Garden City begins goal-setting sessions

3/6/2014

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

As the Garden City Commission begins setting goals for itself for the next 12 to 18 months, some themes are constant — policies that promote growth, housing, and water — while also maintaining the facilities and infrastructure already in place.

Commissioners held a day-long work retreat last week to brainstorm ideas, and then spent about 45 minutes on Tuesday trying to group the ideas into several categories. More work remains before the final list of goals is adopted later this spring.

"By and large, I believe it's an affirmation of where previous commissions and this commission's focus has been, which is continuing to develop the community's residential, commercial and industrial sectors," City Manager Matt Allen said. "There have been a pretty consistent streak of growth-minded, development-minded, investment-oriented governing bodies."

At the annual retreat, the commission, city manager and department heads reviewed last year's goals, the five-year capital improvement plan, and the city's financial overview before talking about various city needs and potential projects.

The goals are designed to aid preparation of the 2015 budget and help narrow the focus of things the commission would like city staff to research in the coming year. While the goals help in budget preparation and provide some general guidance, the objectives themselves are not binding.

Some of the continuing goals include studying the feasibility of a convention center/indoor entertainment facility, continuing to pursue retail, commercial and industrial growth, improving housing and supporting water quality, quantity and stewardship policies.

Allen said if there has been any theme this year, it's been one of upgrading, repairing or replacing existing facilities with maybe only a couple of ideas to explore new things.

"By and large, for public facilities, there's more of a focus of taking care things," he said.

Mayor Dan Fankhauser said it's been hard to tell at this point whether the commission has reached much consensus about the top goals. There were many individual ideas pitched during the brainstorming sessions that still need to be condensed.

But Fankhauser feels the goals with the most across-the-board support will be those that support ongoing growth in the community. Retail growth will probably continue to be the top goal, at least for the next few years.

"I've been saying we're making Garden City the regional hub of western Kansas. I think we're on our way," he said. "The main emphasis is, we want to see Garden City continue to grow, and if there are things we can do to make it happen, we're for it."

There are many things the city does included in the goals that will be on the list for many years, Fankhauser said. Others, like the recent proposal to increase retirement living options, are things the city can support.

Commissioner Janet Doll said the commission still needs to go through and pare down the list, so it's hard to identify the top two or three goals right now. However, she agreed with Fankhauser that the general consensus of the commission is to continue focusing on ways to keep the city growing.

"I'd say the main idea is we want to continue to bring in business and industry to the community so we're more diversified and not so reliant on ag, which is of course a mainstay for the community," Doll said. "I feel there's a consensus to repair infrastructure, whether that's utilities, water lines, streets, things that are important that they don't fall behind."

Overall, the commission's goals aren't necessarily a list of things to check off one by one until they're done, city officials said.

"It's a mix and match. Clearly there are some things where you can say that's done, and some that will never go away," Allen said. "For this community, growth and development seems to be that perpetual thing. We are growing. We are developing, but that doesn't mean we ever expect to check it off the list."

Though some things may be perpetual, it's good for the city to articulate its focus, Allen said.

In general, this year's preliminary goals are grouped into six general categories: improve existing public facilities and spaces; consider new public facilities; continue developing the residential, commercial and industrial sectors; maintain a vibrant central business district; address key administrative and policy issues; and attend to transportation needs. Because the commission is still fine-tuning them, some goals could change before the list is finalized.

Goals for improving existing facilities include remodeling the Central Fire Station, support for ongoing airport improvements and city hall upgrades, utility infrastructure maintenance, more public art, and cleaning up and improving entryways into the city.

Under new public facilities, the commission may continue studying the feasibility of a multi-court sports facility and a shooting range, two projects that were also included in last year's goals.

Some of the growth and development goals include support for expanded retirement facilities, downtown development, retail and industrial development, increased housing and support for small business assistance programs.

Commissioners also support maintaining the downtown district through increased downtown landscaping and redevelopment incentives.

Administrative and policy issues the commission is focused on include ongoing discussion of rental inspection policies, staff retention, water quality/quantity/stewardship, a review of city fees and continued support for working within the Southwest Kansas Coalition on legislative policy issues.

Goals for transportation include advocating for Amtrak passenger rail service, sidewalk and trails expansion, support for road construction on all types of streets, sidewalk repairs and repairing brick streets.

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