they may not be too far behind, so maybe they can rectify the problem without a significant financial impact.
The city needs to work as partners with citizens, homeowners, and developers. If the city is at fault in some way, all three should bear some responsibility.
The city is currently working on a strategic plan for the NE and NW areas of town. Hopefully, the City can extend the plan to cover more areas, but these two are the current hot spots.
Downtown needs to be a collaboration between the Chamber of Commerce, business owners, and the city. The City cannot do anything alone. The buildings are privately owned, so the greater onus is on the business owners, However, as a starting point, the City already has updated trash receptacles and lighting.
The stake holders need to concentrate their efforts at bringing is specialty shops and businesses that attract tourists.
As a city, we need to recognize that the 1950’s are gone and we will never have the retail shops that we had in the past.
These organizations reflect quality of life for citizens, so the City should bear some responsibility for maintaining them. Not just financial support, the Commission needs to be diligent in appointing members to these boards. The Commission’s responsibility is to keep them rejuvenated with the right mix of leadership and board members.
The city currently helps Old Abilene Town by providing fencing and thrash service at their events. Hopefully this organization can now survive financially on their own merits.
The DCEDC is county wide BUT our city benefits from their efforts. They have been instrumental in bringing businesses to Abilene.
What do you think should be done with this stagnant area of land?
This property has been a problem for too long.
As a current commissioner, I know that plans are in the works. Perhaps, once the eight-street project is completed, some activity will happen.
The commission needs to do whatever we can to utilize that property. They should offer the right mix of incentives to bring in new businesses and/or developers.
Brandon L. Rein
Education/qualifications: B.S. Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University
As has been done in the past, I do not believe it is necessary to spend large amounts of money on salary studies and do virtually nothing with the information learned from it. I also do not believe we should makes these long-term and difficult to reverse financial decisions simply because some in the past think it could be difficult to fill these positions at current salary levels in the future. If we are experiencing difficulty first-hand filling these positions due to the insufficiency of our salary schedule to applicants, I would then be willing to revisit the issue.
This is precisely why we have a storm water fee built into our existing water billing schedule. This fund is currently at approximately $500,000.00 and replenishes itself approximately $50,000.00 each year. We can use that existing fund to correct the current issues and it will be back to its current level within five years. We can point fingers and pass blame all day on this issue, but our citizens should not have to suffer when we have the ability and means to fix the problem now.
Government at any level is notoriously inefficient, especially when it comes to projects that must be closely managed in terms of finances, people and detailed execution. An excellent instance is when the city spent a large amount of money planning a downtown revitalization project, only to have it stall and die. I am more in favor of community groups, such as ‘Abilene Forward’ taking the reins on a project and coming to the city with detailed requests on what they believe we could provide assistance with.
I attended Pioneer Camp through the Dickinson County Heritage Society, learned about Abilene history at Old Abilene Town, looked forward to and saved my money for the CKFF and was a part of the 2010 delegation with the Abilene-Omitama Sister City. I would not be who or where I am today without these experiences. I believe any organization that is willing to promote economic development, showcase our unique history, increase tourism, give young people the chance to become more globally oriented, and overall increase the quality of life in our town should be funded appropriately.
Highland Land Development
First and foremost, I believe the Highland Addition should be a learning moment on what cities should not do. In order to move forward, however, we will have to make some difficult decisions. This project has burdened the city of Abilene and its taxpayers for long enough. We must liquidate these lots. Whether that be to a private investor or developer, this problem has plagued us all long enough. My plan would be to seek out willing and capable investors and developers who can actually create something worthwhile out of this land and sell the lots to the interested party.