$56.7M bond: RAID says no way, Chamber in full support

KINGMAN - Two local organizations have formalized their positions on the $56.7 million bonds for capital improvements going before voters in November, and they're not quite seeing eye-to-eye.

Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce President Beverly Liles and the executive board voted in August to fully support the city's request for infrastructure improvements to streets, parks and public safety.

The Chamber has in the works a publication that will be filtered through the community that explains the need for the 17 capital projects listed in the three bond measures.

"It's a matter of the infrastructure is obviously needed. It's all needed. We do not have a property tax, so that's probably our biggest thing," Liles said.

"We need to update our community; we need to get where we need to be for the future of Kingman, and without a property tax, we've got to find some way to fund this." Also, she said, "With the fact that our other bond is going to be up soon, it's not really going to affect our homeowners by much."

If all three bonds are approved, the 17 projects for street, public safety and park improvements will cost homeowners $95.53 for property valued at $100,000. They will cost business owners $229.28 per year for businesses valued at $100,000, according to information provided by the city.

Residents Against Irresponsible Development founder Mike Bihuniak is standing firmly on the other side of the fence.

He and the city watchdog group also have a plan in the works to educate the public about the $56.7 million in question.

"That's a blank check for these people, and that dysfunctional bunch doesn't deserve it," Bihuniak said of the City Council.

According to Bihuniak, and confirmed by Acting City Manager Jack Kramer, the city doesn't have to use the money received through the bond election for the projects listed, which is why Bihuniak is calling the bond a blank check if approved.

According to Kramer, the city chose not to request individual bonds for each project, because the chances of success would decline, as residents would then vote only for the projects they wanted - the ones that affected their neighborhood, for example.

This, added to the fact that there is no timeline for when the bonds must be cashed in, has RAID working on a Web site to spread what Bihuniak explains as the undisclosed reality of the city's request.

"Why is it that they're presenting it as three different packages instead of line items?" Bihuniak asked. "Why? Because those projects are just there for the public eye, but those aren't necessarily the ones that are going to be done."

Liles said it's not difficult to see there are many projects the community needs. "I think that the concern about the money, about giving them a blank check, I don't see that happening, but I think that's where we come in. I don't care who you do or don't trust; that's where the citizens come in."

To say "we don't want it because we don't trust them is not going to get us anywhere," Liles said. "It doesn't matter if it's this council or another council - if RAID is concerned it could happen with anyone."

The city's pledge for honest and open government "is not happening," Bihuniak said. "Have you ever heard the mayor say, 'this is how it works,' and explain to you that this a blank check and any of the line items don't have to go through?"

Bihuniak hopes to halt the passage of the bond until next May, when residents will have a chance to put in a new mayor and three new Council members.

"I think I can honestly tell you that I understand where RAID is coming from," Liles said in response. "I don't agree with it, but I understand.

"Everyone's allowed to feel the way they want to feel, but we've got a whole community that needs to move forward, and if we wait until a whole new council comes in, you know, we're just putting this off, and it's going to get worse. So that's my comment to RAID."

Liles' focus will be on educating the public about what this bond is about. Voters should realized that they don't have to approve all three bonds, she said.

"They can pick and choose, and they're not all going to be done tomorrow, but you know, if you don't agree with the street portion of that, don't vote for it."

The city has real problems in public safety in terms of needed equipment upgrades and communication technology, Liles said. Street projects are needed, and "the parks are full. But some people may not feel that's a priority, so they don't have to vote for that one if they don't want to. I think the biggest thing is that they can vote for some but not all of them."

"If there's people in the community who don't understand this bond election, I encourage them to get educated," she said.

One place to start is at the Chamber mixer on Sept. 25.

"The Chamber is hosting a mixer at 7 a.m at the Powerhouse. And I would really like to invite anyone who would like to know more about this bond election."

The next day, Sept. 26, RAID members will hold their own meeting. The group is currently developing a Web site, Kingmanraid.info.com, to spread its take on the issues surrounding the bond.

"We can't give all this money to a lame-duck council. And that's what they are, they're a lame duck. We have people there that hopefully will be elsewhere after the next election," Bihuniak said.