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Stalemate allows guns in buildings

12/13/2013

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Guns will be allowed in city government buildings starting in January following the Hays City Commission's meeting Thursday.

The commission was deadlocked on a measure to delay concealed carry in municipal buildings for four years. There was no one to break the 2-2 vote because Commissioner Shaun Musil did not attend the meeting.

If the commission does not hold another vote before the year ends, the decals on city doors that show guns are prohibited inside will be removed.

Hays will join Wichita, Newton and Garden City as communities that opted not to delay the Kansas Legislature's law expanding gun rights.

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV and Mayor Kent Steward voted against the resolution to postpone concealed carry. Commissioners Ron Mellick and Eber Phelps cast the aye votes.

Don Scheibler, Hays Police chief, said it was cost prohibitive to install "adequate safety measures" and ban firearms. Ten security stations with a metal detector would cost $50,000, and 13 employees to staff them would be at least $585,000.

Schwaller said he opposed the law because it was not written well. It would be practical for the city to limit access to certain buildings such as the water plant facility and the wastewater treatment plant.

"At least seven, if not half, of the buildings the city has just should not be open to the public ever," Schwaller said. "There's no reason for the public to go in."

Steward said the city's buildings are just as safe with concealed carry as they are under the current rules.

"I think it's laughable that a plastic decal would protect anyone from the real threat, which is an armed homicidal maniac," Steward said.

Both Mellick and Phelps said the commission should delay a decision because the state Legislature could revisit the law to add clarifications.

In other action:

* The commission voted 4-0 to honor the terms of the city's contract with Hays Recreation Commission and compensate the HRC $20,451.72 for half of its pool budget deficit.

* Construction on 41st Street will begin as late as March after the commission unanimously approved to spend $798,000 toward the project. No bond measure is needed because the renovation will be paid for in cash.

* The commission voted 4-0 on a 1-percent merit pay increase for Hays Firefighters Local 2119.

* The commission finalized its 2014 statement of legislative priorities. Expanding the state's vision for water conservation beyond 20 years and securing state subsidies for Hays Regional Airport were two of the top concerns.

* Cereal malt beverage licenses for several Hays businesses were approved.

* Dawne Leiker, Fort Hays State University employee and former reporter with The Hays Daily News, and Patricia Levy, FHSU employee, were appointed to the Sister Cities Advisory Board.