Sunday, March 11, 2018

Baldwin City Council Agrees to Live Stream Meetings and to Finance Midland Railway Repairs

Kevin Surbaugh

This past week's regular city council meeting was called to order by Mayor Casey Simoneau. Council-member David Simmons was absent. After quicking approving the agenda and consent agenda items, the council once again turned to the issue of live streaming the Baldwin City Council meetings. This is the third consecutive meeting in which the issue has been on the agenda under old business.  In the past meetings, it was learned that the council only wants to live stream, and do not want to archive the meetings to be watched at a later time. It will be streamed on Facebook, but at the end of the live stream, it will not be saved. The reason, dor so much discussion was for clarification of the costs. 
 Jay Wachs of Baldwin City radio addressed the council. The system will be a nine microphone portable audio system with a cost of $8, 829.39, which while being compatible with a GoPro video camera at a cost of $620.40. There will also be a cost of $250 for a technical advisor to come and teach the staff how to use the equipment. The total cost will be $9,699.85.  The video will not be broadcast quality, but it doesn't need to be on Facebook or Social Media sites. What is important is that those speaking can be heard, especially in the video. The council unanimously approved the expenditure of $9.699.85.
Another big ticket item is an expense that the council expects to be partially covered by Douglas and Franklin Counties as well as the chamber, tourism board and the Lawrence/Douglas County Economic Development Committee.
Dave Hill of the Baldwin City Economic Development Committee (BCEDC) to the Council that fifty percent of the track is washed out and said that it was important that the track be back to 100%. Every month Midland Railway isn't up and fully operational, Hill said, not only hurts their business, but also our business as a community. Ideally, Hill said he would like to see the funding split fifty/fifty between the two counties.
A Midland representative said that once the project the project started, it should be completed in 30-45 days after contractors are mobilized.  Council-Member Tony Brown was concerned about spending taxpayer money that the city could end up being on the hook for if the other entities don't come through. He also said, that since Council-Member A. J. Stephens is recusing himself (the Executive Director at Midland) and with Simmons being absent, he would prefer to wait for Simmons to be back in his seat so that four members could vote rather than three of the five members.
In exchange for the funds, the city will purchase an easement from Midland Railway that will become a walking trail connecting Baldwin City trails to the trails in Ottawa. The council approved the expenditure of $345,000 for the trail, which will be used for the repairs in the hope that Douglas and Franklin Counties will agree to help with the costs. Hill said that the BCEDC and MidAmerica Bank will each help with $25,000.
In Other business the Council:

  • Discussed a council retreat, possibly in Weston, MO to learn how they developed their community into a small town destination.  
  • Discussed the proposal to conduct an efficiency study. Simoneau asked that the council think about it and the council would discuss further at a future meeting, saying that $30,000 is a lot of money.
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