Both new Mayor Mike Amyx and outgoing Mayor Boog Highberger on Tuesday sought to reassure Lawrence residents that city government will operate smoothly, although several key leadership positions are in flux.
Amyx, who as expected was unanimously elected Tuesday by his fellow city commissioners to serve a one-year term as mayor, said the city would function well even though the positions of city manager, planning director and director of utilities are all vacant.
"Transition periods or times of change can be difficult," Amyx said during his mayoral acceptance speech. "The old saying is 'nobody likes change.' The key for Lawrence during this transition is to remember things are going to be OK.
"We may not like change any more than before, but we will be able to negotiate through the change and make a transition. City services will be in place, decisions will get made and actions will be taken. Business will go on."
Highberger, in his State of the City address, noted that when the retirement of Fire Chief Jim McSwain was added to the other three department heads who had left the city, the city recently had lost 115 years of combined employee service.
- 6News video: Commission elects Amyx mayor
- 2006 State of the City address
- As new mayor, Amyx seeks to build confidence in City Hall (04-04-06)
- Highberger to end mayoral term (04-03-06)
- Chat transcript with Mayor Boog Highberger (09-08-05)
- Transcript of chat with Mike Amyx, candidate for Lawrence City Commission (02-21-05)
"That is a tremendous amount of experience to lose in a single year, but each of these individuals has trained a great staff to carry on after them," Highberger said.
Thanks to Wildgen
Both Highberger and Amyx also made sure to thank Mike Wildgen, the longtime city manager who was forced to resign in March after 16 years as the city's top executive. Amyx and Highberger were the two commissioners who had not sought Wildgen's resignation, but both emphasized again Tuesday that they were committed to working with the other three commissioners to find a replacement for Wildgen.
Highberger also used his address to urge residents to drop what has been one of the more active political discussions over the years - no-growth candidates versus pro-growth candidates.
"I think it is finally time to put an end to the false dichotomy between growth and no-growth that we still hear and read so much about," said Highberger, who was part of a trio of candidates who successfully campaigned on a Smart Growth platform in 2003. "Lawrence is growing and will continue to grow.
"But we must be sure that growth is balanced growth, with a healthy mix of residential, commercial and industrial expansion. And we must ensure that our growth is environmentally sustainable, is respectful of our cultural and historical heritage, and does not place an unreasonable burden on the residents and the businesses who are already here."
On other issues, Highberger said he thought:
¢ The community had made good progress in finding an agreement for a different route for the eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway that "will respect our environment and our cultural heritage as well as better meet our local and regional transportation needs." When Highberger began his term as mayor one year ago he said his goal was to deliver a consensus on a new route that would not travel through the Baker Wetlands. Recently, he acknowledged that he has fallen short of that goal, as the Kansas Department of Transportation has said it remains committed to building the road along the approved 32nd Street route as funding becomes available and federal approval is granted.
¢ Additional funding for street maintenance and a homeless shelter will receive strong consideration during the next budget process.
Third time as mayor
For Amyx - a downtown barbershop owner and former Douglas County commissioner - Tuesday's election marks the third time he has served as mayor. He served in 1985 and 1987 when he previously was on the City Commission.
Amyx was elected mayor by virtue of his first-place finish in last year's City Commission election. He has served as vice mayor for the past 12 months. Commissioners traditionally select the top vote-winner to serve as mayor following the candidate's first full year in office.
Commissioner Sue Hack - the second-place finisher in the 2005 election - was unanimously elected vice mayor. If tradition holds, she will serve a one-year term as mayor beginning in April 2007.
Lawrence-Topeka trail draws leaders' interest
City commissioners are at least interested in discussing the idea of creating a recreational trail between Lawrence and Topeka.
Lawrence resident Clark Coan brought the idea of a new trail to the City Commission, and commissioners Tuesday night unanimously agreed to have the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Bicycle Advisory Board review the idea.
Coan didn't present any specific ideas on where the trail should be built or how it should be funded. Instead he said he wanted the Lawrence City Commission and the Topeka City Council to be made aware of the idea. He plans to ask the Topeka City Council to review the issue this spring. Coan said he hopes a recommendation on the idea can be forwarded to city commissioners for a decision by June 3, which is National Trails Day.
New bids are needed for Kasold construction
City commissioners agreed to seek new bids for the reconstruction of a portion of Kasold Drive after bids for the project came in $1.2 million higher than expected.
Commissioners made minor changes to the design of the project - mainly changes to the drainage base below the road - in an attempt to cut costs. The project will rebuild the portion of Kasold Drive from Bob Billings Parkway to 22nd Street.
But Public Works Director Chuck Soules said the changes wouldn't be enough to cut $1.2 million off the price of the project, which originally was estimated to cost $5.2 million. New bids will be received April 25. That will push the start date of the project back by 30 days to June 1, assuming the city receives bids it can afford. The project would run through October 2007.
Commissioners did not agree to change the surface of the road from concrete to asphalt because they think the concrete surface would have a longer life span. Commissioners also didn't change the requirement that one lane of traffic in each direction remain open during the entire construction process.
Job agreement with Corliss is finalized
Commissioners unanimously formalized their employment agreement with David Corliss, the interim city manager who took over after the resignation of Mike Wildgen in March.
Corliss will be paid an annualized salary of $115,000 and will receive a $5,000-per-year car allowance. Before being appointed as interim city manager, Corliss was an assistant city manager and director of legal services for the city. He had an annual salary of $103,000 and a $3,000-per-year car allowance.
New Mayor Mike Amyx has said he hopes to have the search for a new city manager completed by the end of August.
City aims to improve evaluation of services
The city will spend up to $125,750 to complete a performance management system designed to create more concrete methods for evaluating how city services are being delivered.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to hire Management Partners Inc. to develop the performance measures.
City commissioners made the implementation of the more detailed management system of city services one of their goals for the year.
Consultants will study development process
The process that developments in Lawrence must go through to be reviewed and approved will be studied by a consulting firm.
Commissioners agreed to spend $85,000 for Matrix Consulting Group to study whether the process is efficient and effective. The contract directs the consulting company to review all aspects of the process, from the initial contact made at the Planning Department to the issuance of a city building permit.