February 29th, 2024
L&T Opinions Page

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt


Liberal has become a very busy town, and a couple of weeks ago, it was so busy that the entire news room was assigned to so many events, I had to dust off my reporter’s notebook and head to the joint city/county meeting.

The attitude was friendly with one common purpose — let’s work together to achieve common goals.

This is a far cry from where the relationship between the Liberal City Commission and Seward County Commission as well as their staffs used to be.

Working together was a virtual impossibility.

What changed?

You can answer that for yourself, but suffice to say, there were a few new faces at the table, and when they were added to other willing participants already sitting at the table, much was accomplished.

Not only did the two groups agree to work on a single comprehensive plan, but they also agreed to revisit the structure of a joint economic development board and try to form an organization that is more common, much like the organizations in Finney and Ford counties.

The commissioners and their top administrators not only had an open and candid discussion, but they were also able to have fun banter back and forth.

At this point, it appears the doors at the Seward County Administration and City Hall are wide open to one another, and that can only lead to a positive outcome for all of the residents of the city and county.

This is a welcome change of attitude from the city side, and while it will lead to a better approach moving forward, there will still be some repercussions from previous decisions made before the new commissioners were sworn in.

For one, the current commission has learned how much the 1-cent sales tax fund has been abused, ad they have to find a way to restore the integrity of the fund.

That’s no easy task, and it won’t be accomplished overnight.

One problem the new commission inherited is a budget with no plan for an emergency.

The previous commission simply raided the 1-cent sales tax when emergencies came up.

When the new commission gets a chance to create its own budget, they will be able to correct this oversight and stop this abuse of the sales tax funds, but that won’t happen until they pass a budget in July, and that budget won’t take effect until January.

Until then, the current commission will have to work off a budget that allowed the sales tax to be used for anything the former commission and former city manager decided with no input or responsibility to the people.

Another problem this commission inherited was bad blood with the FAA.

While the land problem was solved early in the tenure of the new commission, the several-years’-long negotiations with the former city power structure certainly raised more questions about land use on city-owned property near the airport, and the FAA may be playing hard ball after the city mishandled the sale of the ball fields and has now ended up with Liberal  “on the FAA radar.”

This could end up costing the City for quite some time down the road, and it should be remembered that the current commission and city management had nothing to do with it. The best phrase that comes to mind would be sins of the father.

Even with this cloud, the steps forward are leaps and bounds better.

As Seward County Administrator April Warden pointed out at the joint meeting, folks in Topeka are now hearing from the local leaders, and it has erased a void that existed before.

We all owe both sets of commissioners a big thanks for working together.

GUEST COLUMN, Kim Baldwin, Kansas Farm Bureau


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