Voters Guide: Baldwin City, Eudora voters to decide membership on governing bodies
photo by: Journal-World File Photos
Voters in Baldwin City and Eudora will decide the makeup of their governing bodies as they cast ballots in the general election on Nov. 5.
Two incumbents, Tony Brown and A.J. Stevens, opted not to seek reelection to the Baldwin City Council, and Troy Squire chose not to seek another four years on the Eudora City Commission.
Running for the three Baldwin City Council seats on the ballot are Julie Constantinescu, Nicholas Goodman, Sean Hare, Scott Lauridsen, David Simmons, Jerry Smith and Cory Venable. Running for the three seats on the Eudora City Commission are incumbent Tim Bruce, incumbent Ruth Hughs, Peter Latta, Roberta Lehmann and Rex Tedrow.
Issues that have emerged during the campaign in Baldwin City are proposed water rate increases, which would raise the water use fee from $10 to $15 per 1,000 gallons and raise the basic meter fee from $6.50 per meter to $12. The increases would be the city’s first in a decade and are proposed to end a trend of the water department running in the red and depleting its reserve account. The other current issue is the fate of the historic gym on Chapel Street, which the City Council recently agreed to accept as a donation. It is estimated that the gym needs about $200,000 to structurally stabilize the building, including a $100,000 new roof.
In Eudora, the issues include moving forward with the old Nottingham school property that the city purchased in 2015 for $850,000. The city plans to work with private developers to attract retail development to the property just north of Kansas Highway 10 on Eudora’s main gateway of Church Street. The plan is a subject of community debate about expanding the tax base and preserving the community’s small-town atmosphere.
Baldwin City City Council candidates:
Constantinescu is retired from a career that included stints at Baker University and in the health service field. She has been active in the community through her membership with the chamber of commerce, the Lumberyard Arts Center and her roles with the now disbanded Baldwin Community Theatre, where she served as president. She said she was running because she thought she could help the city move ahead.
Constantinescu said water rates needed to be adjusted but that enacting all proposed hikes would create hardships. The city should consider raising the meter rate first, then raise usage rates to ease the burden on residents, she said. She also said the council should consider using revenue from the 5% franchise fee applied to water bills for water department needs rather than transferring it to the city’s general fund, which is now the practice.
Constantinescu said she would not have voted to accept the donation of the gym. She has reservations about its value because of the lack of parking space nearby.
Nicholas Goodman is the director of residential life for Baker University. He is running for City Council because he now views Baldwin City as his home.
“Everything I could ever need is right here,” he said.
Goodman said enacting all the proposed increases would be “unsustainable” because it would put too big of a burden on some customers. He favors a compromise that would dedicate the water franchise fee to the water department and raise water usage rates incrementally.
Goodman said he wanted to hear residents’ opinions on water rates and the gym so that he could get better informed and have a wider range of solutions.
An IT consultant, Sean Hare said he was running for City Council out of gratitude for the community accepting him when he moved 15 years ago to his wife’s hometown.
As a Baldwin Recreation Commission member, Hare attended recent meetings that preceded the City Council’s decision to accept the donation of the old gym. He now calls for the city to appoint an exploratory committee with members from the rec commission, school district and other stakeholder groups to help the City Council identify the highest value community uses fo the gym. The committee should also lead the search for grants and private donations to renovate the building, he said.
Hare favors a phased-in approach to water-rate increases. Franchise tax revenue could also be shared with the water department to make the transition easier, he said.
Scott Lauridsen, a technology salesman who served on the Baldwin City school board from 2004 to 2012, said he was running for City Council because he felt it was time again to serve his hometown. He said the city needed water rates that recouped the water department’s costs but that it should phase in hikes over two or three years “to make it more palatable.” He would also consider using the franchise fee to cover water department red ink in the short term.
He supports the decision to buy the gym but said the city should not spend money on the building until there was a plan for its end uses. That should take about six months, he said.
photo by: Submitted photo
First elected to the council four years ago, Simmons, who works in human resources for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said he was running for reelection to provide continuity to city government, which has seen almost a complete turnover in staff positions.
