Those voting April 6 to decide the size of Iola’s next city commission can request advance ballots as soon as March 17.
Iola City Clerk Roxanne Hutton spelled out Tuesday procedures for the upcoming vote, where Iolans will recommend whether the city should implement a four, six or eight-member city commission. Because it’s an advisory election only, existing commissioners will ultimately choose the size of the incoming body through adoption of a charter ordinance.
The question, because of its advisory nature, cannot be included as part of the April 6 mayoral election in which Mayor Bill Maness is running unopposed.
That means a separate ballot and separate polling place for the advisory vote.
Those voting in the mayor’s race will go to the North Community Building; those wishing to vote in the advisory election will be directed to First Baptist Church, 801 N. Cottonwood St.
Commissioners decided in February to set up the added election after differing opinions on the size of the new body were not resolved to their satisfaction. Iolans last April voted to disband the existing city commission.
Rules for the advisory election will be similar to any official election. Voters must be registered in Iola before March 22 to take part. Ballots for the advisory election will be nearly identical in appearance to previous ballots in city elections, Hutton said.
A crew of eight election workers will man the polling booths at the church, Hutton said, and the county is allowing the city to borrow voting booths and use the county’s ballot counting machine.
Voting for both elections will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
City commissioners will canvass the advisory results at 10 a.m. April 9. County commissioners will canvass the mayoral race, as well as the Moran City Council election, one hour earlier.
“All of that has to be done separately,” Hutton said.
GARDNER CAPITAL, the housing developer building 30 homes for the River Valley Homes rental complex near Cedarbrook Golf Course, will build a small playground on two lots.
Commissioners approved the use of the plots. Gardner Capital is spending about $30,000 on equipment, commissioners were told.
In an unrelated matter, commissioners approved a letter of support for Dean Developers, the firm appealing for state tax credits to build a senior housing complex in the same area.
The items sparked a brief discussion among commissioners about the housing development on the north part of town and whether it is filling the city’s “dire” need for workforce housing.
“What bothers me most is that we’re not filling the void we’d hoped it would,” Commissioner Craig Abbott said.
Mayor Bill Maness concurred, noting that a large number of employees at Iola’s major industries are ineligible to rent homes at the River Valley Homes complex because they earn too much.
City Administrator Judy Brigham pointed out that the income guidelines for River Valley Homes are set by federal Housing and Urban Development guidelines, not Gardner Capital.
“They have to use those guidelines,” Brigham said.
“We can’t set those guidelines,” Abbott said, “and I’m more than a little bit dissatisfied.”
Maness added, “we have a dire need for workforce housing, but the way these outdated tax credits are written, we can’t fill that need.
“I don’t want to discourage other development,” he said, noting the city is continuing to appeal to other developers to build in Iola. He also said the city should register its concerns with Iola’s representatives in Congress, senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and Rep. Lynn Jenkins.
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