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Merriam Mayor On IKEA, Feral Cats, And The Freedom To Choose Your Own Trash Collector

Courtesy photo
City of Merriam, Kansas

When Ken Sissom became the mayor of Merriam, Kansas, in 2008, he knew exactly what he was getting into.

He was on the police department in Merriam for 26 years, serving the last 13 as police chief.

“When I became mayor in 2008, I had attended every city council meeting, with the exception of maybe four or five, since 1992. So there were no surprises for me on the Mayor’s job,” he said.

For a city of its small size — only 4.5 square miles — it has 600 business, which makes it an interesting place to govern.

Sissom talked about some of those issues on Monday’s Up To Date.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

On getting big-box furniture store IKEA to build in Merriam

"They were willing to come into our city ... but they recognized that it would cost about $19 million more, roughly, to build that structure there [on the small, elevated spot on the southeast corner of Interstate 35 and Johnson Drive] rather than on a flat piece property. They wanted us basically to pay for that $19 million difference. We worked out a deal where we share sales tax with them. For every dollar of sales tax we get, we give them 50 cents until we get that $19 million paid off and then of course, we get the full dollar after that.

We wanted to make sure our citizens were not going to suffer too much for IKEA coming there in terms of them losing property taxes so we went the sales tax route and the beauty of that is that the vast majority of the people who come and shop at our IKEA do not live in Merriam. So therefore, we’re bringing in sales tax money from outside of the city to pay for the IKEA that’s there."

On why Merriam doesn't provide trash collection for the entire city

"Basically, we leave it up to the individual to contract with the hauler that they prefer. The city looked at (providing trash collection) about eight years ago before I was mayor. The information was put out to the residents about that fact that we were thinking about going to a single hauler but we had so much backlash from the public that they back away from that as an idea.

It’s kind of a thorny issue, we’ve just started looking at it again and we got reminded of what happened the last time we did and it wasn't a pretty sight ... We have homes associations which would be excluded from the single-hauler system. Also, business aren't included in that single-hauler system either. It’s a lesser issue in our city because we’re not a residential city.

On the ongoing issue of handling a large population of feral cats.

"Feral cats are not new. They are up in the areas that have wooded parks nearby, we have Streamway Trail, plenty of areas for them to thrive in.

We used to capture them and take them to our local animal care facility. They can never be adopted out because they’re wild and very dangerous, much like any other wild creature. So they used to just have to euthanize them, that was the way we controlled their population but most of the animal facilities now do not euthanize. So that means that we have to pay to have them sit in a cage for the rest of their lives at not-a-cheap rate daily. Believe me, it’s almost like staying in a hotel.

We had to make the choice to stop picking them up. It was costing us too much money and we weren’t solving the problem. The state of Kansas kind of looks at them as wild animals, like a raccoon or a squirrel or anything else. They’re kind of part of nature. As much as we’d like to, it’s a matter of economics and just what’s right."

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