Letter to the Editor

Letters to the editor

Friday, October 13, 2006

Concerns about city council

Dear Editor,

I am writing to you to express my concern at the turn of events that have transpired with the city of Nevada's Airport terminal building project. As a citizen I am disturbed by how our current city council operates and how decisions are made. 1, personally, have no particular interest in the airport but I do have a deep interest in our city government. The prior city council, the prior administration and the airport board that was serving at the time made the decision to proceed with building a state of the art terminal facility that would make our city proud. These people, collectively, saw the need, secured the majority of the financing for the project with a very large state of Missouri CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funded by our state tax dollars, arrived at a plan and hired a professional firm that is highly respected across the country. The citizens of this town had many opportunities for input throughout the process and everyone worked together to arrive at a decision. Countless hours have been spent over the last few years by the dedicated volunteers who have served and who now serve on the city's airport board and by former city councilmen and women who were interested in bringing our airport into the 21st century.

In August 2005 the city council of Nevada contracted, by ordinance, with Adams and Associates architectural firm to provide building and interior design as well as to coordinate the construction of the new airport terminal. Many, many paid hours have been spent by city staff in the development of this project; by state employees who have worked closely with the city and the architects; and, of course, by the architectural firm.

Suddenly in the last couple of weeks, PART of the new city council decides to scrap all that hard work and all that expense and to do so without public knowledge. Last week Adams and Associates was told by the city manager that the contract was being terminated. (I believe the first quote from the mayor on this said that the city manager had been given permission to terminate the contract.)

"The City Airport Board shall have the powers, and it shall be its duty, to take charge of and exercise control over the City Airport and all appurtenances thereto belonging. It shall enforce the performance of all contracts and work and shall have charge of all books, property and assets belonging as appertaining to the City Airport," says the city code.

How does one reconcile that mandate from our city code with the fact that not even the chairman of the airport board knew that the Adams and Associates contract was in jeopardy? We have volunteer citizen boards that are supposed to "be in the loop" when decisions are being made yet the airport board was kept unaware.

It seems that with this city council the public is being left out of the decision making process more and more. What's even more alarming is that not all of the city councilpersons are even involved in all of the decisions! One councilman has affirmed to me that he did not know about the termination of the Adams and Associates' contract until after it happened. That councilman also stated to me that he does not know who gave the city manager the authority to terminate the contract.

Some members of this city council are willing to set aside previous actions by council, to scrap projects already in motion, and to squander thousands and thousands of dollars in government and private grants by doing so. According to the KNEM news story of Oct. 11, people have been working with the CDBG people behind the scenes to rework the airport terminal grant. If that is the case, then this council is willing to trade in a high quality, possibly regional, facility for a lower quality, "just enough to get by" building -- a decision they will have made on their own. The city has already paid for all the hours invested thus far and now we'll owe termination costs on Adams' contract (and rightly so). Additionally, with the cancellation of the current project the council will be forfeiting a $40,000 gift from the Richardson Foundation for furnishing the terminal. To make matters worse, this council is passing ordinances to give themselves more control over details; ordinances that will scare off true professionals from ever wanting to work with this town in any capacity.

City councilpersons should not micro-manage and they should not operate in secret to undermine the public decisions made by others with which they happen not to agree. What purpose is served but to fulfill personal agendas? If the council sees the need for a change of plans, then discussions need to be in open city council meetings so that citizens have the chance to hear the dialogue and offer input.

I am concerned for the future of Nevada. Whether you care about the airport terminal or not, PLEASE care about how decisions are being made in your city government. The next time "they" don't agree with a project, it may be one that you and I really care about -- the new community center? The golf course? The streets? Two or three people pulling strings in the background is not the way our city government is supposed to work.

Norlene Hillier