Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
City council members delayed action on a decision to require businesses to remove snow from downtown sidewalks.
Jim Pruetting, city administrator, presented a sidewalk snow removal presentation with a downtown business map to city council.
Pruetting said businesses were notified July 16 the city would no longer be removing snow consistent with the 2016 ordinance and for liability reasons.
“It gives them ample time and no consensus was released,” he said.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, said he thought the discussion should be tabled or the current ordinance stopped until a time study could be conducted.
“Maybe use a percentage of the transient guest tax could be considered,” he said.
Tory Roberts, council member, said she was in favor of keeping the snow removal procedure the way it had been utilized.
“We set precedent for 20 years,” she said. “I don’t think we change it at all.”
Kacy Deaton, council member, said she wanted to know if Roberts was referring to all property owners.
Roberts said just for downtown businesses.
“We always want downtown to be a destination,” she said. “The precedence has been set, and it shows we want that.”
Steve Hines, Groundhouse coffee owner, said in January 2012 they were informed the city removes snow.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said.
Hines said as the years went on downtown became confined to an area with all parking public.
“Any downtown area gives community a sense of place,” he said. “But what gives Gardner community is downtown.”
Hines said downtown is maintained by the city and treated differently.
“We can’t put in so much as a bike rack,” he said.
Hines said under the current ordinance it is a two day turn around for snow removal from the sidewalk.
“I just want to take time and the city to take time,” he said.
Todd Winters, council president, said he wanted to know where business property lines ended.
Hines said according to his tax bill his property line ends at his wall.
“I’ve never touched the sidewalk,” he said.
Gregorcyk said he wanted to know how many people had signed Hines’ petition and he had originally recused himself thinking he would be considered biased as a lessee but wanted to reverse his recusal.
Ryan Denk, city attorney, said Gregorcyk’s decision was at his own risk.
Jason Camis, Gardner Chamber of Commerce Ppesident, said they had had conversations with business owners and looked at other communities.
“Holding off a year would be a great start,” he said. “From the chamber perspective, downtown is identity and how it is portrayed and serviced in the future is the most important thing.”
Camis said what does the city want downtown to be and how do they want it serviced.
“Think about it from a collective standpoint,” he said. “We are happy to work with the city.”
Steve Shute, mayor, said maybe the business owners should pay a fee through city ordinance similar to other Kansas cities Lenexa and Manhattan.
Camis said no one likes another tax or fee.
“But we could see where it goes,” he said.
Shute said he wanted an example of man hours it takes to remove downtown snow.
Winters said there was a lot of city property.
Jason Bruce, parks and rec director, said it varies from storm to storm or on a school day.
“We also clear off trail systems and prioritize parking lots,” he said.
Gregorcyk said it was a lame duck policy and still wanted a time study conducted.
Deaton said she was concerned about cost and liability for the city.
“Why should we continue,” she said. “It was voted on and liability falls on the property owner.”
Gregorcyk said the problem is it hasn’t been enforced.
Mark Baldwin, council vice president, said the demarcation is simple between a private and public building.
“The ordinance says private owners remove snow,” he said. “Better ask every private business with private property if want to remove snow.”
Shute said it was undue liability.
“Our policy is to extend downtown business and it got forgotten,” he said. “The original intent was to shield the city from liability.”
Gregorcyk said he understood the labor and considerable cost and the need to get government out of the snow removal business.
“But we still have a contractor removing snow at the police station,” he said.
Roberts and Shute said they could allow a grace period and turn over time.
Baldwin said he wanted to know why they kept kicking the can.
Camis said trying to gather 25 downtown business owners together quickly was challenging.
“A year gives them time to organize or want to,” he said. “There is nothing worse than not being able to get customers because of a neighbor business.”
Camis said as a city they don’t want snow sitting downtown.
Baldwin said individual business owners need to take care of their sidewalk to have customers.
“Whether they organize now or never doesn’t determine,” he said. “I don’t know why their business is special—charge them for it sets a horrible precedent so have them take care of it and see how it goes.”
Gregorcyk said the city should give six months.
“There’ll be no excuse no one knew about to,” he said.
Baldwin said it was just more government spending.
Shute said he wanted to know how much the crystal group charged for clearing snow form Moonlight Plaza.
Pruetting said $500 for up to three inches of snow at the Justice Center.
“Liability is the main consideration,” he said. “We could contract out and look at it.”
Deaton said she would rather have the city be out of the snow removal business completely.
Winters said he wanted to know how liability is determined. “Is it everything in front of the wall,” he said.
Denk said all sidewalks are the public right of way. “It extends beyond the sidewalk because of utilities,” he said. “You own to center line.”
Denk said if businesses on Main and Elm streets are vacated the people get property back and the transient tax can only be applied if activities are designed to encourage retention. “It could be a stretch,” he said.
Denk said Kansas City, Kansas adopted an improvement district with a 55 percent owner signed petition.
Shute said everyone in the district had been assesed.
Winters said delaying it one more season may be a cumbersome cost for people not participating.
Baldwin said it wasn’t something the city needed to do. “We aren’t the one driving business here,” he said.
Gregorcyk said they could continue to contract.
Baldwin said doing maintenance on your own property isn’t a main attraction and there’s liability issues.
Gregorcyk said there had been a 20 year precedent not enacted and enforced and they should have a six month moratorium to reassess the downtown map.
Winters said he wanted to know if the city was liable if they shovel the snow.
Sam Boyajian, Gardner Health Mart owner, said he was in Gardner when his building was built and his property ends at his wall.
“I have a hard time believing if someone slips and falls in front of my building we are not going after the city,” he said. “It is city property.”
Boyajian said he wanted to know if the city really thought they weren’t involved if someone falls. “I wish you luck,” he said. “I think good luck with that.”
Boyajian said he wanted to know who was responsible with snow removal—the lessor or the lessee.
Baldwin and Pruetting said the property owner is responsible.
Shute said his biggest concern was still exposing the city to undue liability. “We are well aware of the consequences,” he said.
Deaton said people already don’t like being in charge of the sidewalk.  “The sidewalk is the property owners responsibility,” she said. “It isn’t fair to taxpayers.”
Winters said because of his concerns about liability he didn’t think the city should continue to be responsible for downtown snow removal.
Shute said he was trying to protect the city and city taxpayers and suggested meetings with the businesses and a public hearing in the future.

Other items passed:
-a temporary use permit for Tumbleweed Bar and Grill to host a beer garden on the east side of their business for a corn hike tournament 9 am to 9 pm October 9.
-$12,540,000 in industrial revenue bonds for phase 2 of the Tallgrass multi family development.
-new reorder point and quality stock levels and authorization of the 2022 Utilities Purchasing Program. $626,202 for the Electric Fund and $50,340 split between Water and Wastewater Funds.