Gardner citizens elected Tory Roberts and incumbents Rich Melton and Todd Winters to the Gardner City Council last week. They joined Randy Gregorcyk and Mark Baldwin of the Gardner City Council to answer five questions from The Gardner News that they may encounter in the year to come. Answers are as received.
1.What motivated you to run for this position?
Baldwin: My goal was/is for the city to double in size by finally getting across I-35. Since I’m a “numbers guy” and look for the value (not just the cost or the benefit) of what the city is doing, I decided to be part of the solution for that expansion and to be responsible for our tax dollars in the process.
Gregorcyk: Gardner City Council.
Melton: While attending the first Citizen’s Police Academy I saw the police department had been neglected by the city for some time. The vehicle conditions alone put both the citizens and the officers lives at risk.
Roberts: I love Gardner, I wanted to make a difference and be the voice of the citizens. I am excited for this opportunity to serve.
Winters: This will be my third term serving on the council. I am a resident and a business owner in Gardner and have a vested interest in the success of this community.
2. If there were an organizational chart for Gardner, who do you work for and why is that your answer?
Gregorcyk: I work for and represent the community, in conjunction with our elected members through the City Administrator utilizing policy governance.
Melton: We all work for the citizens is the short answer. The structure is Mayor and Council are equals in power. The Mayor brings forward the agenda but needs the council to approve it. This prevents a tyranny of one.
Roberts: I work for the citizens of Gardner. We have a representative democracy and I believe in this system 100 percent.
Winters: I work for the citizens of Gardner. That means making decisions about what is best for the community as a whole.
Baldwin: I’ve been blessed to have constituent support for several years, and that is a great accountability reminder that I represent the taxpayers of Gardner.
3. As you know, council members have to deal with a variety of issues. For example, recently Gardner began expansion along 199th, and The Gardner News had to involve an attorney and file a formal protest to achieve public notice be published as required by statute. What will you do to come to facilitate open and transparent government and proper procedure?
Melton: No laws were broken, and the city filed annexation paperwork exactly the same way Edgerton did a year earlier which the paper printed without hesitation or complaint. So the proper procedure was followed. As for transparency, feel free to stop me ask questions, email me or call. Check my Facebook page for a video with a more detailed answer on all questions.
Roberts: I believe the City of Gardner should operate and facilitate an open and transparent manner in all aspects of daily operations. The City needs to follow the rules and always provide the information requested.
Winters: I feel we are transparent in what we do. Specific to the 199th expansion, proper procedure was followed for public notice and The Gardner News was provided the state statute language as proof of this.
Baldwin: The decision to include a business item or delay it to a future meeting is a balance of meeting the public’s needs in a timely fashion and staff having time to evaluate, recommend, and prepare the item. I’m a proponent of transparency and will continue to improve our processes where possible. But, to be clear, the city’s annexation summary posting was vetted by the city attorney and was in proper order.
Gregorcyk: Open and transparent government should be the goal of any elected member and is my goal. The number of projects (commercial) and concerns (community) are plentiful. I understand this well and strive to consider feedback from all concerned participants with an honest ear and a respectful response.
4. The 175th annexation was done contingent on a development plan be approved within 30 days subject to developers’ sole approval. How much will it cost taxpayers to extend services to that area?
Roberts: I have not seen any contracts, plans or costs associated with the project at this time. I was at the meeting the annexation was approved but these details were not provided at the time of annexation.
Winters: There was a great deal of work done previous to the annexation agreement. The 30-day period for approval was only necessary to finalize a few details. As to how much it will cost, that is not an easy question to answer. I can say that I have heard for years from citizens asking when we were going to cross I-35. There is little infrastructure in place (roads, sewer, water, electric.) The development agreement with Grata allows us to bring infrastructure to that area and open up an even larger area for development. Much like every neighboring community, we rely on a conservative bond counsel to assess the overall benefits and risks each project brings, and then make a decision based on that information. I am confident this project is very good for the future of Gardner.
Baldwin: Exact figures aren’t fully known yet (which is typical at this stage), but the development agreement was structured in a manner to benefit the city by not having us take on the entire infrastructure improvement costs. Electric, water and wastewater improvements we’ll provide while roadway improvements will be the developer’s responsibility.
Gregorcyk: Final cost is to be determined, considering the communities’ investment thru tax incentives; I support adding a “buy local” component to any municipal tax incentive project. This would ensure local investment by the developer throughout the development phases. I will continue to work with the Chamber of Commerce, SWJEDC and City, to ensure feasibility of adding this component to any (outlying) community-funded incentive packages.
Melton: I am not aware of any final numbers that have been released. With that being said, not expanding our footprint to the other side of I-35 would cost this city far more in the long run than the small price today. Had it been done 20 years ago, it would have cost even less.
5. Does Gardner Lake fit into the city’s long term strategic plan, and when will dredging the lake be a priority for the Council?
Winters: Gardner Lake is utilized by Gardner citizens for recreational purposes. Silt accumulation is an issue with many lakes across the state. Removing the silt or “dredging” the lake is very expensive. Like the Gardner airport, and the Gardner golf course, decisions have to be made that balance cost with benefit to our community. I would suggest we look at grant funding and/or other funding mechanisms to offset some or all of the cost.
Melton: At this time I am not sure that the citizens at Gardner Lake are interested in moving into the city. Any type of annexation would require their consent. This governing body (as long as I am a part of it) will not involuntarily annex anyone who does not ask. Dredging the lake, from my perspective, is down a long list of wants vs. needs for the city. If funds become available through grants it could be expedited.
Gregorcyk: If it is not, it should be. The City of Gardner should seek partnership w/ the County w/ subsequent timelines once financing is determined in support of dredging.
Baldwin: Dredging of Gardner Lake will follow the same processes as other maintenance and CIP projects. That means the highest priority projects combined with the ability to fund those projects will occur first.
Roberts: I think that Gardner Lake is an asset that is sometimes overlooked. I would be open to future projects at Gardner Lake.