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The Kenig Konnection

September 2015

<<First Name>>,

The leaves are starting to fall and the temperatures are changing; schools are back in session and pools are closed. I hope your summer was eventful and included a vacation or two. I celebrated a milestone birthday on August 31, turning 30 years old (still grappling with leaving my 20s behind, but I'll save that complaint for another day). Summer is never a quiet time for the city, though - we passed our annual budget for 2016 and we're now working on prioritizing street improvements, some of which are long overdue.

In the past several weeks, we've tackled several major issues, from a remodel of the city council chambers to food truck regulations, and we have several more issues to address before the end of the year. As always, please let me know if you have questions.

Brandon Kenig
Councilmember - Ward IV
City of Shawnee

Council Chamber Remodel

Audio/Visual Upgrades, New Seating

The council chambers at City Hall where we conduct business have lacked significant upgrades for more than 30 years. During that time, our city's population has doubled and technology has advanced rapidly. Funds were allocated to renovate the council chambers last year, and a committee comprised of councilmembers, city staff, and a planning commissioner visited other governing body chambers in nearby cities and created a list of needs and wants for the renovation process. Our Council (prior to my appointment to the Governing Body), unanimously authorized the design-build process and issued a request for proposals, bidding out the project with a maximum cost ceiling of $235,000 total for all the items the Chamber Renovation Committee deemed as essential needs. 

Turner Construction was selected for the physical upgrades to the chamber and SKC Communications was selected for the technology upgrades. These improvements include a new council dais that is wheelchair-accessible so that we comply with ADA regulations in the event that we have a physically-disabled Councilmember or Planning Commission member. The dais will also include outlets so councilmembers can connect and charge wireless devices such as phones, laptops, and tablets. I already use an iPad to access agendas and supporting materials during our meeting, and these upgrades ensure that the council can start to adopt electronic materials completely to replace paper copies of notes and discussion items, which would save the city substantial printing costs over time. Additionally, the upgrades will enable the dais to be video-ready, so that in the near-future, we can live-stream city council meetings, which enables us to be more transparent and accountable to the voters. Speakers and audio systems will also be upgraded. Other improvements include the replacement of the two large viewing screens on the side walls with four, mounted LCD monitors positioned so that citizens can more easily view maps and meeting information, which is currently difficult for citizens seated or standing in the back of the chambers since the two viewing screens we have now do not face out towards the audience. Also, the pews will be replaced with chairs, so that the room can be more easily converted for other uses, including other community meetings. A new conference room will be constructed behind the council dais, so that councilmembers can huddle and meet before and after council meetings.

When we discussed approval of the final contracts last month, concerns were voiced by several on the Governing Body about the final price tag and the fact that expansion of the Chambers (increasing the total area to accommodate greater seating capacity) was not included in the final figure. Due to the building layout of City Hall and the placement of utility lines, expanding out was not an option without substantial increases in cost to relocate wiring and pipes. I shared that obvious frustration, but the proposal in front of us enabled us to do the most within the constraints of the cost ceiling previously agreed upon ($235,000). Councilmember Dan Pflumm expressed concerns with the price tag for the physical upgrades since expansion of the Chambers was not included and made a motion for us to send the entire project back out to bid, line item by line item. That motion passed 5-3 with my support, as I misunderstood the motion and I thought the intent was to remove a few items (such as the construction of the conference room behind the chambers) from the proposal and bid those out separately, allowing us to then approve the proposal from Turner at a reduced rate with some of the debated components removed and bid separately. However, upon further discussion, I realized that this action would make the current proposal and design by Turner Construction (which we did not own) null and void, and there wouldn't be any guarantee we could return to this proposal at the agreed-upon price if the new bid process did not yield favorable costs. Additionally, we had already sunk more than $20,000 into this project, paying Turner Construction to deliver us the designs, and that money would be lost, which would be fiscally irresponsible. Also, while I shared Councilmember Pflumm's concerns and initial interest in bidding out the components independently to see if we could achieve greater cost savings, after further discussion and clarification, we learned that the design-build process allows for us to set a maximum price that does not fluctuate, which is optimal for a project of this size and scale with so many moving pieces. Independent bids can result in work orders which can drive up the costs for the individual components if bid out separately, resulting in an overall, higher project cost. With the bid-design process, the costs cannot go higher - they can only decrease, and the overall cost may very well go below our cap of $235,000.

