With the Derby City Council updating its list of priorities in January, city staff has taken on work to address those items. Mostly, though, that was put on hold because of COVID-19 before staff came before the council with a report at its most recent meeting on May 12.
Fittingly, the pandemic has jumped to the top of the priorities list for the city – as response is expected to continue for at least two years, according to staff. How to maneuver through that situation becomes a top priority – whether that’s how to structure meetings, further adjusting city services, updating human resources procedures to meet employee needs, etc.
“I think this response will continue for quite a while,” said City Manager Kathy Sexton.
Other priorities listed for the city at this time include the Decarsky Park development, updating the Vision Derby 2040 comprehensive plan, converting to a City of the First Class, negotiating a new water supply agreement, trash/recycling requests for proposal, the STAR bond project, implementing recommendations of the Spring Creek Watershed study, a River bridge project at 95th Street, development of options for improved public transit, and addressing sign clutter through the West End Development Plan.
A number of those priorities have also been impacted by COVID-19 in various ways – like the STAR bond project. While bonds were to be sold and construction starting this month, the sale and other work has been put on hold because of the pandemic.
“The bond market was not cooperating,” Sexton said.
For the River bridge project at 95th, COVID-19 had a different impact. That project is still a ways down the road, but it would be a joint effort between the municipalities it would impact (including Derby, Clearwater, Haysville, Mulvane, Rose Hill and Sedgwick County).
Part of that joint effort would require city staff to go to those other municipalities’ city council meetings to discuss the project – something that has been impossible over the last two months, as some of those councils haven’t even had meetings.
Efforts toward projects like the River bridge – as well as a watch list item for future Derby Fire and Rescue and library funding – drove discussion toward both the 2020 and 2021 budget and whether that should be a priority.
City council members agreed that funding avenues for both projects would need to be explored in the near future, while council member Tom Keil questioned outright if the 2020 and 2021 budget should be made a priority item.
While fellow council members noted keeping an eye on the budget is important, they said they trusted city staff to review the budget regularly and come before the council with any pressing issues.
“People in this organization look at the budget every single day, and I think that is kind of like going to bed with your pillow,” said Mayor Randy White. “You’re always gonna have your pillow with you.”
A motion by Keil to approve recommended amendments to the list of priorities with the addition of a focus on the 2020/2021 budget for the remainder of the year was voted down.
Noting an appreciation for city staff’s efforts to adjust to the current pandemic, a motion to accept the updated list of priorities as presented – including changes to the STAR bond project and removal of local preference clause for purchasing policy (recently addressed) – was approved.
Sexton did confirm, though, that the budget situation will remain a priority among city staff.
“The budget is perplexing, confounding and frustrating, and everybody’s in the same boat with your business, your home budget, everything. It’s just that we don’t know how bad it’s going to get in terms of revenues coming in, in terms of all kinds of things,” Sexton said. “It’s definitely top of mind.”