By Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Increased efficiencies, decreased taxes and rebates for energy efficient appliances were a few of the suggestions provided by citizens who attended the Feb. 2 Gardner Town Hall meeting.
Seven city hall staff members were on hand to accommodate the six citizens in attendance.
Chris Morrow, mayor, kicked off the meeting with some brief comments and thanked those in attendance for their participation.
“We need your feedback,” said Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator, who spoke about the importance of budget planning. Stressing the importance of communication between City Hall and citizens, she said, “The government body needs feedback from staff and staff needs feedback from the governing body. At the end of the day this is a partnership, and we all want a better community.”
Laura Gourley, finance director, then described specific details regarding the budgeting process. She explained there are three types of revenue that fund city operations, where the revenue comes from and how it is spent.
Gourley described the Capitol Improvement Program as “a five year planning document for systematically planning, scheduling and financing a project, and it includes reasonable placeholder estimates which are refined before approval.”
She stated that CIP projects still go through the required approval processes, bidding processes and are placed on council agendas for approval, as well as to provide opportunity for public comment.
She also sad that only the first year of the five year plan is adopted in any annual budget, with successive years being subject to re-prioritization.
The remainder of the meeting was devoted to a brainstorming session, in which Harrison-Lee asked the citizen attendees for their input and suggestions on items that would fit into the city’s outline of long term strategic goals.
Topics brought up by attendees included:
• consider user fees for some services instead of all taxpayers sharing equal costs for services which some do not use or benefit from
• provide more interactive engagement on the internet between residents and government
• explore options to bring fiber optic cable/internet services to town
• more activities for community in the parks
• rebates for users of energy efficient appliances
• look for opportunities to make city services more efficient and decrease taxes
• consider new autumn/winter festival events in addition to the current summer events (Festival on the Trails, County Fair) to provide more hometown activities for residents and bring in tourists which help local businesses
• look for ways to maximize efficiency of traffic light signals and reduce truck traffic to optimize traffic flow
The city administrator assured attendees that a summary of their feedback would be provided to the governing body for review.  As the meeting concluded, an informational handout was distributed to the attendees.
The next 2016 town hall meeting hosted by the City of Gardner is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the Gardner Senior Citizen Community Center. The purpose of that meeting is to discuss the future of the Gardner Golf Course.