October 25, 2014

Gardner council inks deal with fire, police merger; applies for funds for Main, Center Street improvements

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

Gardner City Council members gave their approval on an application for state funds to make improvements to the intersection at Main and Center Streets Oct. 18. The proposed improvements include adding east and west turn lanes on Main Street and north and south turn lanes on Center Street.

If the Kansas Department of Transportation approves the application, they will fund construction of the improvements through a reimbursement program up to $1 million. The city of Gardner will fund engineering, purchasing right-of-way land, and utility movement, or approximately $345,000. By approving the application, the council agreed to commit funds if KDOT selects the project.

According to David Green, public works director, the majority of the city’s funding share would be derived from the special highway taxes.
KDOT will announce its list of projects to be funded through the U.S. 56 Highway Corridor Management Program no later than Feb. 1, 2011. Planning for the project would begin in 2012 with construction to start in 2013.

Mayor Dave Drovetta worried that the construction start date would coincide with the anticipated opening of the intermodal facility. He asked if the construction schedule could be delayed or flexible toaccommodate intermodal traffic. However, Green said the funding application specifies the timeline.

The project will result in a loss of parking spaces in front of city hall as a new turn lane is constructed on westbound Main Street.

“It’s a wonder somebody’s door hasn’t been clipped already,” Council member Steve Hale said.

In other business, the mayor proclaimed that Gardner’s name will be changed to ESPN, Kan. on Oct. 22 in conjunction with the Gardner Edgerton High School football team’s ESPN-University channel debut. The squad’s game against league rival St. Thomas Aquinas will be broadcast on the national sports network.

The council, in other business:

• agreed to contract city fire services from Johnson County Fire District No. 1. The agreement will separate fire services from Gardner’s Public Safety Department. Under the terms, the fire district will pay the remaining debt service on some of the city’s fire equipment and on the fire house at 183rd Street.

According to City Administrator Stewart Fairburn, the contracted services will save the city approximately $50,000 in 2011. The three-year contract is renewable in one-year increments at its end.

Council members have stated a goal of consolidating the services, but Fairburn said due to different fire safety mill levies – the city’s mill is lower than the fire district’s – it would be difficult without an increase in Gardner rates.

The contract allows for consolidation to occur when the mill rates for fire safety are more similar.

•approved an abatement policy that makes 60 percent tax abatements the norm rather than the city’s current policy of 50 percent abatements. The policy also would allow other development fees to be reduced or waived. The policy will sunset on Dec. 31, 2012.

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