Manhattan City Commission Leadership Retreat

On Friday the Manhattan city commission met for their annual retreat and goal setting sesseion at the  Sunset Zoo Nature Exploration Center.  The meeting took a look at the past performance of the city in 2012, and discussed future goals for the new year.

Some of the highlights from the meeting included presentations by city staff, and department heads on their 2012 accomplishments and challenges.    Those included a strong year for the Flint Hills Discovery Center who saw over 60,000 visitors and generated higher revenues with lower than expected cost for 2012.  The Sunset Zoo Nature Exploration Center opened, and is now hosting a variety of events for the new year including a wedding. 

Infrastructure upgrades continuted with Firehouses Three and Five, the new traffic operations facility, and the expansion of the water treatment facility.  The Wildcat Creek Working Group is nearing the release of a plan for the floodway. K-18 and Manhattan Regional Airport projects are continuing apace, and future upgrades are expected to enhance the capabilities of the airport.

The City of Manhattan’s Finance department says it is working to engage the community at a deeper level through a new website which will provide more transparency for the city’s inner workings to the public.  During a presentation by Finance Director Bernie Hayen the city’s debt was shown to be falling in the long run, and provided insight into the growth and revenue flows for the city.  More information on the issue can be found in the aforementioned website here http://cityofmanhattan.info/.

The Fire Department is transitioning to a new Director of Fire Services and city staffers say that the announcement for the new director may come by the end of February.  The department is also looking into more ways to  integrate communications with other emergency responders, and is working on a mobile data terminal project for first responders.  The hope is to connect to a database which provides essential data such as problem areas in a structure, and history of the area which may help firefighters on scene.

Human Resources is working to field a new insurance carrier and risk management program.  The department is also preparing for the Affordability Care Act mandates, and moving to a paperless pay system for city employees.

The legal department is looking to upgrade technology at the municipal court and provide better interfaces for the Riley County Police department to improve efficiencies. 

Public Works had a slew of projects at the presentation.  Some of the highlights included the development of a plan in cooperation with the Wildcat Creek Working Group, and plans for a CiCo tributary detention ponds. 

City Manager Ron Fehr says his office will continue to look for ways to cut costs, and become more efficient.  City Managers say $500,000 dollars were saved in 2012 from finding efficiencies which were then put back into the general fund, and could be used to bolster projects like street maintenance.

For future goal setting street maintenance was a common theme among city commissioners.  The commission says it is looking to engage Kansas State University to work together on  a comprehensive development plan for the future.  The issue of high density housing was recently brought to focus in a recent proposed high density housing project which was turned down by the planning board and the city commission.  Commissioners say housing solutions are a critical issue.  Mayor Loren Pepperd says new developments have limited space to spread out, and may have to simply start being built “up”.  Other topics discussed by the commission for new year goals included planning board operation changes, improving efficiencies and possible consolidation projects with Riley County, and clear and concise financial planning on city debt management.

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