Staffing changes dominated local headlines in 2014, and many of those changes started at the very top.
USD 231 board of education terminated the contract of the top-three administrators of the Gardner Edgerton School District. Board members held-off on extending USD 231 superintendent Bill Gilhaus’ contract in January, only to terminate him at the end of a lengthy meeting in February. A divided board also terminated the contracts of Christy Ziegler, the executive director of educational services, and Lana Gerber, the executive director of administrative services.
At later meetings, board members agreed to pay out remaining contracts of the trio, but the battle may not be over as rumors persist Gilhaus may file suit against the district.
Gardner hired a police chief only to accept the new top law enforcement’s resignation a few months later. Meanwhile, the long-time second-in-command, Captain James Moore, retired. The search to replace former Gardner Police Chief Gerald Cullumber continues.
Long-time principal of Gardner Edgerton High School retired and was replaced. A community development director in Gardner, Mike Hall, served less than two years before departing, while Edgerton added staff.
Edgerton added its first full-time parks and recreation staff and a community development director.
The changes will continue in 2015.
Edgerton officials debate funding road maintenance
Edgerton officials are still trying to work out how they will fund road maintenance on 191st Street and Homestead Lane. The roads were constructed to serve the KC Logistics Hub and BNSF intermodal, and thousands of trucks are expected to use the roads every day once the logistics park is at full capacity.
Johnson County still owns and maintains the $14 million 191st Street, and the Kansas Department of Transportation still owns and maintains Homestead Lane at the interchange.
Edgerton officials are still considering how they’ll fund maintenance on the costly roads in the future.
The state currently offers heavy haul permits for state-owned roads and highways. State permits cost between $25 and $2,000.
Gardner Energy learns it under billed customers
Gardner Energy under billed nine commercial customers by $40,000 last year. Electric utility board members learned during a Jan. 2 meeting that non-residential customers were billed incorrectly in February 2013.
Perkins Restaurant seeks permission to fly giant flag
Perkins Restaurant will open in Gardner in mid-February, however whether the restaurant will be allowed to fly the largest U.S. flag manufactured on a 70-foot-high flag pole is still in question.
Gardner code allows 75-foot-tall signs, but only 45-foot-high flag poles. Perkins owners have requested a variance, but board of zoning appeals members tabled the variance request during a meeting Jan. 7. Though not in the flight path of New Century AirCenter, the flag pole will require a stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Zoning appeals board members asked for FAA approval before making a decision on granting Perkins’ variance request.
Education, healthcare will dominate 2014 session
• School funding
Sen. Julia Lynn said school funding is the elephant in the room this session.
Legislators await a Kansas Supreme Court decision to determine whether lawmakers are adequately funding public schools. Attorneys argued the case before Supreme Court justices in October, but have yet to reach a decision.
• All-day kindergarten
Gov. Sam Brownback announced in December 2013 that he would seek more than $80 million to fund all-day kindergarten programs throughout the state. Currently, all but 15 of the state’s 286 districts offer some form of all-day kindergarten. However, local jurisdictions pick up part of the tab. Under Brownback’s proposal, the state would fund it.
• Common Core Curriculum
Lynn said she anticipates that Common Core legislation will be considered at some point.
Rep. Willie Dove anticipates that KanCare will be a big topic this year.
Legislators are awaiting the results of a trial program that funded disability services through the KanCare program. Disability advocates were hopeful last year that state officials would provide a carve out for long-term support services for the developmentally disabled. Disability advocates wanted those services funded and implemented separately from KanCare, Kansas’ privatized version of Medicaid.
• Voter registration
Democrats are likely to introduce legislation challenging a 2011 law that requires voters show proof of citizenship at the polls.
Smart Warehousing to locate at LPKC
Smart Warehousing Distribution Center will be built at Logistics Park Kansas City (LPKC) near the BNSF Intermodal Facility. In January 2014, NorthPoint Development established a long-term lease with Smart Warehousing for a modern 575,000-plus square-foot distribution center. This distribution center will be known as Inland Port IV.
Low funding may require USD 231 changes
Superintendent Bill Gilhaus told USD 231 board members that a lack of funding may cause challenges for the district in the next year.
Gilhaus gave a presentation to the board during the Jan. 13 meeting. He outlined the district’s accomplishments, future goals and ended on the topic of dollars and cents, or rather, the lack of.
Edgerton woman sentenced to fed pen
An Edgerton woman is headed to federal prison in connection with the death of a 20-year-old man who died from a prescription drug overdose.
Stacy Ashley, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of distributing oxymorphone, a prescription painkiller.
