Council candidates make last pitch at forum
The last question asked at a candidate forum Sunday allowed those running for De Soto City Council to ground campaign themes to an existing city issue.
With the question at the Willow Springs F.C.E. sponsored candidate forum at the De Soto Senior Center, candidates restated or reframed positions in the context of attracting a grocery store. The forum was attended by all council candidates except John Krudwig.
Throughout the two-month campaign, Rich Walker has proposed formation of a cooperative to start a grocery. A cooperative recently opened a grocery store in a southeastern Colorado community after raising $250,000 in capital, he said.
“It’s been done successfully in other communities,” he said. “Whether I’m elected or not, I’m going to continue to work for that.”
Ronnie McDaniel addressed the need earlier during his comments at the forum. It would require a population of 10,000 to attract a grocery store to De Soto, he said, citing a De Soto Economic Development Council 2003 survey.
The way to boost the city’s population to the point it could attract needed retail like a grocery or hardware store was to encourage senior and middle-income housing, McDaniel said.
As a senior citizen, McDaniel said he understood the need of seniors for a grocery store.
The council needed to be prepared to enter into a public-private partnership to attract a grocery store, Kevin Honomichl said. That could mean the city acquiring land for the store, helping with infrastructure or offering tax incentives, he said.
The engineering company he owns was involved in a public-private partnership that recently brought the first new grocery store to Kansas City, Kan., in 30 years, Honomichl said.
A cooperative and/or city involvement would be elements of the solution, Doug Pickert said. But he said the new store could also be part of further development of the K Ten Commerce Park.
As he has stated earlier in the campaign, Pickert said it was disappointing that park and the city’s Kansas Highway 10 frontage wasn’t more developed. The council needed to encourage development there, he said.
“I think there are challenges there but I’m willing to put on my creative hat,” he said.
Finally, Bob Garrett reminded those in attendance the last grocery store failed because it wasn’t supported in a bedroom community. De Soto residents needed to support local businesses, he said.
The closing discussion characterized a grocery store as “the lifeblood” of the community. McDaniel earlier used that phase when speaking of his concern the city keep control of its own water supply.
With the De Soto City Council’s decision in February to renovate the Sunflower water treatment plant, the need now was to form a cooperative with neighboring water districts and cities to refurbish and operate the plant, McDaniel said, who once managed the water plant. Running the plant near its 13-million-gallon-a-day capacity would lower operating costs, he said.
McDaniel proposed the city hire one person to work toward that goal.
One other thing he would like to accomplish on the council was to improve communication of city issues with the public, McDaniel said. He proposed a quarterly newsletter as a way to accomplish that.
Garrett said he agreed with everything McDaniel said. He credited his and McDaniel’s attendance at council meetings and vocal opposition to purchasing water from Olathe with the council’s decision to renovate the Sunflower plant.
The council should listen to De Soto residents who come before it and respond to their questions, Garrett said.
“I’m there to support the people of the city,” he said.
Finally, Garrett said he would not vote for any tax increase while on the council.
In contrast to Garrett and McDaniel, Walker said no one issue motivated him to run for the council. Overall, recent city councils had done a good job, he said.
He supported the decision to complete the first phase of Riverfest Park and the downtown streetscape improvements. The challenge for the next city council would be to fund those improvements and the needed upgrade of the Sunflower water treatment plant in harsh economic times, Walker said.
Honomichl said running a business with 70 employees gave him experience in budgeting and making tough decisions in a recession.
With the council deciding a direction on the city’s water supply, a business plan was needed to add partners to its operation and run it as efficiently as possible, Honomichl said.
In addition to his business background, Honomichl said his eight years on the De Soto Planning Commission — three as chairman — gave him an understanding of the people and issues of De Soto.
Pickert said his goal as city council member would be to understand and implement the best possible decisions for the city. He wanted to see the city continue with the downtown streetscape improvement and increase the tax base, he said.
Riverfest Park, which he designed as owner of Indigo Design, would not only aid in downtown revitalization by bringing people to the area but provided a venue for the community could come together, Pickert said.
As a park designer, he said the city was lacking in small neighborhood parks that have proved to be popular meeting places in other communities.