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Numbers guy eager to take on city budget if elected

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

Todd Gabel, a "numbers kind of guy," hopes to bring his financial skills to the Hays City Commission in April.

"That's my forte ... numbers," he said during an interview in early March. "I'm much more comfortable with numbers than words."

Gabel is one of five candidates for three commission spots, facing off with Commissioner Ron Mellick, Shaun Musil, Commissioner Eber Phelps and Dominic Pianalto in the April 2 election.

The two candidates who receive the most votes will receive four-year terms and the third place vote-getter will receive a two-year term. The successful candidates will be sworn in at the April 11 city commission meeting.

With five years experience in budgeting and public accounting, Gabel said he has a "unique skill set."

"A lot of people don't realize how big the city budget is," Gabel said. "I've got experience there.

"I know how to build it. I know what goes into it, and I know how to look at it."

Gabel said he hasn't heard any overwhelming concerns about Hays city government in particular from voters throughout his campaign, but he is aware the city's budget is important to voters.

"The biggest issues are the fiscal issues," he said. "That's what people care about."

As Kansas legislators potentially shift more financial responsibilities onto cities and counties, Gabel said it is important Hays "stay diligent now."

Any large building projects, such as a proposed convention center, Gabel said, should be put to a vote.

"That's why I really think (city commissioners) need to do that with the convention center," Gabel said of bringing it to a public vote. "I think where they have it planned and how they're planning on funding it are wrong.

"I would like to see that changed. This is one project that should go to the voters, and I think that's the truest test of whether people support it or not."

Gabel said he supports the process Ellis County commissioners have used in bringing their building projects to a vote.

"I think that's democracy in action," he said. "That's the best way."

Logistically, Gabel said, the convention center's proposed location, south of Holiday Inn Express on north Vine Street, is not optimal. He said he was concerned the area could not provide adequate parking for those attending conventions.

Another issue concerning Gabel is water. He said he has met with City Manager Toby Dougherty to get insight on what the city has planned as it attempts to meet residents' needs during an ongoing drought.

Gabel said exploring new water supplies and educating residents on water usage are two primary concerns city commissioners should focus on in the near future.