February 9, 2016

City council assesses, realigns its staffing needs; adds two employees

Danedri Thompson
Gardner City Council members approved a plan to realign city staff. Under the proposal, the city will add two employees and shifting some staff responsibilities in order to conduct city business more effectively.
“In some departments, we’re putting out fires,” city administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee said. “And there are things that citizens should be able to walk-in and get, but they’re not able to due to time constraints.”
Council member Kristina Harrison listed a lengthy wait for building permit approval as an example.
Mary Bush, Gardner’s human resource manager, presented a review of the city staffing and salary comparisons to council members at a Dec. 3 meeting.
Gardner has fewer staff members compared to other cities of similar size, according to the human resource review.
Locally, Belton, which boasts a population of more than 23,000, has 185 employees, and Gladstone, with more than 25,000 residents, has 199 employees. Gardner, which topped 19,000 residents according to the 2010 U.S. Census, has 101 employees.
Gardner also has a smaller workforce than cities of similar size beyond the Kansas City Metropolitan area. For example, McPherson, Kan., has a population of more than 13,000 and 100 employees, while Garden City, Kan., boasts more than 26,000 residents and 305 employees.
“We’re not going to ask you tonight to add another 100 or even 20 employees,” city administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee told the council. “I would ask you to allow us to realign some assets.”
The city’s staffing numbers peaked at 128 in 2009, and has steadily declined since then. Bush said in addition to examining where the city has been, it’s important to look at where we’re going.
Since 1980, the city has doubled in size every 10 years.
“If you take that assumption, in 2020, we’d be just shy of 40,000 people,” Bush said.
Cities of that size have even more employees. For example, there are more than 35,000 people in Leavenworth and 342 city employees. Leawood, with a population of more than 32,000, has 252 employees.
“As part of the assessment, we asked each department to provide an overview of the tasks they performed last year,” Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator, explained.
It isn’t just a matter of full-time-equivalent employees, council member Harrison said. Council should also examine funding projects for additional employees to do.
“As we start to think about visioning, we have to start to think about how we’re going to fund that plan,” Harrison-Lee said.
She estimated that the changes to staff responsibilities will net about $20,000 in savings annually.
Larry Fotovich voted against the realignment of the city’s human resources.
“I find it hard to digest without information about why some departments are shrinking and others are growing,” Fotovich said.
However, council member Heath Freeman supported the proposal because he said he trusts the city administration.
“As we looked at this process, it’s time for us to put the trust in our staff,” Freeman said. “They came back with a comprehensive review like we asked. This is going to make things more efficient and not cost us money.”
In other business, the city council:
• passed a salary ordinance that includes a 3 percent market adjustment for city employees.
• authorized staff to make an offer and negotiate for the purchase of property easements related to the Big Bull Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
• accepted easements from several property owners for the White Drive sanitary sewer project.
•  adopted a policy for the sale of surplus city real property.
• approved a final plat for the USD 231 new middle school and elementary school campuses.


  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Here are two e-mails I sent yesterday to the Gardner City Mgr. and Council. I will advise citizens if I get the written report I requested.

    I do request to be provided with the written Human Resources Review that was presented to the Council last evening. I am disappointed that I have to ask for this written report since I believe it should have been provided for the citizens along with the agenda.

    Judith Rogers
    Gardner, Ks.


    Ms. Harrison-Lee: In the discussion of the salary ranges and compensation I do not feel myself as a citizen have I been provided with the information that the Council members received and the matter was not clear to me. Are you implementing new positions and if so, what are they and what salary ranges will they be in and what is the reasoning/need involved? What was the final salary ranges and compensation that the Council approved? I was certainly glad to see Councilman Fotovich asking for more transparency/clarity/justification and most disappointed to see the majority of the Council NOT providing the needed oversight and justification for changes requested. I believe responsible citizen representatives should know exactly what they are voting for along with the citizens and the reasons behind the requested changes, additions, etc. – it is called OVERSIGHT which is so needed by citizens across the U.S. Voting for some ordinance and not knowing the full information/reasons/motivation behind the request for the ordinance is poor representation in my opinion. You have to know why and for what reasons you are voting for something and if you don’t have the full information, etc., then you should vote NO in order to protect the citizens but four Council members evidently don’t feel that way and for that reason I could not vote for them to protect my interests. Once again I see the rubber stamp being utilized rather than sound decisions being made based on solid reasons, information, criteria, etc. and the citizens not being included in the communication loop as they should be is another shortcoming. A responsible citizen also should provide the needed oversight since it is THEIR government but that oversight cannot be accomplished if total information/education is not provided to them and the same goes for Council members and to me most of them are failing in their responsility in this area. You don’t just trust, you also verify and do your research. Time and time again I have had a state representative and/or senator tell me they don’t even know what they are voting for when they vote on a particular bill – most of them don’t even read or fully understand a bill they vote on and that is why we have such damn poor government at every level in the U.S. since this is going on from the local level all the way up to the federal level – that is my opinion.

    I will appreciate receiving the detailed information I have requested on this most important issue.

    Judith Rogers
    Gardner, Ks.


    I have a gut feeling it was the plan to discuss this important issue in closed executive session and not in the Open Meeting as it was and should have been seeing how they adjusted the agenda at the last minute. I think someone FORCED the jaybirds to do the right thing which is another sad fact if I am correct. It will all come out in the wash as it always does because the TRUTH always rises to the top but perhaps not as quickly as it should.


    Another issue that disturbed me so was the high employee turnover that the city of Gardner has. Mgr. Bush inferred the reason employees leave is for higher pay. I do not believe that for a minute. But the majority of the Council sure ran with that explanation. A disgruntled employee leaves because of other reasons other than just pay. Another plug for increasing pay but not a justified or documented reason for doing so.


    The majority of this Council continues to operate utilizing the rubber stamp and in my opinion the citizens will continue to suffer the results of poor management and government utilizing this poor method of government. Politics, baby, politics…………..citizens don’t and aren’t getting public servants and representatives – they are getting politicians and citizens pay a damn high price for this type of government along with many other adverse affects.

    I watched 1 hour and 24 minutes of that Council meeting yesterday. Today or sometime soon I will have to hold my nose and watch the rest of the meeting to do my duty as a responsible citizen but it sure won’t be pleasant. The bar is set so low, a cockroach could jump over it.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    Here are two examples of how rubber stampers can play havoc to your financial security. With friends like Brownback, you sure don’t need to worry about having enemies. Cronyism government is killing the average citizens and they are bringing the adverse results and suffering on themselves by enabling and supporting so many of these slimy jaybird politicians. Lose millions and billions of tax revenue year after year taking care of these thieves via corrupt, worthless politicians and the price is going to be ever increasing for you. Elections, voter and citizen apathy, dishonesty, cronyism, etc., etc. do have CONSEQUENCES.


    I will post the additional link below.

  3. Judith Rogers says:
  4. Judith Rogers says:

    Want to know how the robber barons were coaching, clubbing and living about 100 years ago??? Go to http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/1908816 for some interesting history. We still have the robber barons among us………some things never change – the toys are just different but the good ole average citizen is still struggling and wishing they would win the lottery which, in reality, may not be a blessing.


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