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SPOTLIGHT
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League benefit

Published on -3/27/2013, 9:34 AM

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When the City of Hays dropped its membership from the Kansas League of Municipalities in late 2011, it did so in protest. Commissioners didn't see the value in belonging to an association that had opposing views on water preservation and that basically ignored requests for information.

It wasn't a cost-savings move, nor dissatisfaction with the training, data sharing and information KLM offered. It simply didn't make sense to spend $10,000 in annual dues for a group with a strong lobbying presence in the state Capitol Building working against one of the city's core issues.

We applauded the unanimous decision at the time. Particularly when the League's executive director appeared indifferent to the commission's vote.

"Every year all cities in Kansas have an opportunity to join the League," said LKM's Don Moler at the time. "Thus, the door is always open for future membership in the League."

And Hays City commissioners are considering doing just that this week. Why? Suddenly, membership in the League would save $20,000 annually on worker compensation insurance premiums the city needs.

Staff had requested bids from 14 different insurance companies -- and received one, from the current carrier, Berkshire Hathaway. As it was 12 percent higher than last year, commissioners encouraged staff to find another solution.

One was found with Kansas Municipal Insurance Trust. And its $165,000 bid was $30,000 less than the Berkshire Hathaway quote. But KMIT's bid had a clause that demands membership in the Kansas League of Municipalities in order to receive the discounted rate.

Commissioners will decide the issue at this week's meeting. We would encourage them to accept the terms, as it's the prudent decision.

We don't believe the League is worthy of Hays' membership, although the association at least might not be working at cross aims with the city any longer.

In KLM's annual Statement of Municipal Policy, it did make a change in its stated position regarding water quantity. The 2012 policy was: "Government at all levels should be proactive regarding the conservation and protection of current and future municipal water supplies. We support efforts to create expanded access to reservoir storage by municipal water suppliers."

The current year wording? "Government at all levels should aggressively pursue the conservation, protection, and development of current and future municipal water supplies. We support efforts to extend the life of reservoirs and to expand reservoir storage for use by municipal water suppliers."

Perhaps KLM is listening when it comes to pro-active lobbying on an issue so near and dear to Hays' long-term water availability. We'll see.

The true test will come when commissioners or staff make specific requests of the League. Perhaps the association has learned to increase its customer service skills as well.

In either case, we would encourage Hays to rejoin at this point simply to save taxpayer dollars.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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