A month ago, Simmons pressed his fellow council members to increase water usage rates to end the water department’s operating in the red. He remains committed to the usage-rate increase but not a base meter rate increase.
As for the gym, Simmons foresees the city repairing the roof and addressing other stablization needs but said there was no money to do more at this time.
Jerry Smith is retired from the Kansas Highway Patrol and from his position as a rural water district inspector, a job he still does on a part-time contractual basis. He is running because of his interest in the community and a desire to have greater public input in city decisions. He welcomes public input on how to bump up water rates, which he said needed to be increased. He also advocates for the city looking for additional water suppliers beyond the City of Lawrence, which currently supplies all of Baldwin City’s water. Overall, he said, his interest lies in the city carefully spending money to enhance and maintain its basic infrastructure.
As for the gym, Smith said he wanted to hear the views of residents.
Cory Venable is running because he thinks more young residents should get involved in the community. He said the City Council needed to do more research before moving ahead with projects. That view informs his opinion on the gym. He noted that there was widespread interest in saving the historic building, but any investment beyond the roof should be delayed until a solid plan for its use emerge, he said.
Venable said water rates needed to go up but could be phased in. He said it was important to rebuild the reserve fund, which could be accomplished through an increase to the base meter rate.
Eudora City Commission candidates:
Bruce is seeking reelection for the same reason he first ran for City Commission four years ago: He believes his knowledge as a commercial contractor can be of value in helping the city with its building projects and those of developers, including the Nottingham project.
Progress on the Nottingham project has been slow in part because the City Commission is demanding it be done right, Bruce said. That not only means recruiting the right businesses but ensuring needed upgrades are made to the property’s Church Street frontage of sidewalks, turn lanes and curbs and guttering.
“It may take off next year or 10 years from now, but that infrastructure has to be right,” he said.
Ruth Hughs said she was seeking reelection because she was a “finisher.” There are a number of city projects, such as Nottingham, that she wants to see completed. The retired educator said the Nottingham project would not only provide Eudora with badly needed retail development but would also allow the city to enhance its main entrance of Church Street and provide leverage to convince the state to install a pedestrian bridge over Kansas Highway 10.
Hughs said she was interested in providing the town’s youth with more recreational opportunities and making additional services available to seniors, such as the recently opened lunch meal site at the community center.
Roberta Lehmann said she was running to follow in the footsteps of her father, Tom Pyle, a longtime Eudora councilman and mayor. An assistant director of an adult care service provider, her interest is the city’s continued progressive growth in a way that retains the community’s small-town atmosphere. She said the city must recruit new businesses to broaden its residential-dependent tax base. She supports the direction the city is moving with the Nottingham property but said she wanted to ensure businesses that were recruited were a good fit for Eudora. She wants to leverage the Nottingham project to increase connectivity between north and south Eudora through installation of a pedestrian bridge over K-10.
Lehmann said she was excited about recent developments downtown and would support grants and funding that further revitalize the area.
Rex Tedrow said he was mostly retired from a real estate career and as an owner/manager of apartments. He is running for City Commission out of concern Eudora is facing a future funding crisis from its over-reliance on residential property taxes. He thinks the City Commission is chasing the wrong solution by focusing on retail development to increase the tax base. If Eudora continues to add new homes, retail will naturally follow, he said. The city would be better served encouraging industrial development, Tedrow said. He said the city should have invested in additional industrial parkland rather than the Nottingham project.
To encourage more residential development, the city should allow developers to spread out the cost of subdivision infrastructure over several years, Tedrow said.
Candidate Peter Latta did not respond to phone calls or texts requesting an interview.
Area school board races:
The names of candidates for the Baldwin City and Eudora school boards will also be on the ballot; however, there are no contested races this election cycle. Baldwin City school board candidates are Tony Brown, Kelley Bethell-Smith, Phillip Harvey, Ande Parks and Carrie Stevens. Eudora school board candidates are Mark Chrislip, Bryan Maring, Becky Plate and Lynn Reazin.