February 10, 2016

OPINION: Time for council to make definitive decision on public utilities

We’ve said it before.
Do something.
The only way to get out of a hole is to stop shoveling. Yet Gardner continues to dig deeper by underfunding infrastructure, such as water and wastewater. In early 2012 it was estimated that utility was underfunded by $32 million, and that shortfall grows at a rate of 6-8 percent per year.
The city council has been wringing their hands and discussing what to do about the city’s municipal utilities for years. Probably even decades.
But the discussion begins again.
Last week Mayor Chris Morrow provided  council members an informational handout and recommendation to form a joint utility advisory committee.  We appreciate his effort to get the ball rolling, but we’ve seen this all before.
In fact, Morrow was one of the members of the city’s BPU Exploratory Committee which in February 2012 recommended a board – similar to the then-independent Electric Utility Board – oversee electric, water and wastewater. Other members of the BPU Exploratory Committee were Kristy Harrison, council member, and newly appointed EUB board member Lee Moore.
Because the ordinance for the EUB was found to be flawed, the independent board was converted to an advisory board. That’s understandable, the city must work within the parameters of state statute.
What’s less understandable is why – in the nearly two years since the BPU Exploratory Committee report – no steps have been taken to stop the bleeding of funds from water and wastewater. The only “plug” has been to raise the rates for ratepayers by 8 and 11 percent, with ongoing plans to continue increases of up to 12 percent every year in the foreseeable future.
Subsidies for large water users, such as USD 231, continue to distort actual water costs for the average ratepayer, and funds continued to be transferred out of water and wastewater to cover shortfalls in other areas such as the parks department.
. . . . . . And we’ll say it again.
Do something.
Quit talking and take pro-active, concrete steps to properly manage and fund our municipal utilities.


  1. Walter H. says:

    The City Council voted (twice) to move to a BPU…and here we are.

    Paralysis by analysis….welcome to Gardner, KS.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    Take politics out of your city government and stop taking care of the thieves and citizens would benefit. Lack of sound, honest leadership involving your politicians and city administrative staff with integrity abounding has taken its toll here in Gardner for numerous years. Solutions will be painful for all. The PROXIMATE CAUSES of these financial problems are still not identified/discussed and therefore cannot be addressed – until that is done, the struggles will continue and will be expensive for all those who live or have a business in Gardner. Continuous shuffling of funds to put out financial fires is not the answer to having a well run and managed city. Citizens have absolutely got to start recognizing what they are enabling and supporting before any improvements may be made – otherwise it will continue to be the same ole, same ole here in G-Town.

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