October 2, 2014

Citizens pleased with services according to city survey

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
The general public is satisfied with the services the city of Gardner provides, according to preliminary results of the 2011 DirectionFinder survey.
“Your community has always had good services here, and expectations are high,” Karen Falk, project manager for the Etc. Institute, told city council members during a work session June 13.
The institute mailed surveys to a random selection of citizens polling their level of satisfaction with a variety of city services. To date, 571 have been returned. The city last conducted a similar survey in 2009.
Residents generally feel safe within the city as the police department received high satisfaction levels. So did the city’s parks department.
The survey revealed concerns citizens have with the quality of new development in the community, how well the city is planning for growth, and what they’re charged for utilities and taxes.
Falk cautioned council members not to dwell too much on those dissatisfied with charges and costs.
“Anything that’s addressed to finances, this is mirrored in the nation,” Falk said. “That’s what’s happening in the rest of the country.”
Although most survey questions were not specific – respondents were asked instead to rate their level of satisfaction on a scale of one through five – the 2011 questionnaire did include a few specific questions.
For example, one question asked “What is the maximum increases in taxes you would be willing to pay per year to fund projects that would improve the condition of city streets, sidewalks and traffic flow in the city of Gardner?”
Less than half are willing to pay at least $20 more in taxes annually – 19 percent would pay $20; 15 percent would pay $40; and 9 percent would pay up to $80 more each year for the improvements.
Less than one-third, 31 percent, said they wouldn’t be willing to pay any more, and 26 percent responded “don’t know.”
A second question asked whether residents would like to see the city’s annual fireworks display moved to Celebration Park. More than two-thirds of respondents, 68 percent, said Gardner Edgerton High School should continue to host the city’s Fourth of July celebration.
A question about whether residents would be willing to watch a webcast of council meetings drew some debate. More than half, 56 percent, said they would not watch council meetings. Forty-one percent said they would.
Council member Chris Morrow requested that council examine the possibility of podcasting future meetings. Council member Dennis Pugh was adamantly opposed.
Why should we spend funds for something like that when we’re already stretched thin, if less than half of the residents would watch it? he asked.
Morrow told council members he believed podcasting could be achieved with little cost to the city.
In an interview following the meeting, Morrow told The Gardner News that another Direction Finder question suggested that residents would like to be more involved.
Only 44 percent of respondents said they were happy with the level of community participation in city decisions.
“We don’t have enough citizens involved in decision making. I think this could be a tremendous tool to bring some people back to getting involved that might be disenchanted or bring some people in paying attention to specific issues,” he said. “If we can get citizens involved, I think we do it in whatever increments we can and always strive for more.”
He said he believes some form of webcasting could be achieved in a cost-effective manner.
“I would say that something that is inside the spending guidelines for the city administrator, which that’s $5,000 or below. If we end up podcasting, we can do it for significantly less than that,” Morrow said. “Maybe 20 percent of that.”
Falk said the preliminary results of the Direction Finder survey have a four-point margin of error.
When final results are tabulated, she said it should be a three-point margin.

Comments

  1. I am proud of Morrow stepping up to the plate about videotaping all city meetings. I think to get 44% of the people to say they would like to have this service is good considering it was a cold question given to them and probably one they had not thoroughly evaluated. I, too, believe this service would provide an opportunity for citizens to be much more informed as to how their city is run – guess that scares Pugh who was adamantly opposed and I believe loves the status quo cronyism government we have had here in Gardner for years. I know I will continue to ask for this service and think it is a much better use of tax dollars than this asinine survey where another paid consultant tells the city hall bunch just what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Broxterman and Harrison seemed to also have been open to this improved citizen communication – I can only hope 3 Council members will make a needed difference.

    With respect to the upcoming budget here is my e-mail sent to Drovetta and the Council on June 11, 2011. I hope many other citizens will let the Council know, in no uncertain terms, that spending more money than we have has to stop. The city belongs to the citizens – they need to step up the plate and meet their responsibilities too and communication is vital.