Ahsley admitted that on July 30, 2011, she distributed oxymorphone and amphetamine to the victim resulting in his death. The victim also obtained oxycodone, morphine and alprazolam from co-defendant Tammy Redel.
Edgerton hires first, full-time parks coordinator
The city of Edgerton has hired a full-time Parks and Recreation Coordinator. Tegan Meadors began his duties on Jan. 6.
Board debates changes to its records policy
Public records were again the subject of a lengthy discussion at the Jan. 13 Gardner board of education meeting. Although an exact number of requests made but not paid for under the Kansas Open Records Act was not provided, Monday night’s debate was at least the third such discussion in the last few months.
CenturyLink moves staff from OP to New Century
Overland Park’s loss will be New Century’s gain.
CenturyLink, Inc. told the Kansas City Business Journal that it will relocate 575 of its current employees from two buildings at Interstate 435 and Nall Avenue to New Century AirCenter.
DA investigates alleged KOMA violations
The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office is continuing its investigation and consideration of whether the USD 231 Board of Education violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).
The Gardner News asked the district attorney’s office to investigate two possible KOMA violations at the tail end of 2013.
Council learns EUB format not compliant with state law
The city of Gardner will make it clear to bond investors that it is not in compliance with state law, Laura Gourley, city finance director, told city council members during a meeting Feb. 3.
Officials learned via the city attorney that the ordinance that created the electric utility board (EUB) did not meet some statutory requirements. For example, the ordinance allows members of the EUB to set utility rates, however state law requires that the governing body is responsible for rate setting and other budgetary obligations.
Consultants gather input for Gardner comp plan
Consultants gathered input on Gardner’s new comprehensive plan lin February, hosting workshops with faith leaders, elected officials, the steering committee and residents.
When complete, the comprehensive plan will be used for economic development purposes.
USD 231 to wait on renewing Gilhaus’ contract
Board members will not make a decision about extending Gardner Edgerton USD 231 Superintendent Bill Gilhaus’ contract until May. Gilhaus has a two-year, 10 month contract that expires in 2016. The contract includes an option to extend the contract by one year in March.
However, board members agreed they will delay any discussion about a one-year contract extension until May.
Walmart begins enforcing truck parking rules
Semi-trucks can not park overnight in the Gardner Walmart parking lot. According to Dawn Wheeler, store manager, that’s always been the rule, but until recently it wasn’t enforced.
Police frequently cleared the lot of trucks each day, issuing warnings. This week, police officers, at their discretion, can issue tickets to trucks that overstay their welcome in the large lot.
EUB becomes advisory board
Gardner Energy’s electric utility board (EUB) will become an advisory board, rather than an autonomous board with budget authority.
City council members made the decision after learning their liability insurance provider will not cover individual EUB members, individual city council members or the board itself in the event they are sued.
Spring Hill hires superintendent-in-waiting
At a Feb. 10 meeting, board members unanimously selected Wayne Burke as district superintendent-elect beginning March 1, 2014.
In addition, the board approved Burke to become superintendent, following current superintendent Bart Goering’s official retirement date of June 30, 2015.
GE board terminates superintendent, 2 others
At the close of a lengthy, contentious Feb. 27 meeting, a narrow majority of board members voted to terminate the contracts of Superintendent Bill Gilhaus, Executive Director of Educational Services Christy Ziegler and the Executive Director of Administrative Services Lana Gerber.
Gardner chamber announces name change
The Gardner Area Chamber of Commerce is changing its name. In the future, the chamber will be called the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Johnson County.
Members of the chamber board of directors announced the change during the organization’s annual dinner.
Judges rule school funding is not adequate
In a unanimous decision, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the state of Kansas to provide additional funding to public education. The court ruled that the state’s current base state funding, $3,838 per weighted pupil, is not adequate.
The Supreme Court also ordered the state legislature to fully fund capital outlay aid and supplemental general state aid payments by July 1.
Mayor delivers state of city address
The future is bright for Gardner, Mayor Chris Morrow told a crowd of about 60 people on March 5.
Morrow used his 25-minute speech to outline ways the council and city staff have worked to meet four goals – promoting economic development; improving the quality of life in Gardner; ensuring the maintenance of existing infrastructure; and providing a high level of fiscal stewardship.
Gardner area chamber president steps down
Steve Devore, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, will resign from his post effective March 28.
Devore served as chamber president for five years.
FBI interviews school officials
Federal agents visited with USD 231 administrators, including interim-superintendent Pam Stranathan on March 11. A U.S. Department of Justice official and an official from the Kansas Department of Education signed in as guests at the front office.
A former administrator, who wishes to remain anonymous, confirmed an interview with two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents several months ago. The former administrator said FBI agents asked questions about professional service contracts between the school board and USD 231.
