Jun 17, 2024

Weekly 515 Report is released

Posted Jun 17, 2024 1:42 PM

By Allen Dinkel

Junction City Manager

There are times when I think all us wish we had a Crystal Ball. It would sure make decision making easy if we were 100% correct on what the outcome would be. However, I am reminded of what an Ag Economist friend of mine once told me. “Ye, who lives by the Crystal Ball, often eats a lot of Broken Glass”.

Regardless, if it is in our personal lives or when decisions are made by an organization such as the City, there will be times be times when we do not get the results which we desired. When we say to ourselves, what were we thinking. Trust me it happens to all of us at some point and time.

One issue that is often mentioned here in Junction City is the potential growth of this community about 20 years ago. I was not living here at the time but was managing in a City about 120 miles Southwest of here. I, however, heard about this projected growth and I think others and myself were envious of the opportunity communities in the Flints Hills region were dealing with. It looked like the ticket to grow this City and increase population in the area. Land was annexed into the City, and I know there was more expansion planned. Houses were being built in new subdivisions and I understand it was fast and furious. In the office I have read about all of the progress and predictions for continued growth.

Then it changed. By as early as 2009 and 2010, it became apparent that all was not well. I can visit with City staff members who worked for the City at the time, and it was obvious this City was struggling financially and Boom” was heading to “Bust” very quickly. We can discuss how or why this occurred, but really that is not important as it changes nothing.

This City had to take action and it did. Special State Legislation was needed twice as the City exceeded the State Statute debt limit. The good part is that the amount of money borrowed has dropped by about $90 million. And as we have said before, in another 3 years this City can be in a great place financially. Long road, but there really was no choice. In addition to paying off debt the City has built reserve funds which is important as you never know when those funds will be needed. When I arrived here in 2015, I really don’t know how the City could have made it through a disaster if funds would be needed. Yes tax payers, both on property and sale side have paid the cost, but there was no choice.

Above I mentioned the new subdivisions that were constructed so houses could be built. The City worked with developers and formed Special Benefit Districts to construct streets, sewers lines and water lines. These districts are used by many cities to help encourage growth. The problem here was that you could argue that things went fast and furious and got a little out of hand. The result was City became burdened with debt and lots were unsold and ultimately were put into the newly formed Land Bank. I could write a book at how these lots have been marketed and all of the ideas that were tried. When I first started here I met with a group of realtors and the ideas how to market the Land Bank lots were many. As we have found out there has been much trial and error, but lots have sold, and homes have been built. Yes, there are still Land Bank lots but many less than there were to begin with.

So, it there a lesson here? I believe there is. Yes, those who looked into the Crystal Ball 20 or years ago ended up with a lot of broken glass, but the community found a way to recover and grow. This no doubt has been painful, but that also does not mean the community should not take on some challenges in the future. Remember if the predictions would have come through, the results, of course, would be remarkable.