Archive for Thursday, February 18, 2010

City didn’t ‘over swing,’ mayor tells chamber

February 18, 2010

De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson found a metaphor in the hitting style of George Brett for the city's current status.

The Hall of Fame Kansas City Royal kept his eye on the ball and didn't over swing, Anderson said in his annual State of the City Address last Thursday to the De Soto Chamber of Commerce.

Now almost a year into his third term as mayor, Anderson joked he'd been around long enough to be history. In his nearly nine years as mayor, he has seen the economy swing from post-9/11 doldrums, to a housing and credit bubble to the current recession with its housing bust and credit crunch.

Despite the economic shift, the city's finances remained strong, Anderson said. It ended 2009 with a 25 percent cash reserve and maintains an A bond rating, he said.

"Our city has not over swung," he said. "While some of my friends to the east are laying off employees over budget concerns, we don't even have to worry about that."

During his tenure as mayor, the city's non-governmental workforce has grown from 1,142 employees to 2, 041, Anderson said. That is reflected in the city's exempt tax valuation, which grew from $50 million to $81 million in that time largely because of the Intervet campus and the growth of Engineered Air and Rehrig Pacific and with the benefit of tax abatements. Many of those abatements will retire before 2014, he said.

Anderson also noted the city's success at securing grants, including $400,000 from the Johnson County CARS program for last year's repaving of 83rd Street east of Kill Creek, $500,000 to help with the estimated $1.5 million in upgrades at the Sunflower water plant now in the design phase, and $400,000 for this spring's repaving of Kill Creek Road north of Kansas HIghway 10.

The grants were secured through the city's relationships with county, state and federal governments, Anderson said. He saw the responsibility of maintaining those relationships as one of his primary jobs, the mayor said, noting three county commissioners were former mayors and another, Calvin Hayden, from De Soto.

He recently went to Washington with to other Johnson County mayors to talk about public transit with the Kansas congressional delegation, including Sen. Pat Roberts and Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahart, who are running for the Senate seat Sam Brownback is vacating, he said.

"I can guarantee you they now know where De Soto is because I did most of the talking," he said.

Roberts and Rep. Dennis Moore were instrumental in securing the $500,000 earmark for the water plant improvements, Anderson said.

The city's goal now is to see a formation of a regional water cooperative supplied by the Sunflower water treatment plant, the mayor said. Johnson County Water Districts 6 and 7 and the city of Gardner joined with De Soto in a feasibility study of such a cooperative.

It is the city’s second regionalization effort and follows the successful merger of the De Soto Fire Department and Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3 to form the Northwest Consolidated Fire District, Anderson said.

That merger would benefit taxpayers in the city’s older section because frequent valuation decreases in those neighbors put pressure on the mill levy that supported the fire department, Anderson said.

As he has in the past, Anderson said De Soto had the unique opportunity to revitalize its downtown and old neighborhoods with a focus on the Kansas River. The older sections of town have alleys, small lots and "walkability" that Johnson County cities to the east are trying unsuccessfully to emulate, he said.

"Like a 70s tie, we're so old we're in again," he said.

A master plan was developed last year to revitalize the two-block downtown section of 83rd Street from Peoria to Shawnee. Anderson said the city didn't have the money to realize it at this time and added there were reservations on the council about the plan, which hasn't be adopted.

Although there are differences of opinion on the council, De Soto has avoided troubles on its council like those in Gardner and Shawnee, Anderson said.


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