Board hires Meyer to replace Brady
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Mark Meyer, the incoming principal at Gardner Edgerton High School.
Meyer is a 1989 graduate of GEHS. School board members hired Meyer to replace outgoing GEHS principal Tim Brady. Brady now works as a district administrator for the Olathe School District.
Apple steps down from state senate
Sen. Pat Apple, who represents the southern part of Gardner and Edgerton in the Kansas Legislature, will take a new role in Topeka. Gov. Sam Brownback named Apple to the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) on March 24. The three members of the KCC provide regulatory oversight of natural gas, electricity, telephone and transportation vendors in the state.
Once confirmed, Apple will step down from his seat in the Kansas Senate.
Chamber loses non-profit tax status
The Southwest Johnson County Chamber of Commerce may no longer be a non-profit organization.
Chamber officials have not filed the form used by the Internal Revenue Service to designate tax-exempt organizations since 2009.
Resident asks council member to resign
Gardner resident Rich Melton told the city council that one of its members no longer lived in town. Melton didn’t name names, but he said that council member should resign.
Records show that council member Larry Fotovich closed on the purchase of a home in Olathe in December. His Gardner home is on the market.
State freight committee begins meetings
No one from the city of Edgerton earned an appointment to Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Mike King’s recently-formed Freight Advisory Committee.
However, Edgerton City Administrator Beth Linn and Edgerton Mayor Don Roberts attended the first meeting of the committee on April 2 in Topeka.
Legislators approve budget that increase school aid
Kansas legislators approved a budget that increases base state aid per pupil and adds an additional $129 million to public schools to equalize disparities between wealthier and poorer school districts.
USD 231 will see approximately $152,000 in additional state funding next year. Meanwhile, USD 230 will receive an extra $79,000. The increases amount to less than a 1 percent increase in the school districts’ budgets.
USD 231 board censures member for ethics violation
The USD 231 Board Of Education publicly censured veteran board member James Repshire for violating a board ethics policy. Board members specifically cited the work his company, J. R. Electric, performed for the school district as the issue. Although the action of censure, an official statement of disapproval, will appear in the meeting minutes, it carries no legal weight and does not affect the member’s ability to remain on the board as a voting member.
Baumgardner replaces Apple in state senate
Molly Baumgardner was elected as Senator during a Republican Replacement Convention at Spring Hill High School on April 21. Baumgardner replaces Sen. Pat Apple, a Louisburg Republican who represents part of Gardner and all of Edgerton.
Eighty-five precinct committee men and women voted on Apple’s replacement, with 50 voters choosing Baumgardner and 35 casting votes for Charlotte O’Hara, a former state representative.
Construction on Edgerton quiet zone complete
All-new concrete medians between driving lanes have been added in recent days on both sides of the South Poplar Street railroad grade crossing that serves the entrance to Gardner Cemetery. The medians have been installed in conjunction with a soon-to-be designated quiet zone for trains on the BNSF Railway. Once the crossing is certified by the Federal Railroad Administration, trains will no longer sound their horns at this crossing unless an engineer sees workmen, pedestrians or a motor vehicle possibly posing an immediate danger.
Sheriff threatens to seek court order over funding
Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning warned the Johnson County Board of Commissioners that he may seek a court order for additional funding for the sheriff’s department.
Denning sent a letter dated May 21 to county commissioners after they tabled a proposal to add 20 civilian staff and 22 deputies to sheriff’s department during a May 15 meeting.
“As you are well aware, our funding and staffing requests have been largely unmet for at least six years,” Denning wrote in his letter to commissioners.
Police chief resigns
Gardner Police Chief Gerald Cullumber has resigned, city administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee announced at the tail end of a June 2 city council meeting.
Harrison-Lee did not offer further explanation, but said the resignation was effective immediately. Cullumber did not attend the meeting.
Cullumber was a few week’s shy of his one-year anniversary as Gardner Chief of Police. He replaced former Chief Ken Francis, who died in August of 2012.
Zoning board recommends approval of asphalt plant
Members of the Southwest Johnson County Consolidated Zoning Board are recommending that the county board of commissioners approve a conditional-use permit for an asphalt and concrete plant near Edgerton. The portable plants would be leased by Bettis Asphalt & Construction and located on 16 acres in the 160-acre Mid-States Ventures’ rock quarry at 20125 Sunflower Road. Edgerton residents said they did not know about the zoning board meeting or the plan to build an asphalt plan so close to city limits.
Kim Smith, Edgerton, said her father who lives nearby has chronic obstructed pulmonary disorder (COPD).
