Chris Morrow
Guest Columnist
This is the second citywide campaign I’ve been involved in over the past two years, and I am happy and excited to be a candidate for Mayor of Gardner. The best part of campaigning, and serving our citizens, has been talking and interacting with our fine Gardner residents. Our citizens have told me issues that are important to them, and my priorities have been determined accordingly.
First and foremost the cost of services to our residents through utility rates and property tax rates must be reasonable and contained. Increases in recent years have cost residents about $375 per year in utilities and taxes.
In 2009, Gardner Energy and the Electric Utility Board were established, and electric rates have remained steady ever since, and by contract, will remain so well into the future. A recent rate comparison indicates that Gardner’s electric rates are nearly 9 percent less than KCP&L. Our water and wastewater utilities if run in a similar, businesslike manner will yield much better results and stabilized rates. This can be accomplished with a disciplined, commonsense approach, not through delayed maintenance and political posturing. An expanded utility board could well be the mechanism that makes this possible. Our water rates have increased an average of 5.25 percent and wastewater 8.25 percent per year over the course of the past four years, all told costing the average ratepayer over $250 per year more in 2013 than 2009.
In 2011 our property tax rate increased 26 percent, quite unnecessarily. This cost the average household in Gardner about $125 per year in property taxes, and Gardner businesses much more than that. The governing body should have challenged city staff to do better. More research on where to cut expenses, and more accurate revenue forecasting was required and could have been accomplished. It would have saved our residents the unnecessary increase and provided a much more accurate budget. Experience shows our outstanding city staff responds well when challenged.
Our residents tell me they want more information about what is going on in the City. We can get them all the information they want, using not just traditional methods, but also text messaging, and more email and social media options. I believe Gardner could benefit from being the best informed city in Johnson County.
Gardner citizens also want to know about what the future holds, what our vision or plan for the future will contain. We owe our citizens action and answers on our plan for the future.  Including how we will grow local businesses, attract new business, and private sector jobs. They also want results from our economic development partners. We must work with them, they must work for us, and we need to see results from our investment with them, or identify new partners.
One thing I have heard, repeatedly, is that Gardner citizens don’t want any more negative stories in the press. Bad decisions, cursing in council meetings, fighting, intemperance in all its forms, and open meeting violations must be things of the past.
All of these things and more can be accomplished, together, if you Vote Morrow for Mayor on April 2nd.
Editor’s note: All Gardner council and mayoral candidates were given the opportunity to write a guest column.