Riley County commissioners voted 2-1 to rescind the Public Building Commission Thursday morning.
Commissioner Ron Wells — a Republican who is up for reelection in November against Democrat Levi Smith in District 3 — made the motion.
After a lengthy debate, chairman Ben Wilson sided with Wells on the issue. Commissioner Robert Boyd, who lost his primary bid against Republican Marvin Rodriguez on Aug. 2, opposed.
So far, Rodriguez will run unopposed in November. No Democratic challenger has filed for the District 2 commissioner seat.
During the latter months of 2014, commissioners toured the county with public forums that discussed the possibilities of a PBC. In December of that year, commissioners unanimously passed a formation resolution creating a PBC that would give the county more flexibility to borrow money for building projects through a private bond agency the county already uses.
Commissioners said the costs would be paid back through lease payments on new buildings.
That commission consisted of Wells, Boyd and Dave Lewis.
Rodriguez was one of the more vocal voices of opposition to the PBC formation during those 2014 public forum meetings.
Commissioners said then that normal ways of funding large projects, such as general obligation bonds issued without a public vote, are limited to 3 percent of the county’s assessed property value, according to state statute.
That meant projects would have to total less than $18 million or else would have to be voted on by the general public.
This differs from municipalities’ cap of 30 percent. For instance, the City of Manhattan’s debt limit is $354 million.
A PBC doesn’t face those limits and commissioners said then that legislators suggested the formation of a PBC as a financial tool to find funding for larger projects.
In January of 2015 commissioners passed bylaws for its PBC.
The bylaws were similar to ones commissioners described in public forums on the PBC’s creation, with the chair of the county commission serving as the PBC chair.
The Riley County Clerk is the PBC secretary, but not a member of the panel.
According to those bylaws, two public forums were required before the PBC could make a final decision on any project and the PBC “shall make a reasonable effort to schedule such public forums after regular business hours, in order to provide the greatest opportunity for public attendance.”
Those bylaws — which are not required for a PBC for any municipality in Kansas — also said it would not have authority to approve financing for any public building project of a unified school district, university or college.
It also allowed for an advisory council, which would have included the Riley County Planning Board and two Riley County residents, who would have been appointed by commissioners.
The bylaws stated that the advisory council was meant “to act as a sounding board and source of input for the PBC and the Board of Riley County Commissioners.”
Since the previous commission passed the PBC in 2014, it had not been used for any projects.
Several citizens were nervous about the PBC during the county’s two public forums on the issue, and Boyd said in 2014 that the sort of vote residents wanted would qualify any bond as a general obligation bond, which is subject to the debt limit.
The county’s PBC added a referendum vote in its bylaws, but it would have been a non-binding vote that commissioners could have ignored.