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March 07th, 2021

city harden and martinezLiberal Vice Mayor Tony Martinez, left, and Liberal Mayor Taylor Harden take their new spots at the beginning of the most recent meeting of the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening. Tuesday saw the commission reorganize itself, with Martinez and Harden being selected for their respective positions. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

The Liberal City Commission began its first meeting of 2021 reorganizing itself, and ultimately saw Taylor Harden and Tony Martinez chosen as mayor and vice mayor, respectively. Both have served on the commission for multiple terms, and Harden was most recently the vice mayor. 

“I felt very humbled and honored. Being the vice mayor the past three years has been a great experience and it's been amazing working with Connie [Seigrist], and that was great from start to finish, so I think it's great to have the chance to serve in a higher capacity,” Harden said. “During my time on the commission so far, the biggest difference I know of between the commissioners and the mayor and vice mayor positions in a city government structured like ours is the public appearance side. The mayor and vice mayor are more on the PR side of things as far as doing interviews and things like that, so being vice mayor has definitely helped me not be afraid of talking to the public and giving me more confidence with the public speaking side of things.”

“I’m very honored with this,” Martinez said near the end of Tuesday’s meeting. “I want to give congratulations to Taylor, and  to Connie, thanks for the nomination, you’ve done a great job the last three years and you’ve been out there doing what needs to be done, and you’ve gone above and beyond. I hope to make you guys proud and I promise to do my best to make good, level-headed decisions on things that come up for us. Thank you guys so much.”

Harden added generally speaking, his goals for the community remain the same as they have. 

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“I'd love to see our economy continue to grow and see the city get itself into the position where that can happen in the next several years,” Harden said. “The community's done a great job of supporting itself and others throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and we'll definitely be looking forward to continuing providing needed assistance and having that stability at the city level and focusing on ways where we can be more efficient and grow what we're doing. Another big thing for me is I'm very much a people person, I like being out and about in the community and getting a feel of what is going on, and being mayor will allow me to be in a situation to do that even more and engage with not only the Liberal community but also surrounding communities and state officials so we can make sure we're being represented and also letting people see what a great community Liberal is. I'm also looking forward to learning from the community and getting a better sense of what's going on politically and throughout town in general.”

For those who have any questions or concerns, Harden said he and the other commissioners are happy to talk to them. 

“The City of Liberal is very transparent and the numbers and e-mail for everyone are available at cityofliberal.org if they have any questions, so I highly encourage anyone, whether they have a question about something small or a concern about something a little more intricate, to please attend a meeting and talk to us in person or get ahold of us by phone or e-mail,” Harden said. “The numbers of all the commissioners are available at cityofliberal.org and we all are more than happy to talk to anyone who gets ahold of us about what's going on in town. We want people to understand we're working as hard as we can to advance Liberal and the more the community is involved with that, the better things will be. I want to congratulate Connie, she's been a great mayor for the past three years and I had a great opportunity to learn from her and her experience and serve alongside her. I appreciate the commission's support of me in this position and the community's support in this position, and I look forward to 2021 being a great year for Liberal.”

Also on the agenda for the commission was discussion about the Southgate Mall Community Improvement District (CID).

“We’ve already gone through the resolution necessary. As you all know, we were approached by the owner of the Southgate Mall, he wants to do improvements to the parking lots, some of the roofing, some of the façade, lighting, HVAC, and other things like that,” Economic Development Director Cindy Wallace said. “The CID is a financing tool used all over, and it was enacted here in Kansas as another tool for developers and individuals, typically for retail establishments. It’s a way for them to help finance needed improvements they might not be able to do otherwise. The Southgate Mall owner came to us and asked if we would consider a CID, and I want everyone to know this is funded by the developer, they take on all the risk with projects like this, it’s not tax money from the city – I’ve had some people ask if it is, but I want to  assure them it is not. Everything falls to the developer of the property, and taxpayer dollars are not being used. We’d love to see that area developed for community use, it will be a great benefit and a big improvement.”

“My client just purchased the property within the last five months or so, and he’s really excited about getting it up and going and getting businesses in there,” local attorney Rick Yoxall added. “But you guys have been there probably more recently, and I think we can all agree it doesn’t really look that good. That’s why he wanted to pursue this CID, this is the best development tool any city has. As has been said, you guys don’t advance any money, you don’t pay any money, you don’t abate taxes, you don’t reduce taxes – there’s no taxpayer money involved with CIDs. CIDs have been used pretty aggressively in other communities in the area. This encompasses a large piece of property and I think this will be really beneficial to the community. My client’s ready to go and if you approve this, there’s some other paperwork to fill out and then things can get going.”

Ultimately, the commission approved the CID 4-1, with commissioner Chris Linenbroker voting no. In other business, the commission approved the purchase of new heaters for the Mid-America Air Museum for $9,062.30, and also awarded the bid for the bus facility cameras to Safety Vision in the amount of $25,741.81. The commission also awarded the waterline bid to Speer Construction in the amount of $214,783, and also had discussions about reopening rental buildings owned by the city, and the Pit Bull ban, both of which will be brought back to the commission in the future. 

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