Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner City Council elected new officers at the Jan. 16 meeting and heard two presentations. Council business included considering the city’s 2018 Legislative Agenda and a rezoning request for Legion Post #19.

2018 Legislative Agenda
Council considered staff recommendation for approval of the 2018 State Legislative Agenda for Gardner. Matt Wolff, senior management analyst, presented the staff recommendation.
The presentation explains that cities and counties review the state agenda then outline their own agenda platforms to assert common positions. By participating in this process, Gardner is pursuing legislative policies that seek to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of local government operations.
There were 11 items on the 2018 Legislative Agenda. Wolff gave a brief description of each one.
Two items were discussed by council.
Item # 9, titled Statewide Expansion of Medicaid, states that “the City of Gardner supports Medicaid expansion through KanCare in Kansas.”
From the item description – “Absent the state’s participation in Medicaid expansion, county taxpayers are required to pay for these services that would otherwise be covered by Medicaid. Through local tax revenue, Johnson County provides approximately $6.4 million in charitable care for mental health services and over $2.2 million in uncompensated care for emergency medical care […] that could be significantly reduced by Medicaid expansion.”
This item was on the 2017 recommended legislative agenda but was removed in entirety by council.
At that Jan. 3, 2017 meeting, Steve Shute, current mayor, who was council president then, commented that unless that section was removed he would not vote in favor and said, “Anytime you get Medicaid money from the federal government there’s strings attached to it, and those strings bind the state to certain actions.” Council removed the item before accepting the agenda.
Wolff explained why the item was on the recommended agenda again at this Jan. 16, 2018 meeting.
“It’s on here for three reasons. One, it’s still included on the joint county/city joint platform. Two, [later] I’ll give you an update on some of the events that happened last year, and three, there are new members on the governing body so we want to confirm the position of the entire governing body on this issue,” he told council.
In council discussion, Lee Moore, council president, said he wasn’t convinced on Statewide Expansion of Medicaid.
“I’d like some more information on that. I haven’t had a chance to research that. I don’t really know what the real positives and negatives are. I can’t say that I’d be ready to vote for that tonight. We rejected it pretty soundly last time I remember.”
The other members agreed to needing more information, and the item was removed.
Item #11 on the proposed agenda originated as a recommendation from the ADA Advisory Committee.
The item stated Gardner supports updating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to allow for the use of the Modified International Symbol of Access.
Moore wanted to remove that item also. He said he wasn’t really for or against it but the only voice being heard was from those for the change and not those who are happy with the way it is.
“I’m not sure why we would, here in Gardner, Kansas, take a stand on that and push this forward into the state of Kansas. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” he said.
Rich Melton, council vice-president, agreed with removing the item, saying it was “a feel good measure at best.”
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, spoke in favor of keeping the item.
“I say we keep it as a recommendation. There’s no cost to it, it’s a good faith effort, so we leave it,” said Gregorcyk. “We have a committee, we need to listen to them.”
Todd Winters, council member, said he didn’t see this would cause any harm to the city either way, but if the committee recommended it, he was comfortable with keeping it.
This left Mark Baldwin, council member, as the only council member who had not yet spoken.
“I haven’t heard any compelling reason to want to switch,” he said.
Shute tallied consensus from discussions and said he would entertain a motion to approve the 2018 City of Gardner Legislative Agenda, sans items 9 and 11, with the option to bring back item 9 at a later date.
Moore made the motion, it was seconded by Melton and passed by ‘aye’ vote with none opposed.

Rezoning for American Legion
Council considered Planning Commission recommendation for approval of a rezoning request from American Legion Leroy Hill Post #19 at 315 S. Meadowbrook Circle. This would change the zoning class of the existing legion building and the adjacent vacant lot from M-2 (General Industrial) and R-1 (Single-Family Residential) to M-1 (Restricted Industrial) District.
Larry Powell, economic development director, presented background information and recommendation.
Jeff Barber, Post #19 CFO, came forward to request a reimbursement of an excise tax the Legion has paid. Barber said that back in 2012, the city had sold the Legion a small piece of land attached to their property for one dollar. It was 1300 square feet unplatted strip between the Legion and the bordering property. The Legion didn’t really need it or ask for it, but the city had offered it.
“I thought it was too good to be true so I asked what the
catch was. I was told there wasn’t a catch, sign here, it was done,” he said.
Now, in 2017, during the process of requesting rezoning and approvals of planned improvements, the Legion was charged an excise tax of $268.59 originating from that one dollar transaction in 2012.
Barber said the Legion membership had sent him to this meeting to ask for reimbursement of that $268.59.
Powell returned to the podium to explain that city policy required the excise tax.
“Anytime a property is platted for the first time, we collect 20 cents a square foot for that value of that plat and that excise tax is then used in our road fund. […] This being a replat of three tracts plus one unplatted parcel, we had to make the request to keeping with city policy to collect that $268.59, which has been paid,” he explained.
Powell said staff was not authorized to waive this fee, but perhaps the governing body could.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, told council that this was governed by ordinance and there were no exemptions in the ordinance that would cover non-profits like the Legion, so the only thing they could do was amend the ordinance.
Discussion concluded that they did not want to do that, and Denk suggested that the city make an in-kind donation to the Legion in the amount of $268.59. Council liked that idea and decided it should come from the Mayor’s Christmas Funds.
With that side issue settled, council then approved the rezoning request via Ordinance No. 2565 with a 5-0 vote.
After the rezoning was approved, council then considered and approved acceptance of final plat of the same property by ‘aye’ vote with none opposed.

Liability and orientation
The first item on the agenda was a two part presentation on public officials liability and orientation.
Terry Norwood, president and CEO of Midwest Public Risk, covered the exposures that exist when performing public duties and discussed issues that can lead to liability for public officials.
Following Norwood’s presentation, Amy Waller, city clerk, provided a brief orientation for the governing body,  covering pertinent topics from the Governing Body Rules of Procedure and brief review of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) and the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA).

Funding capacity update
The liability presentation was immediately followed by a presentation on Funding Capacity Study Update by Laura Gourley, finance director, and Bruce Kimmel, senior municipal advisor of Ehlers.
The report did not recommend any specific levels for tax levies, mill rates or capitol investments but it did go through several scenarios showing expected results of rate changes.
Among the study conclusions is that “small incremental increases in total levy (and mills) would enhance the city’s capital funding capacity, maintain its sound fiscal condition and stay well within its Tax Lid authority.”