The Gardner News recently sent four questions to the Gardner City Council candidates. All four responded.
On Nov. 7, residents will narrow the slate to two.
Q – Edgerton is home to one of largest economic projects in the state, how has their growth impacted Gardner in a positive way?
Randy Gregorcyk – LPKC has provided several examples of positive growth opportunities. Residential market is thriving, commercially we recently broke ground on a new hotel and a new warehouse was recently approved by current City Council. All directly related to LPKC, furthermore, Gardner must be prepared for such growth i.e. infrastructure and remain vigilant on what targeted growth is needed in Gardner i.e. blue collar skilled manufacturing and white collar industry, thus raising the social economic status of our community which supports our local entrepreneurs i.e. downtown and drives utility cost down for our residents.
Scott Smith – There were many potential positives for Gardner that could have come from the Intermodal if a previous city council had not taken action to de-annex the property. Gardner is now stuck with minimal revenue and few benefits. We do get to deal with all the traffic problems associated with the intermodal and most citizens I speak with consider the de-annexation one of the biggest mistakes that our city has ever made.
Michael Blanchard – The growth at LPKC has increased sales tax revenues in Gardner. It has also made Gardner a more attractive place for Economic growth. Additionally, it is directly related to the Hotel and Conference Center that is going up across from Wal Mart and has increased the number of jobs available in the area. The additional jobs help create employment competition that is great for the workforce market.
Mark Baldwin – Their growth can impact Gardner positively by us providing housing and retail for those employees. For us to do that we have to aggressively annex. This will allow more business to locate here and provide Gardner with increased property tax revenue and we can do it in a positive manner.
Q – As the intermodal has grown, traffic has increased along Cherokee/183rd/ and 191st, leading to some discussion of closing these streets. As traffic continues to increase, what would your plan for facilitating better traffic flow be in this area?
Michael Blanchard – My main concern is the safety issues. Growth in the Logistics Park is not going to stop and with the increased number of jobs being created. The closing of 191st street isn’t feasible because of the Gardner businesses that use 191st for operation. Using the easement that is currently in place between 191st and 188th we could connect the two streets, it would help divert traffic in a safer direction. The Bridge/Overpass at Gardner RD needs to be replaced and the process for studying those changes has started. I would be hesitant to make investments beyond repairs to the entrance of 191st from Gardner Road before the study is completed. The study could produce a better result that would impact any changes that might be made resulting in paying for improvements twice in a span of a few years.
Randy Gregorcyk – City staff is currently analyzing traffic studies and best known methods for a long term solutions, however an immediate recommendation, through partnership with the Gardner Police Department, is to install temporary concrete barriers down the middle of south Gardner Road. This would enable businesses to remain open and not affect their business model, while stopping left hand turns onto 191st from Gardner Road, headed north. My immediate concern is safe travel of school buses delivering our children to and from school & our citizens.
Mark Baldwin – That intersection is dangerous and with more employees and poor weather this holiday season we must act soon. Without KDOT completely redesigning the interchange including 191st St, I recommend a stoplight be added at 191st & Gardner Road in conjunction with the proposed I-35 ramp realignments to control the cross-traffic flow.
Scott Smith – Citizens are expressing more concern daily about this intersection and action will need to be taken soon. The Homestead exit can handle all traffic for the intermodal and logistics park so the traffic needs to be diverted to that exit. Several options are proposed to include signage and closing 191st Street at the city limit. I know a few businesses will be effected by a road closure and I am open to starting with signage to help direct traffic. I am not opposed to temporarily closing 191st Street if this is the best option that will allow Gardner families to travel safely within our city.
Q – Area residents often complain about the cost of municipal utility rates and difficulty making affordable payment arrangements. If elected, how would you address these residents’ concerns?
Michael Blanchard – The members of the UAC have been great about answering rate questions when they arise on Social Media. Since the UAC is made up of our fellow citizens I think utilizing them better to help educate the public on how rates compare and how those rates are determined would go a long way to put peoples minds at ease. This could be a simple consistent message pushed from the UAC or members of the UAC with billing. I think evaluating the information that is provided online to ensure answers to questions can easily be found.
Mark Baldwin – The utility billing office is willing to work with residents to make viable payment arrangements. I suggest opening a dialogue with that staff to find out all the available options. As for rates there is an electric rate study starting now and early next year we’ll know the results. I recommend doing rate studies every 5 years to have rates be more accurate.
Randy Gregorcyk – Reviewing the current payment arrangement structure should be addressed first, insuring that our citizens have an opportunity to provide feedback in an open forum. Such review should be presented to Council for approval or request more data / information enabling elected to craft a change to current policy.
Scott Smith – Gardner is the second city that I have resided in where the city owns the electric utility and the rates in both were lower than an outside supplier would offer. A much needed rate study is scheduled for next year which should help the council determine which actions to take to keep rates as low as possible. Gardner should be doing rate studies every five years. The last rate study was done in 2004.
Q – How would you describe the boardmanship that has been displayed by the current Gardner City Council? Briefly define boardmanship and explain what skills you would bring to the council.
Mark Baldwin – I’m not currently on the council but am the chairman of the Utility Advisory Commission. My leadership ability, desire to analyze issues by thinking logically, and respect for fellow commissioner’s opinions that I display in those meetings is what we should see on the council.
Scott Smith – Our city city council is very engaged which motivates me to want to be a participant. As a member of the council I will follow procedures and respectfully debate other members with facts and reason. I may be in the minority at times and can gracefully accept what the council majority has decided after the vote. I will be sure to state facts, opinions and beliefs respectfully before the vote.
Michael Blanchard – I see too few instances of boardsmanship than the political gamesmanship that occurs. There is not enough focus on the real issues. For me, boardmanship would be determined by the council’s ability to interact with each other, the public and understanding what the duties of that role entails. I’m good at listening and understanding issues. I’m flexible and willing to change my opinion when provided better evidence. The best leaders were rarely the loudest in the room. More often they provide direction and resources then empower those around them to take action to accomplish goals.
Randy Gregorcyk – Boardman ship – “The attributes of service exhibited by an individual who serves on a board” This unfortunate & cantankerous disposition currently exhibited by some elected officials is not seen as an added value by citizens nor future developers. What is needed and most desired by our community is a return to civility, respect, professionalism, leadership, compassion & citizen centric goals. All elected officials should strive to be servant leaders.
Q – With a population of more than 20,000, Gardner should become a first class city. Last year, the city passed a charter ordinance keeping elected positions to at large members plus mayor.
What are your thoughts on a mixed ward/at large system – four seats determined by population and geography with one at large seat? Or a variation?
Randy Gregorcyk – As the City grows, the Council must adapt, similar to other Johnson County Cities – One council member from each of 4 wards, two At-Large councilmembers, and a mayor that votes. The end result are (every) residents being represented.
Mark Baldwin – While the day is coming that we’ll go to a ward system many revel in Gardner’s small town feel. I want to preserve the connection to the community where all council members represent the entire city for as long as we can.
Scott Smith – T here are advantages and disadvantages to mixing a ward system with at large seats. I feel that it is inevitable that Gardner will adopt a ward system in the future and mixing in an at large position can potentially add some diversity of opinion to the council.
Michael Blanchard – We are well past the time to move to a mixed ward/ at-large system. The city is big enough that it would be best to have representation broken down in areas. This would help ensure that every part has an elected official that represents their area of the city.