The city of Parsons may enact its own neighborhood revitalization plan as an extension to an existing program to spur the construction of new homes.

The city commission recently entered into an interlocal agreement with Labette County, Parsons USD 503, Labette County USD 506 and Labette Community College to extend a neighborhood revitalization plan for another five years. The plan, which covers a majority of Parsons, was set to expire this month.

The neighborhood revitalization program aims to encourage property improvement or new construction by offering a 95% rebate on the increase in property taxes resulting from the rise in assessed valuation. The program always has offered the rebate for five years, but under the extension, commercial properties will receive a 10-year rebate.

The city wanted residential properties to receive 10 years of rebates also, but Labette County commissioners didn’t agree. City Commissioner Tom Shaw has pushed for the city to offer an additional five years of rebates on solely city taxes instead.

City Attorney Ross Albertini told commissioners Monday that the city would have to get the other taxing entities to sign an amendment of the interlocal agreement to change the plan. The city likely would have to get approval of the amendment from the state attorney general’s office as well.

Another option would be to make individual agreements with property owners, but Albertini said the commission can’t legally bind future city commissions to expenditures. Agreeing to give rebates to property owners for 10 years into the future would do that.

The third option, and what Albertini recommends, is for the city to create its own neighborhood revitalization plan that would cover years six through 10. The city could do that under the state statute for neighborhood revitalization plans.

Albertini said if the commissioners are interested in pursuing an additional plan, they can schedule the required public hearing at their next meeting.

He said Labette County may find it to be a hassle, though. The county commission is trying to facilitate administration of all of the neighborhood revitalization plans in the county by encouraging all of the cities to have matching plans. City Manager Debbie Lamb said she would talk to county officials about it.


Crime Stoppers

Also on Monday, Police Chief Robert Spinks told the city commission that a Crime Stoppers chapter may be set up in town.

As part of the Kansas Combined Anti-Drug Task Force, Spinks, Labette County Sheriff Darren Eichinger and County Attorney Stephen Jones have been looking at proactive ways to try to reduce crime in Parsons and Labette County.

A local business leader wanted to donate money that could be used to offer rewards for information given that leads to arrests. Spinks said a local Crime Stoppers unit could accept such donations.

A Crime Stoppers official will come to Parsons soon to talk to community leaders about starting a chapter here. Spinks said he would bring more information to the commission after that meeting if there is enough interest in creating a local program.

Spinks also said about 200 local residents have signed up with Nextdoor, which has a website and a free app that allows residents to post messages in their community groups. Spinks said about 3,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide use the app and website as a neighborhood watch program and to share information with residents.

The police department has started using Nextdoor as a way to communicate with the public and has encouraged residents to sign up. There has been a positive response to a “soft roll-out” through an email campaign, the chief said, and the department plans to start encouraging more people to sign up.


Excessive mowing

In another matter Monday, a Parsons resident urged the commissioners to cut down on mowing at Tolen Creek Park.

Carole Hanvey said she enjoys the outdoor areas of Tolen Creek Park as well as Forest Park and Parsons Arboretum, but she questions why so many areas at Tolen Creek Park are regularly mowed. Some designated sites should be left uncut to encourage habitat for birds, bees and other animals, she said. Doing so would cut down on manpower and expense that could be used elsewhere.

Someone from Kansas State University or the Audubon Society could advise the city what areas could be left for nature, Hanvey said.

Hanvey left letters to the commissioners about her concerns at Lamb’s office, but they never received them.

Lamb said she wasn’t aware the letters were left at her office, and Hanvey responded that she visited the office twice.

In the letter, Hanvey also mentioned the forested area near the Tolen Creek stone house that has been cleared of undergrowth as well as an area east of the north lagoon at the arboretum.

Lamb said the arboretum area was cleared because opossums and raccoons were bedding down in it and causing problems. She thinks the undergrowth at Tolen Creek Park was cut because of poison ivy, although she said perhaps it doesn’t need to be cleared as far from the stone house as it was. She said she would have city workers look at the areas.


In other business the commissioners:

— Heard there will be a fall cleanup this month. The Parsons Tree Dump and the solid waste transfer station, both on U.S. 59 south of Parsons, will be open from 7 a.m. to noon Oct. 19 and Oct. 26. Parsons residents can dump off debris and unwanted items for free. Commissioner Kevin Cruse also asked that the city organize an electronic waste recycling event.

— Heard a group of volunteers will have a biscuits and gravy breakfast fundraiser on Oct. 19 at the Parsons Municipal Building basement for a potential splash pad at Forest Park.

— Heard the Holiday Inn Express and conference center being built near Cattle Drive and North 16th (U.S. 59) should be open late this year. Jim Zaleski, economic development director, has been working with the developer on lighting and signage. Some of the conference center will be furnished as requested by the city staff.

— Heard that some landlords in town would like to meet with city staff to find out the details of a proposed rental unit inspection program. No date has been set for the meeting. Mayor Bill Hogelin said the inspection program should be placed on the commission’s next agenda for discussion before the city meets with landlords.

— Heard that the city was awarded a grant of $21,643.47 to replace the boat dock at Lake Parsons. The lake advisory board is requesting $9,429 from a lake improvement fund for the new dock. The commission will consider the request soon.

— Heard that city staff was able to change the electrical meters at the Lake Parsons campground from demand meters, which have a higher rate.

— Heard from Paul Marks of Parsons that the city should quit demolishing abandoned, substandard structures for a while and instead spend more money repairing streets and sidewalks. 

— Heard that the city’s insurance claim for damage caused by a recent lightning strike at the wastewater treatment plant has reached $31,324, but there will be more added to it. The strike took out a transformer at the plant and caused other problems. The plant was nonfunctional for a couple of days as the city waited to receive a new transformer, but the two large holding basins built last year were able to hold all of the wastewater until the plant was running again.

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