Merriam council candidates on the issues: Helping seniors stay in their community as they age

Jay Senter - October 16, 2019 3:00 pm

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Merriam.

Today we publish the candidates’ responses to item three:

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For many seniors who would like to stay in their city of residence in Johnson County – where their friends, doctors, churches, social connections are – moving options within their community cost more than their current home. How would you work to address this issue in Merriam? (This question came from the Johnson County Health Equity Network, which focuses on housing affordability, stability and safety).

City Council Ward 1

Jason Silvers (incumbent)

This is a good question, but I’d like to also include people with disabilities. Most importantly, Many of our residents have lived in their homes for decades and shouldn’t have to move simply because they are getting older or experiencing mobility issues. Many of the aging and elderly Ward 1 constituents I’ve recently spoken with have mentioned how devastating an unexpected property tax increase can be for someone living on a fixed income. Therefore, I would like to see Merriam look into setting up an annual property tax cap, especially for the elderly so they can remain in their homes. I also think the city should look into expanding its exterior and neighborhood grant program by creating a safety improvement grant for the elderly and disabled which could include; handrails, stairlifts, bathroom grab bars, level thresholds, wider doorframes, and ramps..

John Canterbury

Did not respond.

City Council Ward 2

Dan Leap

1.)The most important way to help seniors stay in their homes is to not replace entire neighborhoods with commercial development

2. Keep residents in their homes by reducing the tax burden and encouraging home health businesses

3. Consider the funds going to out of town con-artists in exchange for things like a $130,100 wind chime nobody can hear or $110,100 worm. That money could have gone to help the seniors.

Whitney Yadrich

Just last week I had a conversation with a Ward 2 resident who can no longer drive. She doesn’t want to move, but sometimes she just wants to get out of the house. And she can’t.

Isolation is health threat for anyone, but especially for our aging population. Uprooting your established lifestyle increases the risk of isolation, so Merriam should be an active partner in creating and maintaining support structures for seniors, which encompasses inclusionary housing programs.

In fact, the city is currently participating in a housing inventory study led by the Johnson County Health Equity Network. As of the 2010 census, almost 15% of our population was age 65 and over, so our local officials should work to have a strong presence on the study task force.

For immediate needs, there are resources available to seniors that I can – and will – help facilitate for Merriam seniors who need assistance:

If you know anyone who needs help navigating these programs, please reach out to me at [email protected].

City Council Ward 3

Amy Carey

Merriam loves its seniors and we want them to be able to reside here in the community in which they love! First, we need to stop useless spending. We are currently wasting our money on beautification projects when we could potentially be helping others in our community. Wasteful spending needs to be controlled to aid in lowering property taxes, making it Merriam a more affordable place to reside.

Bruce Kaldahl

Affordable housing is not only an issue for seniors, it is also an issue for millennials, young families and anyone struggling to find housing. It is a dilemma because we are always trying to make Merriam a better place to live and making Merriam a better place to live drives up real estate values. To keep living in Merriam housing affordable we should:

  • Continue to manage the city budget so that our property tax burden as low as possible.
  • Support developments such as the Switzer Senior Villas that are planned for 71st and Switzer.

City Council Ward 4

Staci Chivetta

The city of Merriam has supported several senior housing developers over the past years by endorsing their application for tax credits. Just recently Woodco Developers have received the necessary tax credit to build a senior affordable housing project at 71st & Switzer. This type of senior housing is much needed in our city and I would continue to support this type of development where space is available. I would hope that if we are offering more incentives for these types of developments that we could help the developers realize that diversity in types of housing is also a need. Some people don’t want to move in to a multiple family housing unit and would like to keep some of their independence with more of a single family home with a yard. I want to make sure we are also thinking about how we could help our seniors stay in the homes that they have raised their families in. I believe that this would be a great topic to form a committee on and see what would be the most impactful way to solve this issue and hear it straight from the residents that it would effect.

Bob Pape (incumbent)

For many seniors who would like to stay in their city of residence in Johnson County – where their friends, doctors, churches, social connections are – moving options within their community cost more than their current home. How would you work to address this issue in Merriam? (This question came from the Johnson County Health Equity Network, which focuses on housing affordability, stability and safety).

I wholeheartedly support keeping our seniors in their homes. I think the number one thing that we as a City can do is not raise their property taxes. We have not raised the Mill Levy in Merriam in over 10 years. It is my commitment to keep from raising it for as long as I am in office. In order to do that, I am committed to overturning the unfair commercial property taxing opinion of the Board of Taxing Appeals. This is an attempt to shift the property tax burden to residents. I also believe that prudent economic development is a better option to raise revenue than to increase our taxes.

The cost of maintaining a home is expensive. We currently offer a program that will assist residents with a grant that will reimburse up to 20% of the cost of exterior repairs. We also support Johnson County home assistance programs for low-income residents. I am committed to keeping these programs in place.

Johnson County offers Meals on Wheels to those who need help. My church helps to deliver these meals to residents in Merriam. Food is expensive and we as a City have supported the enactment of State legislation that will reduce or eliminate taxes on food in Kansas.

The Council and I have supported the development of new residences designed for senior citizens and residents over the age of 55 years of age. Switzer Senior Villas is currently being built at 7100 Switzer. A portion of this development is geared for those on a limited income. This will give those citizens who may not want to own their own home but want to continue living in Merriam an option.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item four:

People who run for elected office often have strong views about how things ought to be — views that may differ sharply from their colleagues on the city council. What steps would you take to ensure that you have positive, productive relationships with council peers who may have different views than your own?

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