So after this discussion, I requested that we revisit the proposal and requested a new vote on authorizing the the contracts with Turner Construction and SKC Communications. The vote to authorize Turner Construction to complete the physical upgrades for $167,000 passed 5-3 - I voted YES. The vote to authorize SKC Communications to complete the technology upgrades passed 7-1 - I voted YES. I am open to revisiting our bid process in the future and ensuring there is adequate debate and discussion on which projects to bid out individually and which to utilize the design-build process, but in this instance, the council had already unanimously approved the design-build process and we had already invested $20,000 in the design, and the scope of deliverables at a guaranteed price point ensured we would be able to adhere to what we had already budgeted for the project without going over-budget. Starting from scratch would mean a much higher cost with more than $20,000 already down the drain.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with the direction of the upgrades and renovations, as these improvements will enhance the experience for citizens visiting City Hall, providing for greater engagement and transparency while reducing paper costs so we can better rely on technology to conduct business.

Food Truck Regulations

Rules Streamlined, Permits Waived

We recently revisited the regulations we have for food trucks due to confusion among many food truck owners on whether event permits were needed for operating on public and private property. Currently, an event permit is not needed to operate on private property such as an office park as long as food is only being served to the workers at the park and isn't open to the public. Permits are required to serve to the public - either at at public events or on public streets.

We unanimously agreed to simplify and streamline the existing city ordinances so that food truck owners would no longer be required to obtain
special event permits to participate in city events or when operating on private property, regardless of whether the food truck is serving the general public or serving a private event. 

Food trucks will still be required to maintain a 50-foot distance from anchored restaurants. Also, food trucks will not be permitted at public facilities or parks unless approved as part of a city-sponsored or a privately-sponsored event and will not be permitted in the public right-of-way along parade routes.

I believe that we as a city should do everything possible to ensure these businesses thrive and succeed, and that includes cutting red tape and ensuring there are no burdensome hurdles that impede their operations in our city.  Our actions this month show our commitment to modernizing city ordinances and responding to business owners, ensuring their concerns are heard and addressed.

Special thanks to Shawnee residents Joe and Chris Ireland, owners of Crave of Kansas City, for bringing these concerns to us and helping us craft better policy. If you have the opportunity to try their tacos, I highly recommend them!

Employee Appreciation Day

Thanking Workers for Growing Our City

On Thursday, September 10th, Mayor Michelle Distler, Councilmember Stephanie Meyer (Ward III) and I participated in a tour of Shawnee businesses in Ward III and Ward IV - 13 stops and 16 businesses. Our friends at the Shawnee Chamber handed out goodie bags with coupons and discounts for local Shawnee establishments, Shawnee t-shirts, and we had an ice cream truck parked outside at each stop to give out free ice cream. Just a simple token of appreciation to these employees for working in Shawnee and encouraging them to move here as well (if they don't already live here. Mattress manufacturing, banking software, IT security, decorative moldings production, on-demand banner printing (all done online, for restaurants and other businesses all around the country), one of the nation's largest fueling equipment suppliers and service providers, delivering petroleum parts and equipment across the country, and many, many others. The business owners were all friendly and happy to be in Shawnee, and the employees were pleasantly surprised and grateful for this simple act of appreciation. One employee from an IT firm that had just relocated to Shawnee from California commented on how this Shawnee hospitality would never occur by city and chamber officials out there - they're rewarded with tax increases and higher rent instead.

We had a great time meeting with business owners and employees throughout the city. Thank you to Andrew Nave, Executive Director of the Shawnee Economic Development Council, for organizing and driving us, and to all the Chamber staff for their hard work last week.

Ice cream was in order for the Mayor, Councilmember Meyer, and I after a long, hot day.

Shawnee Chamber Award

Shawnee Chamber named a Finalist 

The Shawnee Chamber of Commerce was named a Finalist for Chamber of the Year and accepted the award at the Annual Association of Chamber of Commerce Executive (ACCE) professional conference in Montreal, Canada last month. The award recognizes membership growth, business development, programming, and contribution to quality of life. Congratulations to President Linda Leeper and the entire Chamber staff!

  About Brandon

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Upcoming Events

21st Annual Great Grillers Blues & BBQ
City Council Meeting -      7:30 pm
Neighborhood Meeting, Vantage Apts Project - Civic Center, 6:30 pm
Octoberfest - Civic Center

Brandon Kenig
Councilmember - Ward IV
City of Shawnee

Copyright © 2015 Brandon Kenig for Shawnee City Council, All rights reserved.

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