Archive for Thursday, December 28, 2006

School bond tops community resolution list

December 28, 2006

This was the year the community of De Soto reaped the benefits of work from past years. The year saw the opening of a new municipal swimming pool, completion of a boat ramp on the Kansas River, two extensions of the Kill Creek walking path, the first houses built in Arbor Ridge, construction of a new bank, installation of a sidewalk on Lexington Avenue and -- most significantly for the future -- the start and near completion of a new wastewater plant.

Those additions were brought about when the community resolved sometimes thorny and divisive issues. In the past months, the city has made an agreement that resolved the longstanding issue of the extension of Prim Rose Drive. As a result, the first homes in two new subdivisions could be completed by the end of 2007.

Topping our 2007 community resolution list is De Soto USD 232's need for more classroom space. The $107.5 million bond issue that failed in November took the first step in finding resolution with its proposal to increase the size of the district's high schools.

There seems to be a developing consensus since November to increase the enrollment capacity of the district's elementary schools. To find its way forward on that issue, the district must first resolve the controversial boundary issues of east-side elementary schools.

Complicating the issues further are school board elections this spring.

Honest discussion of the school size and boundary issues during the elections should go a long way in resolving both and providing consensus on the direction the district will take with a new bond issue.

This year saw promise of progress toward a merger of the De Soto Fire Department and Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3. Although both sides have been open to negotiations for six years, little progress was made until the past six months. At that time, the De Soto City Council stated its conditions for an agreement -- a locally appointed and representative board. The fire board followed by suggesting a model that appears to satisfy those conditions and talks are ongoing.

Finally, De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle has started the process of developing a new five-year capital improvement plan for the city. As the process moves forward in 2007 it will involve the city's appointed commissions, residents and the city council.

It is our hope that plan can address what the author of the recent downtown revitalization plan called its top priority -- the esthetic upgrade of the two-block downtown through landscaping, sidewalk improvements, themed street lamps and other enhancements.

Resolution of a capital improvement plan that locates sources of funding for those improvements and schedules them would start the groundwork for a future banner year.

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