Editor’s note: We sent all candidates running for Gardner City Council positions several questions. Most candidates sent in their responses with the exception of Kacy Deaton. Councilman Rich Melton sent in his responses via Video which he also posted on social media platforms. We will not transcribe Melton’s responses here.
Here are the answers we got from candidates Todd Winter, Jay Warren, Adrianna Meder and Tory Roberts.
1. The neighboring city of Edgerton is home to one of largest economic projects in the state. Do you think Gardner has taken positive steps to benefit from the Logistics Park Kansas City.
Winters: Yes. We have a lot of new commercial and retail development in progress with even more to come in the very near future. Supporting the “day time” economy the project generates brings in more retail sales tax to Gardner.
Warren: Gardner missed a tremendous opportunity to benefit from Logistics Park when the ground LPKC is on was un-annexed by the city. I do not believe the city has done enough to benefit from LPKC. The growth the town has experienced has been a byproduct of being so close to LPKC and not necessarily due to actions taken by the city. I believe that we can promote our town as a “Gateway to Kansas City” in a campaign similar to what Grain Valley Missouri is doing.
Meder: – I believe that Gardner has started to take positive steps with our neighbor to the west. We have welcomed Hampton Inn as a new hotel, a couple of QT’s (one on Main and another slated for construction on Gardner Rd.), Orschlen’s Farm and Home Store, Planet Sub, several new developments will have places for the employers of LPKC to live – new townhomes and apartments at Waverly Pointe on Waverly Rd/Santa Fe (175th) and The Tallgrass development by the new Justice Center. There is also the new Warren Place event space taking shape at the location of Warren St. and Center St., to host events at. We have positioned Gardner to meet the needs of the LPKC employment staff as well as their families by introducing new businesses to town as well as investing and promoting our current retail base.
Gardner is growing. Let’s do this in a responsible manner.
Roberts: I think a better partnership between the City of Gardner and the City of Edgerton is needed to prepare for the current and future growth of Gardner and the Logistics Park Kansas City.
2. What other steps should the city take to ensure it maximizes the benefits from LPKC?
Winter: See above
Warren: As I stated in the first response, Gardner is growing due to being so close to LPKC, but the government un-annexed the ground LPKC sits on. That gave away a tremendous amount of tax revenue to Edgerton and created a problem for Gardner. We have the growth caused by LPKC but not the direct tax revenue from it. However; Gardner can still generate tax revenue by creating developments that help serve people who work at LPKC. The City of Gardner needs to work with companies at Logistics Park to determine the types of developments that are needed.
On another note, we have given large tax abatements for the Hampton Inn and for the Excelligence developments. I believe that some tax incentives are necessary to entice businesses to Gardner but that we have sacrificed more tax revenue than necessary in these two recent developments. Our close proximity to Logistics Park, low crime rates, and growth rate give us leverage to attract businesses and jobs without sacrificing a large amount of tax revenue.
Meder: The city needs to maintain an open communication with our neighbors in Edgerton, KS. This includes respectful conversation with the Edgerton Mayor and City Council. I do not believe that this is occurring today. As a city councilwoman, I would work to restore this relationship as a top priority.
Roberts: We have better economical, commercial and residential options in Gardner. I think we need to continue to be “Open for Business” with well suited options and responsible planning.
3. The city has recently annexed lands in what has been described as “quickie annexations”. Do you think the process of annexing lands should be more open with some public input?
Winters: The lands annexed were private land owners who made the decision to annex in to Gardner. I do not think public input was necessary. They were not “quickie annexations.” I do not know where that term came from, but, the land owners had as long as they needed to make the decision. Some annexation was contingent on others and therefore, there were a lot of them done at one time.
Warren: Absolutely the process of annexing lands should be more open and done with public input. The annexation of land will literally physically shape Gardner, and the city should be transparent about current and future plans and allow for public input. We have to take steps to ensure the current landowners of ground being annexed are listened to as well. I also do not agree with the current arrangement for the City Administrator receiving a bonus for annexing land. I don’t believe that incentivizes the right type of annexation and is part of the cause of the “quickie annexations.”
Meder: When a land annexation is added to a council agenda a couple of hours before a meeting, a person does have to wonder if there was time for research by the Mayor and Council, and allow time for citizen input. The annexation may have been in discussion for years prior to being added to the council meeting agenda. The steps taken to annex land do not happen overnight. A person cannot decide to have their land annexed on Monday morning, and have it passed at the Monday council meeting that evening. There might also be attorney/client privileges and executive sessions which occur out of public eye, but still on the agenda for the public to be aware. The process to keep the annexation of land out in the open, as much as possible, to include a specific time during council meetings for public input on an annexation item, is critical to a transparent local government.