“I can only imagine what this plant is going to do to him,” Smith said.
Belcher to serve as interim-police chief
Sgt. James Belcher will serve as acting captain of the Gardner Police Department, after chief Gerald Cullumber’s June 2 resignation.
Feds reject Edgerton’s quiet zone application
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) did not approve recent safety measures installed at 199th Street and Nelson Street at-grade rail crossings in Edgerton, city administrator Beth Linn told city council members during a meeting on June 12.
Without the FRA’s approval, trains will continue to blow their whistles at the crossings. City officials hoped the recent improvements at the crossings would create quiet zones where the train crosses the city streets.
Utility rates increase in Gardner
Water and wastewater rates are set to increase. Gardner finance director Laura Gourley presented portions of a proposed 2015 budget to the city council on July 7.
The proposal included an 8 percent water rate increase and a 4 percent wastewater rate hike. The increases amount to about 20 cents per day or $6 a month for the average Gardner consumer.
The city has increased utility rates for the last several years attempting to catch up from years of flat rates.
County sends asphalt decision back to zoning
By unanimous decision, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners chose to refer the request for a conditional use permit (CUP) for an asphalt and concrete plant and related auxiliary operations back to the zoning board for further study and review. Bettis Asphalt & Construction, Inc., the applicant, proposes the project at the existing quarry located at 20125 Sunflower Road, just barely outside the Edgerton city limit.
Wiseman resigns from Edgerton council
Edgerton City Council member Heidi Wiseman announced her resignation from the governing body, effective July 25. Wiseman, an Edgerton resident since 2000, has served on the city council for five years. She began her second term in April, 2013.
Zoning approves asphalt permit for 2nd time
Despite a request from Edgerton officials to table discussion of a proposed asphalt and concrete plant near Edgerton city limits, members of the Southwest Johnson County Consolidated Zoning Board, for a second time, forwarded a recommendation to approve a conditional use permit for the plant to the county commission.
Gardner hires consultants to assist in chief search
The city of Gardner hired The Mercer Group to complete the recruitment process for the Chief of Police position.
The recruitment process should take approximately three-to-four months and will include position analysis, a recruitment process, resume review, candidate screening, background investigations, and negotiation and follow-up.
Gardner drops tax rate, increases utility rates
Gardner residents will likely pay a city lower tax rate in 2015 than they did in 2014. During an Aug. 11 work session, council members appeared to reach a consensus for a 2015 budget that will drop rates by approximately 1.728 mills.
It will save the owner of approximately $33.19 annually. Those savings will be offset by increased water and wastewater rates. Under the proposed budget, water rates will increase by 8 percent and wastewater rates will increase by 4 percent. The upped rates will amount to about 20 cents per day, or $6 more per month for the average Gardner consumer. Electric rates will remain flat.
Teacher’s union lawsuit hopes to block state law
The state’s largest teacher’s union filed a lawsuit to block a portion of a state law that ended tenure for public teachers.
Specifically, the Kansas National Educator’s Association alleges that the law, passed in the waning days of the 2013 legislative session, violates a section of the Kansas Constitution which prohibits bills from containing more than one subject.
Little People’s daycare closes unexpectedly
Several Gardner parents are scrambling this week after learning that Little People’s Place Child Development Center closed its doors on Aug. 20.
Dave Miller, managing owner, said that a construction defect in the building caused mold to grow inside of the daycare walls.
Miller said the mold is not airborne, but repairing the damage would require opening the walls, possibly sending the mold into the air. The center is located at 125 N. Moonlight Road.
Troutner replaces Wisemen on council
There’s a new face on the Edgerton City Council.
The group approved the appointment of Charlie Troutner to a seat left vacant by Heidi Wiseman’s departure. Wiseman announced her resignation, which was effective July 25, in late June.
Edgerton holds tax rate steady in 2015 budget
Most city of Edgerton departments will spend less money in 2015 than they will in 2014, Beth Linn, city administrator, told members of the city council on Aug. 14.
Council members approved a 2015 budget that maintains the current mill levy of 36.922 mills.
For the owner of a $105,000 Edgerton home, the tax rate translates into an annual tax bill of approximately $446. Though the tax rate is holding steady, the mean value of an Edgerton home has increased.
City pays final construction bills for failed quiet zone
Edgerton will pay final bills for a project to create a quiet zone at the railroad crossing at Nelson Street, despite the finished product’s failure to meet federal guidelines for a quiet zone.
Curb median for safety, not beauty
It’s for safety, not beauty. That’s the explanation on a curb and median-type structure built along the south side of Main Street.
