Danedri Thompson
Members of the Gardner City Council approved a state legislative agenda that asks state legislators to relocate the weigh station east of the city on Interstate 35 and advocates on a number of other public policy issues.
The agenda that council members unanimously approved during a Jan. 3 meeting includes more than a dozen items on which the city has taken an official stance.
At the top of the agenda list is the opposition to any laws that would directly or indirectly limit a city’s annexation and eminent domain rights.
The items include objections to changes in state annexation laws that would “limit the authority of cities to grow in a planned and reasonable fashion which promotes the health, safety and welfare of all parties.”
Mayor Dave Drovetta said the city’s official position advocates for the status quo on annexation.
“We are not asking that they change anything,” he said. “Just leave it alone.”
Annexation was one of several items in which city officials will ask that the
Legislature maintain existing laws. For example, several agenda items request that state funding that is typically passed to municipalities, like Special Highway revenues, continues to flow to cities.
City officials also advocate for the status quo in open meetings and open records laws.
“These laws should not be unduly burdensome,” the agenda reads. “State open records laws should balance the public’s right of access with the necessity of protecting the privacy of individual citizens and the ability of public agencies to conduct their essential business functions.”
The city officially will advocate on a number of tax and revenue issues. For example, the city’s agenda requests that destination-based sales taxes continue. Assistant City Administrator Melissa Mundt explained how the tax works and said the tax is helpful for growing communities like Gardner.
“When somebody buys something in another town, and has it delivered here, we get the sales tax,” she told council members.
The agenda opposes any spending or taxing lids, unfunded mandates, and legislation that would eliminate the local option provision in the Kansas Public Employer Relations Act. That law allows local governments to determine whether unions can form.
Council member Steve Hale said many of the items on the city’s agenda are vague. The most specific requests are related to transportation issues. The agenda requests funding for capacity improvements at Gardner’s 175th Street-I-35 interchange as well as capacity upgrades, or a third lane, for I-35 south between the Lone Elm interchange to the Johnson County line. The city also requests assistance in relocating the existing weigh station just east of Gardner on I-35.
In addition to the agenda Mundt proposed to the council, Drovetta requested that another item be tacked onto the list. He asked that the city oppose any expansion of the state’s conceal and carry laws. Specifically, he said legislators last year shot down legislation that would’ve required concealed weapons be permitted in city hall and on public-funded college campuses unless cities utilized metal detectors at entrances.
“The theory is we would be better protected if everyone was armed,” Drovetta said.
Council members agreed that conceal-and-carry laws should be limited and added the item to the city’s official stance.
Mundt said in the past the city has offered more extensive requests in its legislative agenda.
“We tried to be as conservative as we could,” Mundt said. “We have a lot of wants, but the state has a lot of problems.”
In other business, the council:
• Approved a 2011 payment of $25,000 to the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation. In 2010, the city paid the development corporation $50,700.
• Approved a 2011 payment of $20,000 to the Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce. The city provides funding for the Chamber through transient guest taxes – or hotel taxes. Last year, the city paid the Chamber $20,000.
• Approved the sale of 112 S. Elm Street for $100,000. Initially, the city offered the former city hall building and more-recent Multi-Service Center building for sale for $150,000. City officials agreed to drop the price to $120,000 at one point. Several weeks ago, the city entertained leasing the building. However those plans were put on hold when a buyer made an offer of $100,000 to purchase the building. The city will retain ownership of the adjacent parking lot minus two spaces that will be included in the purchase.
The city will net approximately $93,000 from the sale. Last August, officials budgeted for a $90,000 profit from its sale in the 2011 budget.
• Approved a conceptual layout and date for Festival on the Trails in 2011. The festival will be June 11, 2011.