From the Mayor 06/08/16

Reprinted with permission from the Independence Daily Reporter

Every day, people ask me how I intend to vote regarding our City Hall. I can give you a definitive answer to that question right now: I have no clue. There are simply too many questions to be answered and too much research to be performed. But we need to do something, and soon. Our City Hall is inadequate, unsafe, and in desperate need of help.

Here are my totally random “Top 10” thoughts related to our City Hall. These are my thoughts only; the other commissioners no doubt have their own thoughts, and I certainly can’t speak for them.

(1) The City is limited by the State of Kansas as to how much debt we can take on. We certainly don’t want to max out our allowable debt now; what if we had a real emergency and needed some money to handle it?

(2) Wow, the old hospital looks great. I thought it was one of the ugliest buildings in town and in truth wanted to see it gone. But now, with the old sections gone, I actually think it’s beautiful.

(3) We can’t get world-class performance from our city employees if they don’t have the ability to control the heating and cooling in their offices. And the space used by our police department, as it currently exists, is worse than inadequate for modern law enforcement needs.

(4) Whether we like it or not, visitors tend to judge the “livability” of a city by its downtown. All small towns need to be constantly vigilant in protecting their downtown from having boarded-up buildings; once that process gets started, it’s almost impossible to stem its decline. In this age of Walmart, very few retail store chains will locate in a downtown location, so we need to protect those entities, such as city offices, that can thrive downtown. Losing our City Hall and city employees from the downtown could be a major blow to the continued existence of our downtown.

(5) I love old buildings. Annie and I have transformed several abandoned, run-down houses and downtown buildings into showcases. I’d love to see the same thing done for our current City Hall. It was a gorgeous building 100 years ago and could be again.

(6) The idea of keeping our firefighters downtown seems to have merit. With all the downtown buildings sharing common walls, a fire downtown could be an absolute disaster and it would be ideal if our fire staff could respond immediately. So, all else being equal, it would make sense to keep our firefighters and fire trucks housed downtown.

(7) Four County and the State have expressed an interest in using the old hospital for an inpatient mental healthcare facility. From everything I’ve heard so far, that seems to me like a great use for the building. It would provide services that are desperately needed in southeast Kansas and would create more jobs in Independence.

(8) I don’t care for the idea of having our emergency vehicles stationed in a residential area. That seems like a constant hazard for children living in the surrounding homes.

(9) At first glance, the hospital building seems way too big to be our City Hall. Does it make sense to invest millions of dollars (for a fire/EMS station) into that building if it isn’t just right for our needs?

(10) The hospital building was given to the city for free, and free is my favorite price. But I wonder how much the hospital building would be worth to an investor, and the city certainly has the right to sell it. I know it’s not likely, but if someone offered to buy the hospital building from us for $5 million, would that affect your opinion as to what we should do with it?

Those are a few of my many thoughts—today—on the issue of City Hall. Please join us in the weeks and months ahead…studying, learning and contributing your own views and ideas, as we work toward the best course of action for our wonderful city.

Mayor Gary Hogsett