Roberts: Yes, I think that the annexation process should be more open, transparent and include public input.
4. What is your position on the proposed revitalization of downtown Gardner?
Winters: I am absolutely in favor of it. I believe it helps to keep the “small town” feel.
Warren: I am 100% for the revitalization of downtown Gardner. It will improve downtown infrastructure, create public spaces for the community, and help local businesses thrive.
Meder: I am EXCITED for the vitalization of downtown Gardner. As part of the Downtown Destination Gardner Steering Committee, now in the second phase of the process (with a FULL support of Council) we are close to delivering an Implementation Plan to the Community. There will be another survey for community input sent in the next couple of weeks. It is awesome to hear the Council approved consultants are so impressed by our citizen involvement with the surveys and public input meetings we have had to date. This shows a good partnership between city staff, a selected steering committee, citizens and a group of consultants looking from the outside in. I thank our past and present councils for continuing to believe in this endeavor. Cool stuff!!!
Roberts: I agree with most aspects of the Downtown Revitalization plan. I personally like all areas of Gardner, each area is unique and provides us with good options. In the future, I would also be interested in tackling other areas as needed.
5. Do you think a community center should be part of the downtown plans
Winters: I agree with most aspects of the Downtown Revitalization plan. I personally like all areas of Gardner, each area is unique and provides us with good options. In the future, I would also be interested in tackling other areas as needed.
Warren: A community and recreation center is definitely needed in Gardner. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the downtown plan, but it is needed. Community centers help bring communities together. They provide affordable spaces for events such as weddings, birthday parties, graduation celebrations, and much more. They also help promote public health by providing members of the community with a space to exercise in a climate-controlled environment. In this screen-age we need to encourage our community, especially our youth, to exercise. A community center would be a great asset to Gardner
Meder: – I believe that a community center needs to be brought back up for discussion. Is downtown Gardner the right place? I do not know the answer. This question continues to be ranked as a HIGH on the wish list for citizens. Let’s see what we can do to make it happen. A partnership with the JOCO Parks and Rec? Pay for membership? Time to get the discussion out on the table. I have witnessed what a small town (Marion, KS) can do. I believe that Gardner can do the same thing. Here is the link for those that might want to check out how a town of less than 3,000 people make something awesome happen. It doesn’t come easy, but those that persevere and want this will help bring a community center to life. http://marionparksandrec.com/SAC.html
Roberts: I think a community center should be researched. I am in favor of providing a high quality of life for our citizens. If we can afford to build, maintain and provide a community center with competitive amenities, I would be behind the project 100%.
6. Some current council members have been accused of lacking civility especially on social media. Do you agree and if so what would you propose?
Winters: No answer
Warren: Social media has been used in a very negative way by a couple of council members in Gardner and it has become a very divisive thing. With Lee Moore’s resignation, the only member left who uses social media irresponsibly is Rich Melton. Rich and his followers are constantly trolling the Citizens for the Future of Gardner (CFG) Facebook page and participating in arguments and really hateful interactions. In the past, Rich has gone as far as using the Parkland, Florida school shooting tragedy to promote his gun holster company on social media. CFG has become a powder keg and our city leadership should be trying to unify people and facilitate intelligent discussion and not fan the flames.The City Council needs one Facebook account that is used to promote a positive image of the local government and is used to promote positive interactions between community members.
Meder: I agree that there is a lack of civility on social medial by some of the current council members. It is the person behind the keyboard’s choice as to what and how they post. One would think that most of the time, everyone can follow the rule of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Roberts: I am a positive, nice and respectful person. I think there are benefits using social media to communicate with people. I am not in favor of any negative, mean or condescending behavior. I don’t act that way in my life and I don’t act like that on social media.
7. Do you think the cost of municipal utility rates in Gardner is:
(b) About right
Winters: I think citizens receive a good value for utilities. Water and electric rates are very comparable to other utilities and because we own them, our response rate is better than average.
Warren: The municipal utility rate for electricity is a little too high. The electric fund has been bulging for several years due to people being over-charged. In my opinion, the electric fund should be earmarked for infrastructure so excess funds can be utilized for things like road, sidewalk, and curb repairs.
Meder: Good job to our local municipal utility employees! They are great! We are right in line with other communities in JOCO.
Roberts: I’m adding option C. I think that we have a potential surplus in the electric fund. I would like a rate study and additional research to be done and if numbers allow, a reduction in rates could be given.