Six candidates, Jay Warren, Todd Winters, Tory Roberts, Adrianna Meder, Rich Melton and Kacy Deaton attended the recent GE forum. Photo courtesy GE chamber
Special to The Gardner News
Rich Melton, incumbent councilmember, was accused of sowing divisions and spreading hate speech through his social media posts during a forum for city council candidates. The event was hosted by the Gardner-Edgerton Chamber Oct. 12.
Jay Warren, council candidate, said the notion that Melton would tout his social media posts as useful for the community was “absurd.”
“What he has done has divided the community,” Warren said adding that there’s space for social media, but it has to be appropriate.
In an interview with The Gardner News after the event, Melton defended his social media usage but admitted some community members may have taken his words out of context.
“That is why I like videos on social media instead of the written word,” he said. “With videos people can see exactly what I mean.”
Melton said he took no issue with Councilmember Lee Moore’s recent controversial post on a social media page in which Moore labeled a citizen a bigot.
“I was not part of that conversation, so I don’t know what was said,” Melton said.
Warren said he found Moore’s post gross.
Besides Melton and Warren, the event was attended by incumbent Todd Winters and newcomers Kacy Deaton, Adrianna Meder and Tory Roberts.
During the forum, moderated by Chamber president Jason Camis, most candidates focused on the explosive growth the city has experienced in recent years.
“The last term has been focused on growth and opportunity. The management of the growth will be vital,” Winters said, adding that with the inter-modal development in neighboring Edgerton, Gardner needed to maximize on the daytime economy made possible by the jobs at LPKC.
Warren said the city needs to be more open with the community.
“Community outreach is important. People don’t need to read 200 pages of a budget document to know the water rate is going up,” he said. He also lamented that the city spent
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$350,000 to get rid of the previous city administrator without telling the public why.
Melton told the forum that the city was starting to enjoy the fruits of renewed relationships with the business community and said one of the challenges the council faces is “changing the ways builders and developers perceive us.”
Roberts said the city needs to lessen the tax burden and promote economic activity.
Meder said the city should build a community center and maintain the current infrastructure while strengthening partnerships with other area cities, the county and the school district.
Melton said he was privileged to be a part of a group- bridging the gap- where local leaders meet and talk “about the issues we face.”
“Stranathan (school superintendent Pam Stranathan) told me I was the first one to reach out to her,” Melton said.
Membership in the bridging the gap group has never been released, and minutes, agendas and time or place of meetings are not published.
Deaton said she would prioritize the funding of streets and parks and the management of the growth being experienced in the city.
“We cannot be boxed in by neighboring cities. We’ve started with the annexation, and I would strengthen our relationships in the area,” she said.
Warren said that while he was not opposed to all the growth and annexation, he did not think the large tax abatements being given to developers were always necessary.
“I don’t think we should be giving up all that tax revenue,” he said.
Roberts said the city needs to spend money wisely. She also said city officials should be respectful on social media.
Melton said the citizens of Gardner get very good value for their dollar and praised city staff for a good job.
“Ask the city staff who they want you to vote for. They like how things are going right now,” he said.
Winters said the city needs to improve its image with developers and the business community, adding that tax incentives are part of the game as long as the benefits outweigh the incentives.
The six candidates are vying for three open seats during the Nov5 elections.