Below is a briefing of the infrastructure issues facing cities in Boys State of Kansas. City councils may use this information as needed to define and understand challenges or to prioritize initiatives for the progress of the city. Each issue does not be addressed, and city councils may decide that a challenge included in the briefing is either not a problem or not one that needs to be prioritized.
Local Transportation In the Boys State of Kansas, extreme revenue shortfalls have led to drastic cuts to funding for the State Highway System. Matters are no less difficult at local levels where revenue has forced local municipalities to divert funding from local transportation networks that serve to connect their local communities. Roads and bridges connecting the cities of Boys State that have long been in use have proved their worth in connecting local communities. While these roads have proved serviceable for well beyond their expected usage when built, service and repair costs for county and city roads in Boys State have increased year after year, and roads go unserviceddue to workforce shortages or budget constraints. Business leaders in your county and city have voiced their concerns that poor local roads make it difficult to bring travelers off the interstates and into their towns, and worry that a critical road or bridge failure could threaten the local economy and their ability to operate. Many concerned citizens of Boys State have expressed their concerns about local transportation systems if road maintenance were to slacken. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of traffic accidents in rural and urban areas decreased by 24%, with a similar decrease in the number of fatal accidents. However the citizen watchdog group, Boys Staters for Safer Municipal Roads, warns that without new or upgraded roads to replace older roads that the number of accidents and fatalities could rise once more as conditions continue to deteriorate. In the past, initiatives to increase funding for road maintenance have met stiff resistance from local taxpayers who believe the current operating budget should be sufficient to replace this vital infrastructure. Local economies depend heavily on the state’s networks of roads and bridges, and the state’s transportation needs will continue to be a vital resource/concern for years to come.
Water and Electricity In many parts of Boys State, necessities such as water and electricity can come at high costs to citizens and infrastructure improvements needed to provide reliable, consistent service a drain on any budget. All counties and cities have the basic infrastructure to provide these services, however there are many ways to accomplish this goal. Rural areas of Kansas are serviced by Rural Water Districts and Electric Co-ops, entities created by government agencies and grants to serve the most isolated parts of Boys State. These grants and acts brought these basic facets of civilization to small towns and farming communities, however in recent times these entities have struggled with the high price of obtaining these resources and the expansion of their own districts stretching the limits of their current infrastructure. Meanwhile at the national level, proposed budget cuts to the USDA threaten Rural Development Grants that many of these local agencies have relied upon to expand and improve their infrastructure in the past leaving a possibly uncertain future to rural populations. Municipalities across Kansas in recent years have faced similar concerns, projects to increase access to these services can require massive construction projects to improve or establish the necessary infrastructure. While the current system is inherently redundant, critical failures can still occur that threaten access to reliable, safe service.
Broadband In an increasingly connected world, economic and educational viability have become ever more tied to faster, more reliable Internet. The gap between faster connection speeds in urban and rural areas contributes to the “Brain Drain” phenomenon in rural areas, and leaves local businesses at a competitive disadvantage to outside companies with better access. Rural customers argue that they have long been underserved by cable companies. Local government officials and their constituents have said for awhile that rural broadband is like rural electrification – it’s a lifeline for small towns that the free market has no interest in providing. However, broadband providers have made legal protests against government backed programs where private providers already operate and have lobbied extensively to cut government broadband initiatives. However, businesses often move to communities with newer fiber networks that aid their ability to compete with their competitors. The cost of installing such fiber networks can be extremely cost prohibitive, and leaving municipalities who choose to install such networks forced to increase county levies or take on heavy debt to make such projects possible and the taxpayer with the bill.
Task: Determine those issues that appear significant to your city and develop actionable experiments to address those challenges. Monitor the progress of these experiments to decide if further action needs to be taken. Experiments may take the form of city ordinances, collaboration between counties and cities on joint measures, or any other measure developed by the city council.