Charter City status considered by Pratt commission

Fran Brownell

The question of adopting Charter City status is on the Pratt horizon following its consideration at the February 3 regular commission meeting where an ordinance for the change was presented and discussed, led by City Attorney Regina Probst, tag-teamed with City Finance Director Diana Garten and City Manager Bruce Pinkall.

Pratt Mayor Gary Schmidt presided over the discussion with Commissioners Zach Deeds, Jason Leslie, Don Peters and Doug Meyer also in attendance.

The Charter City status provides exemption from bond issue elections for capital improvement projects, according to information presented at the meeting.

“This particular ordinance would allow the City of Pratt to charter out of the requirement that an election take place regarding a bond issuance to pay for the new pool and for some improvements at Green Sports Complex,” City Attorney Regina Probst said.

City Attorney Regina Probst said the ordinance was presented at the meeting to give commissioners opportunity to research it for a vote at the next city commission meeting, which will be on Tuesday, February 17, since city offices are closed for Presidents’ Day on Monday, February 16.

Garten said adopting Charter City status would save the expense of holding an election and mentioned a time factor as an advantage to charter city status and said the city’s bonding agent advised in favor of it.

“We’re giving you this information so you can think about it but, as far as we’re concerned, it makes sense to go ahead and charter out,” Garten said. “It just gives us more options.”

Probst said there is safeguard in all charter ordinances because Kansas state law provides for a 60-day period for a petition to be generated by citizens opposing a Charter City ordinance.

“If 10 percent of the citizens who voted in the last election sign a petition objecting to the charter ordinance, an election would have to take place regarding the charter ordinance,” Probst said.

Commissioner Meyer questioned if other cities similar to Pratt have adopted Charter City status and Garten said she had been advised that all most all other second-class cities have done this.

Timing is another issue, Probst said, because if plans for a new pool are finalized by this fall, it would be ideal for construction to start as soon as the pool closes, which would necessitate a special election at city expense, since waiting for the general election in November would put the pool project behind schedule.

Garten said that another option for financing a new pool would be for the city to leave some fixture in place, such as a restroom, and label the pool project as an expansion, which would not require a bond issue election.

“This is more transparent,” Probst said. “We’re providing to the public what the plan is, what we’re doing and giving them the option of objecting withing 60 days.”

Mayor Schmidt said commissioners would still hold public hearings on the matter.

“Even though there was no election that had to take place, we would still have a hearing for the public to be involved in,” Schmidt said.

Pinkall said he would keep commissioners abreast of any information needed for their consideration of the Charter City proposal.

“This doesn’t in any way alleviate the commission from making the decision,” Mayor Schmidt said. “It doesn’t give authority to the committee to make that decision.”

The proposed ordinance – Charter Ordinance No. 22 – is available for public review at City Hall.

The next meeting of the Pratt City Commission, where action is expected to be taken on proposed Charter Ordinance No. 22 is 5 p.m. Tuesday, February 17, since city offices were closed for Presidents Day on Monday, February 16.