Michael Berges is running for one of three city commission positions expiring in 2019 on the Hays City Commission. In a brief biography and Q&A with The Hays Daily News, Berges stated his position on issues before the commission.
Registered voters in Hays decide this fall on who will fill the three vacancies. There are five candidates. Party affiliation doesn’t matter for the city commission seats, which are nonpartisan positions. New commissioners take office in January 2020 and serve four-year terms.
Early voting starts Monday in the Ellis County Clerk’s office of the county administrative building at 718 Main. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Other city commission candidates are Henry Schwaller IV, Ryan Rymer, Ron Mellick and Mason Ruder.
Schwaller's Q&A ran in Tuesday's Hays Daily News, Rymer's ran in Wednesday's paper, Mellick's ran Thursday, and Ruder's ran Friday.
Berges submitted this biographical information about himself: I am a Financial Advisor at Ameriprise Financial Services. I have been licensed in personal finance for eleven years and hold the professional designation CLTC. I serve as Treasurer on the board of the ARC of the Central Plains, a Member on the Board of Zoning, chair the Tiger Takedown Club and member of St. Joseph Catholic Church. I moved to Hays in 1999 to attend FHSU with an athletic scholarship to wrestle. I graduated with a degree in Political Science in 2004. My wife, Erica is also a graduate of FHSU in 2001 with a degree in Fine Arts. We have been married 15 years and have three sons; Jackson (8), Noah (3), and Isaac (1). We are a family fortunate to live in Hays to take advantage of all the things the community can provide for a variety of needs. From the library, Sternberg, public & private schools; HaysRec, FHSU events, and sports leagues; to healthcare facilities, DSNWK, ARC of the Central Plains, Senior Center and early childhood intervention. These programs, activities, and organizations in Hays are important to me; which makes the decision-makers behind them important to me. My dedication as city commissioner is to see Hays continue to provide attractive opportunities for individuals and businesses.
1. What's your opinion of the already approved Vine Street roundabouts?
As the question acknowledges, the Vine Street design has been approved. The current city commissioners are in the process of working through the plans by purchasing land and the rights-of-way needed to construct as designed. I do have hesitations about the approved design; however, my greater concern is the poor approach of communication the current commissioners took keeping the public informed of the features of the design. Some showed little empathy for the neighborhood on 37th Street and the impact the design will have in that area. Being flippant towards a signed petition of concerned citizens is not serving the public. My real concern is rewarding commissioners for pulling surprises on the community. Two of the current commissioners have been appointed in the last 16 months; we should question if the individuals that had been elected were still seated, would the design have been different. So, it may be prudent given there are or would have been difference of opinions that a design change be requested. However, requesting a design change proposal would involve more money and time and will be restricted by what the city is purchasing this year for the roundabout project so very little flexibility will be had. I would also have to acknowledge that a proposed redesign may very well come back looking as it does currently. The Vine Street traffic project will take up to two years; we need commissioners that can show compassion for headaches the public is going to have during construction.
2. What's your opinion of the I-70 travel plaza development planned at Exit 157, likely for annexation into the city with economic development incentives?
I fully support the truck plaza. Whether it’s from red tape put up by previous city commissions or ineffectiveness in design plans by past developers; a travel plaza for Hays is long overdue. The US trucking industry moves 61% of the freight transported within the USA measured by dollar value and 65% of the freight transported to Canada and Mexico from the US. This is likely to increase with storage facilities being built as the demand for overnight shipping increases from the online economy. Hays is in a prime spot to support the truckers going east/west and north/south. The travel plaza is already working with the bond council and I agree with a Community Improvement District and Tax Increment Financing for infrastructure that are being supported by the city and county. The northwest corridor is probably the most significant development area for Hays over the next 20 years. We are going to have to provide the municipal services to the area to have anchor businesses come. Without the incentives, we might as well tell all business ventures Hays is closed for improvement. Further, the travel plaza is not seeking any sales tax exclusions so it makes sense to annex the property into the city and start collecting sales tax revenue immediately. The travel plaza placement should also encourage heavy traffic to use the bypass and ease the burden of Vine Street traffic.
3. How will you attract retail, manufacturing or high-tech jobs to Hays that draw young people and afford them a living wage?
Lean on and hold accountable the organizations already tasked with these goals. Grow Hays is a perfect example in their core goal to successfully retain and expand existing business, recruit new businesses, and create and foster a spirit of entrepreneurism in Ellis County and the surrounding areas. There have been noted lacks of communication with the commissioners and past Ellis County Economic Development director and lapses in follow up with Retail Strategies in the past. Those lapses can no longer happen. A continuous dialogue with the commissioners and the organizations attracting business to Hays has to be repaired and fully functionable and needs to include the Hays CVB, Downtown Hays Development, Hays Chamber of Commerce, Strategic Doing and other such organizations. We have to better facilitate the meeting and sharing of ideas between groups that have the interest of seeing Hays grow. I hold no fantasy that I can singularly bring any business to Hays; however, haven spoken to several business owners and heads of the organizations listed I believe they are looking forward to gaining traction on their ideas for job growth. I do believe the opportunity for growth is in the technology fields such as cybersecurity/cloud computing/web and app development. The fields of information technology and data application are the most robust and sought-after positions across the US economy and where current students are studying. As these types of businesses do not have a large water requirement it would be beneficial as an economic engine for Hays.
4. Do you support an added 10-year, quarter-cent sales tax in Hays, and if so, how would you spend the revenue?
Currently, I do not see the need for an added sales tax. The city manager, departments and staff have done a good job matching revenue to the budget; meeting the budget 17 of the last 18 years. For the foreseeable future, I believe this will continue. The city has cash reserves and has done a good job setting aside replacement costs. With that being said I do believe there are opportunities to develop the community that will need public funding. In the order I believe is most important; 1) a modern and centralized senior center – retirees need a place to socialize and continue to be engaged in the community. 2) Completion of fire training facilities and a firehouse in the northwest corner of Hays. Expansion in that part of the city is probably going to force us at some point to build emergency services; I think it’s worth being out in front for the safety of the community. 3) ARC Park and or other park improvements – I believe parks are the door front to a community, we are second to none and I think it’s worth continuing to outpace all other communities in this area. 4) Larger allocation towards infrastructure for roads/sidewalks/bridges – the city is basically at peak replacement with current allocation; it’s critical to replace streets ahead of schedule if possible, as we’ve seen from a harsh spring and summer we can get behind easily.