Residents knew that a project to expand the Main Street and Center Street intersection would result in fewer street parking spaces downtown. However, there may have been some confusion as to exactly how and why the spaces would be eliminated.
Several Main Street spaces in front of Metcalf Bank will become actual roadway, or part of a traffic lane. Further east, five spots are now taken up by a median-type structure.
Commission continues asphalt plant request
Members of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners continued for 30 days a request for a conditional use permit (CUP) to construct a portable asphalt and concrete plant within the confines of the rock quarry near Edgerton.
Gardner approves comprehensive plan
Gardner City Council members approved two documents that will be used to shape the future of the community last week.
During a Sept. 15 meeting, the council adopted a comprehensive plan and an economic development strategy.
The comprehensive plan is the result of more than a year-long process to draft a document designed to tell the story of where Gardner has been and where it hopes to be 20 years from now.
County delays asphalt decision again
For a second time, Johnson County commissioners delayed a decision to grant or deny a conditional-use permit for a proposed asphalt plant near Edgerton. During a Sept 25 meeting, commissioners agreed to postpone a decision until Edgerton community members and representatives from Bettis Asphalt & Construction sit down and discuss the proposal.
Fotovich resigns from Gardner council
Larry Fotovich has tendered his resignation from the Gardner City Council, effective Sept. 26.
“Due to the sale of my home, I am no longer able to meet the residency requirements necessary to continue to serve as a council member,” Fotovich wrote in an email to Mayor Chris Morrow and Council President Kristina Harrison.
GE, SH school districts add students
USD 230 and USD 231 have more students this year than they did last year. The Spring Hill School District added 97 students this year – or grew by approximately 3.9 percent. The Gardner Edgerton School District added 210 students, or grew by approximately 3.7 percent.
State announces decision to build transloading facilities
The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is working to identify locations for transloading facilities. According to a KDOT press release, transloading is “the process of moving goods from one mode of transportation to another, or in this case, from truck to rail and rail to truck.”
State officials won’t say who would fund such a facility or what is driving the state’s desire to find potential locations for such a facility. A transloading facility could be publicly or privately funded.
Asphalt company meets with Edgerton residents
“Building the future of tomorrow, one road at a time,” was the message Bettis Asphalt and Construction used as a greeting to those who attended an Oct. 15 neighborhood pubic meeting in Edgerton.
8 apply to replace Fotovich
There are eight applicants to replace city council member Larry Fotovich.
Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow said when the deadline passed on Oct. 20, he had eight contenders for the vacant seat. They include Clinton Barney, Shawn Carlise, Cara Duchesne, Randy Gregorcyk, Carrisa Headley, Steve McNeer, Lee Moore and Todd Winters.
Asphalt company withdraws permit request
Bettis Asphalt and Construction has withdrawn a request for a conditional-use permit to build and operate a temporary plant at the rock quarry near Edgerton.
Johnson County Commission Chair Ed Eilert told a small crowd that the withdrawn request should signal the end of the asphalt plant controversy.
However, Bettis officials could re-file a permit request at any time.
Winters replaces Fotovich on Gardner council
Todd Winters will serve out the remainder of Larry Fotovich’s term on the Gardner City Council. His term expires in April 2015.
Council members selected Winters, a former council member and chiropractor, after a lengthy, public interview process during a Nov. 3 meeting.
Republicans sweep Gardner, Edgerton races
Television pundits called it a Republican wave as the GOP took majority control of the U.S. Senate on Election night.
Key among Republican seat-takers was U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts who easily retained his office, despite a strong independent challenger, Greg Orman. Statewide, Republicans maintained control of all four of its U.S. Congressional seats, including Rep. Kevin Yoder, who represents the Third District and Gardner and Edgerton.
The strong currents carried several local politicians to victory.
Voters returned Reps. Willie Dove and Bill Sutton, both Republicans, to office in Topeka.
Ed Eilert will continue in his role of Johnson County Board of Commission Chair.
Edgerton hires community development director
The city of Edgerton has hired a community development director. Officials named that Kenneth Cook will step into the role on Nov. 12.
The job will entail managing all aspects of community development and planning for the city, including planning at the Logistics Park-Kansas City.
Gardner debates its capital improvement program
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.”
Upgrades begin at train crossing for 2nd time
Construction is set to begin today, Nov. 19, on upgrades to railroad quiet zones in Edgerton.
Last spring, contract workers completed improvements to create quiet zones at railroad crossings at 199th Street and at Nelson Street in Edgerton. With the improvements, officials were hopeful that trains would no longer need to regularly sound their horns within city limits.
However, the Federal Railroad Administration notified Edgerton officials that the improvements did not meet federal requirements to establish quiet zones at the at-grade rail crossings.