No decision yet on street fundraising

What to do with fundraising at Wichita's intersections is headed for a third round.

For the second time in two months, the City Council declined to accept a police-recommended ban of intersection fundraising and deferred the topic until March 1.

The council unanimously supported Sue Schlapp's motion to use the next two weeks to see whether a compromise can be reached that would address safety concerns and the needs of nonprofits.

"I always appreciate a challenge," Police Deputy Chief Terri Moses told the council, "but this one is a doozy."

A temporary moratorium on intersection fundraising will continue through March 1.

"There's no question we have a safety issue," Schlapp said, "and we have to resolve it."

While police recommended a total ban — just as it had on Dec. 14 when the topic was deferred to Tuesday — the department also presented the council with an optional ordinance.

Some of the new rules included requiring all soliciting groups to be 501(c)(3) nonprofits, show proof of liability insurance and make application at least five days in advance of its fundraising.

But none of the items addressed safety, the core of the argument for a total ban, Moses said.

Schlapp, however, said she has come up with her own list of ideas that need to be considered.

"I think there are ways we can be so restrictive that we wouldn't have many of these (groups fundraising at intersections)," she said. "I don't think we have hit them all."

She suggested one additional restriction would be to not allow fundraising at some of the busiest and accident-prone intersections.

Moses said all the restrictions that were applicable and legal were included in the optional ordinance.

Accidents or injuries that occur during intersection fundraising are anecdotal, Moses said, because the city's database doesn't track such information.

Two of the three intersections — Central and Rock Road and Central and Ridge Road — with the highest number of accidents and largest traffic volume are on the 42 intersections the city has approved for fundraising, Moses said.

She said intersections are much larger and busier than they were in 2000 when Wichita began allowing fundraising in the streets.

The United Way of the Plains backed the proposed total ban.

"We have noticed over the years that with larger intersections there is more danger," said Pat Hanrahan, the organization's president.

He said his group has raised as much as $32,000 since it began annual fundraising at intersections in 2003.

"No matter what amount of money you raise it's not worth the injury or potential death of a donor or volunteer," Hanrahan said.

Two organizations, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, were there to support the deferral.

"I think there's a way we can work something out," said Rocky Bumgarner, president of the local firefighter's union. Since 1954, firefighters across the country have been helping the MDA with a "Fill the Boot" campaign each Labor Day weekend.

Firefighters raised $50,000 for the Ark Valley MDA in Wichita last Labor Day weekend, said Darrell Smith, MDA's regional director in Kansas City.

MDA officials have said their fundraising would be cut 70 to 90 percent if firefighters weren't allowed to collect at intersections.

The optional ordinance with more restrictions came out of a stakeholders meeting, including MDA, that was held last month.

Although that ordinance wasn't discussed Tuesday, Smith said he was interested in that proposal "to create some structure and some guidance and give an opportunity for bona fide organizations that are safe, courteous and professional."

After the meeting, Smith noted that Tulsa allows intersection fundraising when it is conducted by public safety personnel, such as firefighters and police.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Wichita raises $40,000 to $50,000 from its two intersection fundraising events each year, said Mary Hindle, the group's campaign manager.

Moses noted that only a small percentage of the nonprofits in the area do fundraising in the intersections. Of more than 1,400 nonprofits in Sedgwick County, only 23 have sought a permit to do intersection fundraising over the past decade, she said.

Another 15 out-of-state groups have solicited donations at Wichita intersections over the same period, Moses said.

While she was hoping to get the matter resolved Tuesday, Moses said after the meeting she would meet with Schlapp and look at her list of ideas.

"The ultimate issue is to get it right," Moses said.

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