Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner City Council heard presentations from four outside agencies regarding their 2019-2020 budget requests at the April 2 meeting. The agencies are Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce, Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation (SWJCEDC), Gardner Township/cemetery and Gardner Historical Museum.
Laura Gourley, finance director, gave a brief background on previous years contributions.
Jason Camis, Gardner Edgerton Chamber president, reviewed the chamber’s growth over the past year and was optimistic about more opportunities coming in the future.
Camis spoke of creating a CVB – a Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“My recommendation tonight […] is that we move down the line of a formalized, some sort of convention and visitors bureau. What I’m recommending in terms of funding is that we take half of what comes in as transient guest tax in the future and put that money aside for tourism marketing and a convention and visitors bureau,” said Camis.
He said it was an opportunity to build it from the ground up, rather than waiting until Gardner has four or five hotels and playing catch up.
Greg Martinette, SWJCEDC president, gave the next presentation and reviewed the 2017 accomplishments of his agency.
He showed a 3D virtual marketing tool that had been used to show properties to Amazon when they were considering the area for their HQ project. That tool now can be used with other prospects.
“There is no other economic development corporation in the Kansas City region that currently has this technology or these tools,” said Martinette.
Martinette spent some time going over initiatives for 2018-2020 and concluded by detailing scope of work for Gardner.
SWJCEDC was requesting $70,000.
Donna Pearce , treasurer, came to the podium next to speak for Gardner Township – Cemetery.
She gave a brief history of the relationship between the city and the township. She said that historically the city had paid half the cost of the cemetery, until 2011 when they cut funding to 7 percent.
The city resumed the 50-50 balance in 2017 when they approved $27,000 to the township (for 2018). Public works also did some improvements around the cemetery in 2017, and the township had some more items they could use assistance with.
Pearce said the township’s budget was $60,460 for 2019 and $65,460 in 2020.
“We are asking the city to again help us with one half of the budget, so that we may keep the citizens of Gardners lots the same price as the township,” said Pearce.
Shirley Brown Van-Arsdale and Laura McCarthy, came forward to request funds for Gardner Historical Museum.
Van-Arsdale told council that the museum had started in 2002 with funds from the transient tax.
“We need your help to survive, and we want to thank the mayors and city councils and all the staff that’s helped us since 2002,” she said.
McCarthy told council about the Bray House, the second building on the museum lot. It serves as administrative, research and archive offices for the museum. The residence was built in 1952 and needs some improvements.
The museum requested $10,000.
Council discussion followed the presentations.
Mark Baldwin, council member, suggested SWJCEDC funds come from the transient tax fund instead of the general fund.
Council came to consensus on that and contributing $70,000 to SWJCEDC, $135,000 for GE Chamber/Convention Visitors Bureau, $20,000 to Gardner Historical Museum and $30,000 (or half the budget) to Gardner Township.
Council considered authorizing the city administrator to initiate the easement condemnation process for a 15-ft permanent electric easement and a 20-ft temporary construction easement for the Circuit 41 Back Feed Project.
Gonzalo Garcia, utilities director, gave the staff presentation.
Council approved funding the project on May 1, 2017.
Staff’s initial meeting with property owners Randy Willbanks and Sue Engbroten to discuss granting the easement was met with rejection, according to city staff.
Staff met with the property owners again on Aug. 4 and Sept. 22 and was unable to obtain any commitment.
On Jan. 4, 2018 the Utility Advisory Commission was updated on the delayed project and discussed condemnation.
The topic was discussed at the following council meeting, and the council suggested that the mayor visit the property owners.
On Jan. 21, 2018, Steve Shute,mayor, and Cheryl Harrison-Lee, city administrator, met with Willbanks and Engbroten to discuss the easement issue. The owners said they would grant the easement after their parcel was rezoned by the city.
“Close to three months now, and they have not made any petition to do a rezoning,” said Garcia.Two months have elapsed since this meeting, and staff have not received any rezoning petition.
The city considers this a major infrastructure project and urgent. The staff’s opinion is that due to the development of Tuscan Farms and future growth north of 188th Street prior the end of 2018, it is imperative to implement the back feed to the Shean’s Crossing area to provide adequate and reliable electric supply.
Staff recommends council move forward with condemnation. Motion was made by Lee Moore, council president, seconded by Mark Baldwin, council member, and was approved by ‘aye’ vote with none opposed.