Feb 11, 2024

Allen Dinkel authors his 515 Report

Posted Feb 11, 2024 11:02 PM

Allen Dinkel, City Manager

For this week’s report, we are just going to have random topics of various items and issues we deal with at the City Office. One thing that is certain is that no two weeks are the same at the City Office.

One routine question we receive has to do with what many call “Special Taxes”. Even though I understand the term, these are not taxes but “Special Assessments”. We discussed these a few weeks ago, but in this case, the homeowner first of all wanted to know when the “Specials” ended. We get that question often and most of the assessments will be paid off in the next 3 to 6 years. In her case, the last payment will be when she pays her 2029 property taxes in December of 2029 and May of 2030. She had concerns about the streets in her neighborhood as well as her driveway. During the “Boom” of creating new subdivisions and the building of homes 15-20 years ago, there were obvious issues with lack of oversight and proper inspections. Of course, I was not here and did not have a “Bird’s Eye View”. I have heard of the issues with the construction quality in some homes and when you drive through some of these subdivisions you see the problems with the “fairly new” streets and the deterioration of the sidewalks and driveway approaches. Some of the sidewalks are “flaking off” and others are “wobbly” and do not lay flat anymore or are cracked and broken.

So how do repair those issues? The City of course is responsible for the streets but that can take away from other projects for older streets that may have not received enough attention in the past. Each year a street maintenance project is identified, but the number of projects are somewhat unlimited, and funding does have a limit. As for the sidewalks and the driveway, unfortunately that falls on the property owner. I have had “Specials” in the past and understand, but that does not give us any special treatment over others. Yes, the question of proper inspection arises in this case, but it is hard to fix now. The issue with inspections and code enforcement is that some think the City is too lenient, but I get complaints that the “City” requires too much. But I have always heard that wherever I worked.

Speaking of sidewalks and curb and gutter, once it is in place who is responsible? Most codes point to the adjacent property owner. However, in the case of sidewalks the argument then becomes if I have to take care of my sidewalk, how about those who don’t have a sidewalk? Why don’t they have to install a sidewalk? Issues that have to be dealt with. The City Commission heard from someone this week who wants the curb replaced by their home that is broken. You can argue whether it is his responsibility or that of the City’s? So, what’s the answer? That can be the “Million Dollar” question.

Another call we receive routinely is that of Special Covenants. There is often some confusion about these. Some of the subdivisions have these to put certain restrictions in their neighborhood. City Codes on the other hand are City wide, but covenants are only for those who agree to be in them. Likewise, the City has no control in the enforcement of covenants and that is left up to those property owners. Some of the newer subdivisions were developed with covenants but little means to enforce them. That will be up to others who share in the same covenant. The City was never a part of the covenants so there is no jurisdiction.

Finance Director Lindsay Miller shared with me the other day the interest payment for the General Obligation bonds of the City is over $1.4. In most cases, interest only on the G.O. bonds is paid in March and 6 months later both principal and interest are paid. Over the next 3 or so years this portion of City indebtedness lowers greatly. When I first began working here nearly 50% of the City property taxes were used to pay debt. Fortunately, that has decreased and continues to go “South”.

I received notice from the Junction City Police Officers Association they are prepared to discuss the next contract as the present contract expires on December 23 of this year. Negotiations begin now so that the City’s 2025 budget can be addressed over the next few months. As with all City positions, salary and benefits are important as we have to create an environment to attract new employees and also retain those who are already working for the City. The financial crisis in the past put pressure on salaries, but we need to not only “catch up” but be in line with other similar positions in the area. Bottom-line, employees are the “backbone” of the operation of the City.

I know we covered a number of topics, but all part of what we deal with at the City.