Prairie Village decision to cut Sister City Committee loose a ‘disappointment’ to members

One of the Sister City's annual events has been a reception for foreign exchange students, shown here with members of the Prairie Village Teen Council.
One of the Sister City’s annual events has been a reception for foreign exchange students, shown here with members of the Prairie Village Teen Council.
Members of the Prairie Village Sister City Committee learned this week that come 2016, they will no longer have the distinction of being an official city entity.

Mayor Laura Wassmer and City Administrator Quinn Bennion informed the group of the decision at a Monday meeting, explaining the move to cut the group from the existing committee structure came after a recommendation from the group tasked with improving the efficiency of Prairie Village’s many mayor-appointment committees. As a result of that group’s recommendations last year, the duties of the Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory committee, the Animal Control Board, the Communications Committee and the Board of Code Appeals were shifted to other groups or staff members.

Under the new arrangement, the Sister City members will have the option to form or join a standalone organization to carry out the committee’s activities. But the group will no longer receive city funding aside from the donation of the membership fee for Sister City International, approximately $350 per year. For 2015, Prairie Village had allocated a budget of $3,810 for the Sister City Committees activities, which included putting on an annual reception for local foreign exchange students. Prairie Village has an official Sister City relationship with Dolyna, Ukraine, which will remain despite the moving of the committee out from under the city umbrella.

Committee chair Jim Hohensee said the reaction of the committee was “mostly disappointment” to the news, but that the group would be convening in the coming weeks to determine a course of action for the future.

Some of the committee members had expressed frustrations in recent months that requests to the city to use Sister City funds for aid to Dolyna had been denied because they didn’t provide direct benefit to Prairie Village. Hohensee said the decision to end the city’s formal sponsorship of the committee at the end of the year hadn’t been a major shock.

“They said this was part of a move to get the city to focus on the things it was good at and not take on additional things,” he said. “No one seemed really and truly surprised at it. We see how things are going.”