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    Council: Here are the city’s mill levies for the past three years as taken from my tax bills:

    2010 – 31.119
    2009 – 24.606
    2008 – 24.108

    The mill levy has continued to increase which means the city continues to spend more money than WE have. That huge increase taken last year of 6.513 mills or any increase has to STOP. You cannot continue down the road of this spending at will and giving the taxpayers a higher tax billl – you are obligated to show some fiscal responsibility and you better have the moral fortitude to do it or you will merely be the instruments to create more financial problems.

    I will be outraged, as many other citizens will be, if you even think of increasing the mill levy again – do your job for which you were elected. I have continued to see one foul-up after another the city has been involved in and I am in no mood to reward performance that is an example of poor management and cronyism government.

    Judith Rogers
    Gardner, Ks.

  2. Jared Taylor says:

    41% of residents said they would watch Council meetings…41%!! In a time when we are getting way less than 40% turnout at the polls this is incrediblly satisying.

    The Council should look at this as an opportunity and a postive. 41% now, think how that could grow. The council spend more then $10k on the survey, surely they can spend $1k or less to podcast city council meetings.

    I just don’t understand why any members of the governing body would be against community involvment. Even if it was 25% that still a great number considering how apathetic americans are when it comes to the political process.

    I really think the podcasting could be done for a lot less then $1k.

  3. The test on whether your elected officials want and believe in open communication with citizens will be made evident when you see whether they fund for video taping of ALL city meetings in the upcoming budget. Actions speak louder than words (especially political words) and we will see what this governing body really stands for when working on this upcoming budget. I have seen them spend thousands and thousands of dollars on useless consultants through the years – I EXPECT them to fund for this service to the citizens.

    I do thank Jared Taylor for pointing out how 44% of the people are wanting this service on a survey of only just a few citizens. This tells me the citizens are quite supportive of the program considering the dismal 10 to 12% of citizens who are voting.

    The other communication improvement that I want to see is the ability of the citizens to comment or ask questions on each new business item after it has been fully discussed by the City Staff and elected officials. Johnson County provides this courtesy to all county citizens and I want the privilege at my city level. Many times after a new business item has been discussed, I have further questions, however, I have been denied the privilege of asking more questions or making further comment before the Council votes on the issues. THIS IS NOT RIGHT – the citizen should always have the right to the final word before a vote is conducted. I remember well one city contract that was being considered and the bid information had not been given by Melissa Mundt who presented the item for consideration and I wanted that information and was waving my hand so I may ask my question but Drovetta fully ignored my plea. The next day I called Melissa Mundt who advised bids had been secured and the Council voted to take the HIGHEST bid with no discussion whatsoever – in my opinion it was rammed thru for a favored party – how do you think those other companies felt who bid in good faith??? How did I feel not being able to have the chance to have all information given to the citizens about an issue? To me any elected official who is adverse to this citizen right is perhaps guilty of not wanting to listen to their constituents and the citizens who own this city or perhaps wants to not be fully forthcoming.

    Again, I want an open and forthcoming government and that begins with the rights of the citizens who the government should be for, by and of. At one of the meetings regarding the intermodal, Mayor Lehman had the audacity to interrupt me while I was speaking to ask me who was I was speaking to since I had merely turned my head toward the audience for a moment and my answer to her was that I was speaking to anyone who cared to listen which most definitely included any and all citizens. This type of arrogance of elected officials does not set well with me and never will but I have seen so much of it here in Gardner and elsewhere it makes me sick and I believe it jeopardizes free speech and the rights of citizens. Those types of intimidation methods are not right, however, Drovetta and others continue down that path to this very day by controlling the agenda and other areas with controlling methods. I do not believe in a dictatorship and will speak out against it every day of the week.

  4. Citizens might be interested in this article about good ole BNSF.

    *********************************************************

    Big Lake, Mo., seeks injunction against railroad, state
    By The Associated Press

    OREGON, Mo. | The northwest Missouri village of Big Lake is seeking an injunction against BNSF Railway and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, claiming the railroad’s raising of its lines in the village is contributing to flooding.
    Most of the nearly 150 residents of the village have evacuated their homes as high waters along the Missouri River move south. The village is prone to flooding during high water, and the injunction was filed before the current evacuation.

