Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
The City of Gardner will be following the Johnson County and State of Kansas reopening guidelines  May 12. During the council’s May 4 meeting, Steve Shute, mayor, asked the city attorney to give an update on the reopening plan.
Ryan Denk, attorney, said there are two statutory provisions between the County Health Authority’s guidelines and the phased back to work plan from Kansas State Governor Laura Kelly.
“What is going to happen in the back to work process?” Shute asked. He said there was a lot of confusion on how the plan is going to be implemented. Shute asked Denk where Gardner will be in the reopening process on May 11th.
“Will we be in Phase 1 or Phase 2 with the rest of the state,” Shute asked.
Denk said Johnson County and Gardner will automatically be in Phase 2. “The County Health Official can jump in anytime however and change that,” he said.
Shute said Gardner has procured a significant amount of masks, gloves, sanitizer and more to offer small businesses. The city will begin distributing masks to businesses Friday and Saturday.
Some virus testing will be provided.
“We don’t have large purchasing power,” Shute said. He said Gardner will not be paying for the tests, but they will be covered through insurance and the government. No specifics on testing, or how masks would be distributed, the cost, or what businesses the city was partnering with have been provided publicly.
Mark Baldwin, councilmember, said he loves Gardner is partnering with businesses but not paying for it.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said the council should have had more details on the reopening plan as to what they were supporting at the last meeting. “I think your heart was in the right place,” he said. “The Facebook post got out of hand. I thought proactively moving forward as an elected member needed more detail in what I was supporting.”
After the last council meeting, Shute posted on social media that council had given support to reopen May 4. In further comments made April 20, he indicated the city would purchase tests for the city’s 24,000 residents, was working with various health professionals and setting up Gardner locations for drive-thru testing.
After much discussion on social media, The Gardner News made a Kansas Open Records request which indicated no test purchase had been made or authorized.
Shute said he never planned to go rogue.
Shute said his statement was misconstrued. His plan was to start getting the criteria needed for reopening in case everything reopened on May 4 per the original State of Kansas order.
“We needed to be ready to be reopened on May 4,” he said.
Kansas has been under a statewide “stay at home” order since mid-March due to the COVID-19 virus. Several plans and phases have been introduced regarding business reopening.