By Jill Draper and Kathy Feist
Repairing potholes and resurfacing streets are two of the key areas in Kansas City’s budget that will avoid cuts despite a $70 million shortfall, said city manager Brian Platt at a “6th District After Hours Office Hours” meeting on February 22.
Platt said an extra $20 million from GO (General Obligation) bonds will be used for street repairs. Priorities will be determined by analyzing videos from cameras mounted on vehicles as well as feedback from the City Council and the public.
Other areas targeted for additional funds are snow removal, services for the homeless, converting streetlights to energy-efficient LED lights, and promoting a culture of inclusivity.
There has been some discussion on decreasing recycling pickups to an every-two-weeks schedule, Platt said, but it will remain weekly for now. He noted that additional recycling and composting programs are “in the works,” but did not elaborate.
In other news, McManus announced the date for the 2021 Brookside Art Annual has been changed from spring to September 17-19.
The following day, Platt appeared virtually at the Center Planning and Development Council meeting on February 23. While participants praised his handling of the city’s snow removal, Platt pledged to be more aggressive in the future. “We need more equipment, resources and drivers,” he said. He added that the city was experimenting with a environmentally friendly product called Ice Ban, which is 95% less corrosive than regular salt and works in temperatures as low as -20 degrees. Ice Ban, a natural byproduct of the alcohol production process, provides nutrients to plant life. It’s only downfall is its expense.
Platt fended a question about funding the police department during the budget crunch, saying there would be “surgical adjustments” made to the department.
“The police department is under state control, we give the state the money and they do what they do,” he explained. However, he said he believed the police force did not have to be reduced in size in order to fit the city’s budget. “You can hire 150 new recruits at bottom pay when one police officer retires at top pay,” he said. He also suggested more preventive ways to handle emergency calls, such as sending case managers or specialists to deal with certain crises rather than police officers.
Platt said he would like to see an overhaul of the current Tax Increment Financing (TIF) system. Some changes might include requiring a developer provide free services to help build school facilities or budget 20% of apartment units go toward low income housing.