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Commissioners aim for concealed carry review

12/6/2013

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Guns triggered a debate during the Hays City Commission's work session Thursday.

A measure to respond to state law allowing concealed carry in municipal buildings was under review.

The law mandates local governments allow guns in their buildings, but it allows them either to ban firearms and implement "adequate safety measures" or request a four-year delay to prepare while maintaining "adequate safety."

There are no immediate costs associated with adopting the law, but it poses security concerns.

Don Scheibler, Hays Police chief, said only law enforcement officials can possess guns in the buildings. Other city employees will not be allowed to carry firearms.

"It is the opinion of city staff that by allowing more guns into the building, it will increase the likelihood of an incident or accident occurring or the occupants of the building being in danger," he said.

The commission's conversation suggested the "adequate safety measures" were cost prohibitive. Installing 10 security stations in city buildings would cost $50,000, and hiring 13 staff members would be $585,000 annually with benefits.

"Basically, what this is doing is buying us four years to see what happens statewide, because I'm sure the Legislature is going to jump back in on this in the next four years," Commissioner Ron Mellick said.

Mayor Kent Steward said the stickers on city buildings that declare guns are prohibited inside are a false sense of security.

"If you go through all of what you're recommending to us, to me it's based on the premise that before this law came to be, we were safe," he said.

"It's delusional to believe some maniac with a gun bent on killing people is going to be deterred by those decals."

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV said adding guns to the equation only increases the odds of an accident occurring.

* Jeff Boyle, director of parks, explained the budget crunch the city shares with Hays Recreation Commission.

After 2013's pool attendance at Hays Aquatic Park and Wilson Pool fell approximately 22 percent, the commission contractually is obligated to cover $20,421 of the HRC's pool operations budget deficit of $40,842.

There will be a resolution next week to raise the park's daily admission from $3 to $4. The increase would bring in a projected $20,000 to $25,000 next year with similar attendance. The commission also will consider raising the season pass from $40 to $45.

Colder weather, less open days and competing parks in WaKeeney, Russell and Planville were suggested as causes for the deficit.

* Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex also experienced a budget loss of $20,561. It was attributed to capital projects and several tournaments being canceled because of bad weather. A new maintenance building will cost approximately $34,000, but the city contributed approximately $15,000. Trees also were planted for shade and to break up the wind.

* John Braun, assistant director of public works, presented a proposal to start construction on 41st Street. The city would pay $798,000, and the Kansas Department of Transportation would cover the rest of the approximately $3 million project.

The 2014 plan to maintain streets was previewed. It has not gone out to bid yet, but $578,000 is available to update several roads in the city if the commission approves the plan.

* The commission discussed its official priorities statement for the 2014 state Legislature. Long-term water sustainability and access to state subsidies for Hays Regional Airport were two concerns mentioned.