Julie Brewer, United Community Services executive director, receives a proclamation recognizing the organization’s 50th Anniversary, from Chris Morrow, mayor, at the June 19 council meeting. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner city council spent the majority of their June 19 meeting discussing items to cut from the 2018 budget. Council also considered annexing about 70 acres of land on the south side of town. Chris Morrow, mayor, gave an update on recent intergovernmental meetings and made a public statement for the record.
2018 budget cuts
Laura Gourley, finance director, presented the 2018 Budget Policy Status update.
Gourley first reviewed a list of items council had already approved in previous meetings and then told council they needed to restore roughly $1 million to the General Fund.
She presented a worksheet from which council could select previously approved items that can still be removed.
At the May 15 meeting, council was presented with staff recommendation for 19 new staff positions. That night, council narrowed that list down to 8 positions and approved.
Tonight, those 8 positions were among the items that could be cut.
Other choices on the potential cut list: four police vehicles and four utility vehicles scheduled for replacement in 2018.
The final item on the list of potential cuts was a $100,000 sports tourism study.
Steve Shute, council president, asked for projected balances of utility funds.
Gourley said water and sewer funds were in good shape but the electric fund had a large surplus.
This prompted discussion on possibly using some of those excess funds against the General Fund shortfall.
Council members Moore, Melton and Harrison were opposed to the idea.
Moore said the excess means customers are being charged too much.
Melton said the money should be given back to taxpayers.
Council agreed that an electric rate study was needed.
Morrow said the excess was due to the work of city staff.
“It is not that we’re gouging our citizens, it’s that our professional staff is running our city efficiently,” Morrow said.
Moore said it was like a backdoor tax increase.
Morrow noted that utilities are supported by rates, not taxes.
Shute compared Gardner’s 5 percent franchise fee to the 6.7 percent fee being charged by Kansas City Power and Light to Olathe.
“We own the utility. I don’t understand why Lee or you or Kristina has a problem with using funds that are from our franchise, our electric utility, to transfer into the general fund,” said Shute.
Harrison, who participated by phone, said she was opposed because when the electric fund was established, council had specifically promised not to use that fund for anything else.
She said she would not vote for any budget that did that.
“We have a million dollars here that we have to cut off. Do you advocate that we basically remove all these expenditures? Because that’s what it would take,” Shute asked.
Harrison said absolutely.
After cutting everything on the list, council found enough room to add the positions of Building Inspector and Police Property Officer back in.
Annexation of land
Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator, presented staff recommendation to adopt an ordinance annexing 70.68 acres of land south of the Gardner Road and I-35 interchange.
This would become the location for a new housing subdivision called Tuscan Farms. It is proposed to contain approximately 208 single-family lots and up to 21 fourplex or 84 additional rental-housing units.
The property is adjacent to Nike Middle School on the west side of Gardner Road.
Development cost will consist of a first phase storm water and road improvements; the first phase gravity flow sewer and lift station that will be constructed large enough to serve the entire complex.
Water service will need to be developed with either Gardner or Water District 7.
Electrical service will be with Gardner.
Harrison-Lee said she had met with the developer and asked if he would consider amenities such as walking trails and housing with garages in the back.
“He was receptive to considering those options,” she said.
“The economic development impact of this project at build out would be $96 million dollars,” said Harrison-Lee.
Approval of the annexation required two actions by council – the passing of an Ordinance and acceptance of the Annexation Agreement.
Council passed Ordinance No. 2548 by a 5-0 roll call vote and approved the agreement by voice vote with none opposed.
Center Street reconstruction
Michael Kramer, public works director, gave staff recommendation that council accept the drainage easements and the property transfer associated with the Center Street Reconstruction project.
A quitclaim deed has been signed by the property owner.
The quitclaim deed dedicates the triangular shaped sliver of property located between the BNSF and the Kane Street right-of-ways to the city for use as additional Kane Street right-of-way. This property is approximately 7.5 ft wide at the west end and tapes to a point approximately 193 feet east.
Council approved with a unanimous voice vote.
For the record
Chris Morrow, mayor, spoke first during council updates.
He said that he, the council president, city administrator and public works director had attended a meeting in Topeka with the Secretary of Transportation and KDOT officials on June 16.
He said they discussed various Gardner concerns, including the intersection at 56 Hwy and Waverly Road, and he thought the staff presentations were compelling and made an impact.
Morrow reported he also attended the scheduled June 13 meeting between city and school officials.
He described the meeting as cordial.
He said they reviewed the school district’s facility usage policies and fee structure. They also discussed the district’s current and future plans for recreation programs, which he felt was still “up in the air.”
“We’re just going to have to keep working with them in order to make the best of it,” Morrow said.
Morrow then stated he wanted to make a public statement for the record.
At the June 5 meeting, Melton suggested that Morrow was being dishonest about receiving copies of email correspondence related to school facilities usage.
Morrow said that night that he did not get the emails.
Tonight, he wanted to state on the public record that this assertion was inaccurate.
He asked that everyone strive for accuracy in the future and take time to fact check before trying to paint colleagues and staff in an unflattering light.
When it was Melton’s turn to speak later in council updates, he apologized.
“I did look at the emails afterwards and saw that you were not on those, so I apologize,” said Melton.
• Council approved a Massage Establishment License for Tres Chic Salon at 111. S. Sycamore.
• Proclamation was made in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of United Community Services
• Proclamation was made in recognition of Eagle Scouts in attendance
• Council heard presentation summarizing the 2016 Audit and CAFR
• Gonzalo Garcia, utilities director, reported that some of his staff was assisting KC utilities with storm repairs.