The Gardner Police Department has long outgrown the current facility on Main Street. It may not look so bad from the outside, but inside there are many problems with the old building. The city wants to build a new facility on property it already owns near 167th and Moonlight. On August 1, voters will decide if $13.7 million in bonds should be issued to pay for that. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Election Day is Aug. 1, 2017. It’s a primary election, but along with narrowing the field of council candidates, a bond issue will also be decided by voters.
The city is asking voters if they approve issuing of up to $13.7 million in bonds to pay for a new ‘Justice Center,’ which would house the Gardner Police Department and Municipal Court.
Chris Morrow, mayor, is in favor of passing the bond issue.
“While I won’t tell people how to vote and fully recognize this decision is up to the voters in Gardner, I will say that I am personally in favor of the question on the Aug. 1 ballot. I think Gardner enjoys a well-deserved reputation for being a peaceful and safe community,” he said. “Our residents support law and order. I believe the Justice Center information readily available on the city website is compelling, and any voter that hasn’t seen it should review it before casting a ballot.”
Steve Shute, city council president, had this to say:
“For the record, I am in favor of a new justice center; however, we need to try to get the total cost as far under $13.75 million as we can. We don’t have to have a palace for a justice center; we just need a functional one with capacity to grow over time.”
According to the Notice of Bond Election on the city website, the city would make projected payments of $950,000 annually for 20 years. The estimated average interest rate is 3.40 percent.
If the justice center bond issue is approved, the city’s 2018 mill levy rate is projected to be 9.761 mills, including 2.721 mills to support the justice center bonds and 7.040 mills to support the rest of Gardner’s outstanding debt.
The notice also mentions new revenue that will soon be coming to the city.
The city estimates it will receive revenues from the Johnson County public safety sales tax of $480,000 per year for 10 years.
The police department has outgrown the current facility and, combined with the deterioration of the building, it is no longer adequate, according to studies.
The Municipal Court has never had a dedicated space. Court has always been conducted in city council chambers, which worked in the beginning when the population was much smaller, but today the court deals with up to 300 people on any given docket.
Over the last several years, there have been discussion regarding the facilities, but overall city staff and consultants believe it is wise to build a facility of the proposed size to account for future growth. They don’t want to build a facility that will be outgrown again in ten or 20 years.
One reason city staff believes it is important to build now, in 2018, is because construction costs have increased every year in past years. If it were built in 2019, cost could top $14 million and increase every year afterwards.
Information regarding the issue is available to voters.
A special section on the city website is dedicated to providing information has been created, which includes documents that can be printed out, photos of the current police facility and videos of the town hall presentations.
The police department is also making personal tours available to citizens – those interested can call 913.856.7312 to set up a time.