    Village residents believe that the raised railroad creates a “bathtub effect” by trapping water, Big Lake attorney Creath Thorne said. Big Lake is also alleging that BNSF did not follow a city ordinance that requires anyone building in the village to conduct a hydraulic study to determine the construction’s effect on flood control, the St. Joseph News-Press reported Friday.

  5. I also wanted to note that isn’t it nice that Big Lake’s city officials AND CITY ATTORNEY work FOR their citizens rather than taking care of good ole BNSF like our city has done on numerous occasions……..their City Hall surely doesn’t have the stench that ours does…….

  6. As a word of warning, you better know how your city is REALLY run as evidenced by he following article.

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    Kern County grand jury urges Maricopa to disincorporate
    The grand jury says the city of 1,154 is in serious financial trouble and lacks the resources to remain a city. A Kern County supervisor says the county could take over — for a price.

    By Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times

    June 10, 2011
    The tiny city of Maricopa turns 100 next month, but whether it makes it to 101 is another story.

    A Kern County grand jury recommended this week that the oilfield community pull the plug on itself.

    In a report titled, “Maricopa, Lots of Past, Any Future?”, the grand jury said that finances in the city of 1,154 have been so bad that an administrator once borrowed money from “private individuals” to meet the payroll.

    Grand jury issues scathing report on Maricopa’s Police Department
    If a majority of the declining town’s residents vote to disincorporate, it would be only the third time in 48 years that a California city has terminated itself.

    Forty miles southwest of Bakersfield, Maricopa was at the epicenter of one of the great American oil booms. For 18 months starting in 1910, oil spewed out of the Lakeview well outside of town, raining down to form a lake and a river eight miles long. In commemoration of that event — the biggest spill in U.S. history — Maricopa’s community center is called Gusher Hall.

    The grand jury first weighed in on Maricopa last week, urging the town to dismantle its Police Department, which it accused of running a speedtrap, improperly confiscating vehicles, losing hundreds of citations and failing to keep track of weapons.

    A police spokesman has said that the charges of mismanagement were overblown and that Maricopa officers enforce the law equitably.

    But this week’s report, released Wednesday, takes much broader aim.

    Maricopa “lacks internal controls over finances,” the grand jury said, and its debt “imperils the future of the community.” Cash is kept in an unsecured desk, records are spotty and past administrators “have misled or failed to inform the council of the true financial state of the city.”

    The city has owed Kern County’s Fire Department nearly $61,000 for more than three years, the report went on. For more than a year, it has owed residents $24 a parcel over an illegal trash fee.

    “As distasteful as the idea may be to some citizens of Maricopa, the city no longer has the resources to maintain the status and duties of an incorporated city,” the panel concluded.

    Councilman Virgil Bell declined to comment on the details, but said he wasn’t a bit surprised.

    Bell served on the council 12 years before being voted out in 2008. He was reelected last year.

    “I was kind of shocked at how screwed up things were,” he said.

    He and Cynthia Tonkin, another longtime former council member reelected in 2010, said some overspending occurred during the tenure of former city administrator Robert Wilburn and his successor, Daniel Ayala, who resigned earlier this year.

    Neither could be reached for comment Thursday.

    Ray Watson, the Kern County supervisor whose district includes Maricopa, said he doubted that any mismanagement was intentional.

    The administrator’s position has been part-time, he said, and the city could seldom afford legal counsel.

    Watson said the county could provide services in Maricopa if residents were to decide they’d had enough of cityhood. The county would pay Maricopa’s $200,000 debt — after selling the city’s few assets and charging property owners “a couple of hundred dollars” per parcel, he said.

    The alternative, he said, could be bankruptcy.

    “It’s sad,” he said. “When you drive down the street almost all the businesses are boarded up. It could be a quaint little place, but investors would want to know that the city was going to be liquid and provide necessary services.”

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