Danedri Thompson
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Several citizens asked questions and commented on the city’s proposed 2014-2019 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), during a Nov. 17 city council work session.
In a warm-up to the quasi-interactive work session, David Warm, executive director of the Mid-America Regional Council, explained that a CIP is simply a plan for investing in capital improvements over time.
“The stakes are just really high,” Warm told the council. “Capital stuff is really expensive and it lasts a long time.”
Warm said the implementation of a capital project typically requires a long lead time. A CIP helps city officials pace large projects out so they city can stay ahead of the game in the long haul.
“(Capital projects) typically will take as much as three years, and sometimes even as long as a decade,” Warm told council.
Gardner’s proposed CIP prioritizes a variety of infrastructure, park and facility improvements worth more than $30 million. Originally slated for approval during an Oct. 20 city council meeting, the 2014-2019 CIP was tabled after citizens requested more time to provide input on the proposal.
Debbie Hickman, Gardner, said more than 30 residents met at two meetings to discuss the CIP. Six representatives from those meetings spoke about proposed 2014 projects during the Nov. 17 work session.
“The citizens, we’re speaking tonight on behalf of the 32 individuals who attended one or both meetings,” she said. “We do not want to imply that we’re speaking for every citizen in Gardner.”
She passed around a handout listing proposed 2014 projects and questions the citizens developed about each improvement.
For example, the proposed CIP recommends adding bullet proof glass to city hall customer service windows. Other upgrades will be required in the future if the city is to continue to make the public building a gun free zone. A recently passed Kansas law requires that concealed license holders be allowed to carry a gun into public buildings unless the buildings are outfitted with metal detectors.
Hickman’s handout questioned the cost and timeline for such projects in the future as the proposed 2014-2019 CIP does not list them.
Bruce Hughes, Gardner, told council the CIP should include more detail. Specifically, he wondered what specific upgrades the city hopes to do in a $50,000 renovation at the Gardner Senior Citizens Building.
“How would the functionality of the center improve with these?” He asked.
The speakers didn’t appear to oppose many of the projects, though they repeatedly requested more details.
Clint Barney, Gardner, said the group agreed that the city’s police station is outdated. The proposed CIP includes a 2015 study for the construction of a future new station.
“If you’ve been there, it’s horrible,” Barney said. However, he wondered what other cities the study would examine and compare to Gardner.
The CIP work session was set for one-hour prior to a city council meeting. After the council meeting adjourned, Mayor Chris Morrow re-opened the work session.
Lee Moore asked questions about utility projects slated for consideration in the 2014-2019 CIP. He said the goal of the residents who met to discuss the CIP was to get more citizen involvement in the process.
“My concern with CIP, I understood it,” Moore said. “I can Google. My concern was I didn’t see a lot of citizen involvement beforehand. I would like to see more community outreach.”
Council members have yet to approve a 2014-2019 CIP.
Hickman said she hoped the council would table approval of the CIP. Citizens plan to continue to meet to discuss other CIP projects, she said.
In year’s past, she said the CIP was considered more of a wish list. However, council will begin funding projects.
“Let’s get it right,” Hickman said.
Newly-appointed council member Todd Winters did not attend the meeting in person, though he listened via telephone until about 8 p.m. when he boarded an airplane.