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Fire-damaged Wendy's demolished, new restaurant in works
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LIBERTY — There’s good news on the horizon for Wendy’s fans in Liberty.

On April 20, a fire engulfed the Liberty Wendy’s fast food restaurant near Kansas Street and Victory Drive. While there were no injuries, the structure sustained damage totaling the building. Liberty Fire Chief John Mills said the state fire marshal’s office investigated and determined the fire was accidental.

Last week, demolition took place of the former restaurant, with heavy trucks hauling away debris. All that currently remains is the iconic Wendy’s sign.

“We’re very excited to inform the public that a brand-new Wendy’s restaurant will be completed and ready to serve guests sometime in 2022,” said Eve Metheny, director of brand marketing for Hamra Enterprises, a Wendy’s franchisee. “We will be rebuilding a brand-new Wendy’s restaurant at the same location.”

Holt fire district patrons asked for added tax on ballot

Residents who live in the Holt Community Fire Protection District of Clay and Clinton counties will be asked to vote on a tax levy to fund district operations on the November ballot.

The question reads, “Shall the Holt Community Fire Protection District of Clay and Clinton counties, Missouri be authorized to levy an additional operating tax levy of not more than $0.35 per $100 assessed valuation to provide funds for the operation of the district?”

According to district leadership, if passed, the added tax will cost a district patron with a $185,000 residence about $96.81 annually and about $23 annually for a person with a $20,000 vehicle.

Funds would pay for equipment and personnel. For more information, visit holtfire.org/2021-tax-levy-information.

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Public hearing on Smithville utility rate increase Oct. 19
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SMITHVILLE — A public hearing with the Smithville Board of Aldermen will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, to allow the public an opportunity to discuss pending utility rate increases.

“In November 2018, Raftelis Financial Consultants, LLC presented a five-year plan for recommended water and sewer rate increases to pay for capital improvement upgrades to the city’s water and wastewater system. Previous changes to the utility rate structure and rate increases were effective June 2019, March 2020 and March 2021. The fourth set of proposed rate increases would be effective Nov. 1 for residential and commercial accounts,” states a city release. “Once approved, you will see this increase on your December 2021 utility bill.”

The proposed rate increases from the last effective increase in March are: 56 cents per month for a ¾-inch water meter service charge for a total of $11.77, $2.20 for water usage of 5,000 gallons for a total of $41.65, 2 cents for 53 cents total for the residential water sales tax, $1.46 for wastewater service charge for a total of $16.02 and $4.20 for wastewater usage of 5,000 gallons for a total of $33.40.

For more information, call City Hall at 532-3897.

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County voters to decide funding fate of quarter of sheriff’s budget

CLAY COUNTY — Voters in the county will decide the funding fate of many operations of the sheriff’s office by voting for or against continuance of the existing one-eighth cent law enforcement sales tax. The tax, in effect since 1998, funds about a quarter of the agency’s roughly $20 million annual budget.

“This is a bottom line need for the sheriff’s office because 81% of our budget goes to personnel and this is 25% of the budget,” Sheriff Will Akin told the Courier-Tribune this week of the tax. The sheriff’s office employs about 230, nearly 150 of those employees are deputies.

In addition to personnel, Akin said the sheriff’s office has large contractual obligations that his office must pay for to run Clay County Detention Center, the county jail in Liberty. The annual tax revenue helps pay for those expenses. The average daily detention population varied from 309 in 2010 to 356 in 2017 and 2018. According to sheriff’s office staff, COVID-19 protocols have also placed increased demands on detention staff and the facility.

“The medical for our jail, the food contract for our inmates, those are two of the biggest (other required expenses). Those are actually the two that got us into the lawsuit with the previous county administration. Our medical contract is about $1 million and our food services contract is around $600,000,” the sheriff said.

In addition to increased patrol and detention duties, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office also has worked to provide school resource deputies in the growing North Kansas City School District. Seventeen deputies now serve the district, up from eight in 2009.

Akin, who has been discussing the tax renewal with civic groups around the county, said some voters have expressed confusion on which county government entity will control the funds and what “maintenance” projects will be funded if the tax is renewed as the county commission approves the overall budget, including that of the sheriff’s office.

“All this money comes directly to the sheriff’s office,” he said of the tax, adding ballot language includes an oversight component in the form of an audit. “The maintenance of it refers to the jail and our sheriff’s office facilities, but the auditing piece is to ensure it doesn’t go anywhere else.”

The sales tax has been put to voters for renewal every 12 years since its inception. In the last fiscal year, it generated about $5 million.

“I know $5 million may sound like a lot, but an eighth-cent sales tax equates to just 2.5 cents on a $20 purchase. A significant portion is paid by visitors that shop or dine in the county,” said the sheriff.

For this go-round of the tax renewal effort, the current Clay County Commission voted to remove the 12-year sunset on the tax, which is reflected in the ballot language.

“For most Clay County residents, this will be the only item on the Nov. 2 ballot. To hold the election will cost about $100,000. Removing the sunset would eliminate future election costs, and the County Commission could vote to repeal the tax at any time. The revenue generated by the tax would be audited annually,” states a sheriff’s office release.

The ballot language reads, “Shall the county of Clay extend and impose a countywide sales tax at the rate of one-eighth of 1% for the purpose of providing law enforcement services for the county to include maintenance of current law enforcement facilities and all operational costs to provide for the incarceration of inmates, including additional law enforcement personnel?”

This tax, if continued, will not increase the county’s current sales tax levy.

If the measure fails at the ballot box, Akin said how the county and sheriff’s office will offset the loss is unknown, but it would mean a direct, negative impact countywide.

“The alternative, I don’t know, but what I will do is work with the commission and the county budget committee to come up with a solution,” he said. “We’re talking $5 million. That’s going to have a direct impact to every corner of the county. … How that would get done, it’s going to take a lot of elected officials, a lot of managers coming together through teamwork and figuring out the solution and where people can cut.”