Danedri Thompson
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Although marked with tragedy and political anxiety, there were positive signs in Gardner in 2010, Mayor Dave Drovetta told Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce members during his annual State of the City address on Jan. 11.
Drovetta said when he addressed a similar audience at the start of 2010, the community was ushering in a new decade.
“The new decade began with a recall election,” he said. “We’re all aware of the outcome of that.”
He thanked appointed council members Brian Broxterman, Kristina Harrison and Dan Newburg for their service and said the first challenge last year was the city’s fiscal situation.
Council members eliminated six city staff positions, froze pay and reduced staff numbers through attrition.
“While positions were eliminated, the work has not,” he said.
In the face of fewer staff members, employees reorganized departments and aggressively cut spending.
“And yet, we still found ourselves with a (budget) gap that needed to be addressed,” Drovetta said.
That lead to a  property tax increase. It’s implementation required leadership and courage. Council members plan to sunset the increase by 2017, he said.
Despite a challenging fiscal year, there were bright spots including housing start numbers that place Gardner’s growth at sixth in the region.
“They’re not a return to previous levels of growth, but it is a positive indication,” he said.
The Coleman warehouse facility celebrated its grand opening in 2010, and Casey’s General Store is considering a new shop on 183rd Street.
BNSF also issued its notice to proceed on the intermodal project in Edgerton.
“We expect construction will begin soon on that project,” he told the audience.
In preparation, the council passed storage container codes and debated annexation boundaries with the city of Edgerton. Those talks are ongoing.
Additionally, he said council members, with the help of a newly-formed committee, adopted design standards. The standards, he said, will help the design and review of new projects.
“Again in 2010, we continued enhancing our highly-regarded parks and recreation programs,” he said.
The Kansas City Hot Air Balloon Fest brought more than 30,000 visitors to town, and Drovetta said several ball tournaments were hosted at Celebration Park.
“These types of events translate into dollars for our community,” he explained.
He also cited a seamless transition as Gardner Public Safety merged its fire services with Johnson County Fire District No. 1 as a highlight.
The community also saw tragedy. He cited the deaths of three Gardner-Edgerton district students in separate traffic accidents. The tragedies brought television crews to town looking for a story.  He said the story the news crews reported is that Gardner is a city of compassion.
Citizens again showed their compassion when city hall took over the Christmas adoption program. More than 200 children used the program, and city officials raised $30,000.
“When you give Gardner a challenge, our people really come through,” he said.
Finally, he said city officials adopted vision and mission statements that future councils can use to make decisions.
“They can use these principles rather than personal agendas to move the community forward,” he said.
In 2010, Drovetta concluded his speech by saying a bird sings before dawn knowing that the sun will rise.
“We are now beginning to see the sun lighten the horizon,” he said.