The cities in northeast Johnson County witnessed a lot of changes in 2013 and more are coming in 2014, according to the annual assessment provided by mayors gathered for the annual Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce ‘State of the Cities’ overview Thursday.
The presentations included a mix of development projects, staff changes and visions for the future. Here is a summary of what the mayors had to say:
Mayor Ron Shaffer said the city “will defend our open carry in the courts” referring to the legal challenges to the city’s restriction on openly carried firearms. Not surprisingly, the Mission Chateau project recently approved by the council was the big item on the city agenda in 2013. “We will watch to make sure that they (the developer) live up to what they said they will do,” Shaffer promised. He also noted the amount of time spent on the ouster of David Morrison from his council seat last year.
Martway and Johnson Drive, new transit stops and the city’s new aquatic center were highlights for Mayor Laura McConwell. The last of the Johnson Drive utility work that has blocked traffic is nearly complete, she said, in preparation for the rebuild of the main downtown street this summer. McConwell also mentioned that 25 seniors received help to stay in their homes through the neighborhood assistance program.
Last year’s focus was on planning and visioning that brought priority issues to the surface, Mayor Jerry Wiley said, but “2014 is a year of action.” The city has experienced considerable remodeling and redevelopment and wants to encourage young families coming to the city, especially in Ward 4.
Wiley also said the city could be bonding this year to accomplish some of its projects and noted that another building in the Fairway office park is scheduled to come off the tax rolls as it is occupied by KU Med.
Mayor John Yé said the progress that Westwood has seen is an evolution, not a revolution. “We don’t want to wait and sit idly by while things happen to us,” Yé said. The city is planning for self-reliance, he said. In the city’s half square mile, Yé showed the number of projects that are currently under way from the 47th Street corridor in the north to Rainbow Boulevard redevelopment and changes along Shawnee Mission Parkway. The city has also undergone a number of personnel changes in the last couple of years, he pointed out, with several retirements.
Mayor Joel Marquardt pointed to the city’s struggle to replace the revenue from the Walmart that will be moving to Mission and the failure of the sales tax initiative at the ballot. Being recognized for its inclusive budget process was a point of pride during 2013. “The core is building community,” he said, “how to utilize 7,000 minds.” Marquardt said Roeland Park continues to explore cooperative ventures with other cities.
Being recognized as the only municipality in Kansas that is entirely its own historic district was the major event for Mayor Paula Schwach. She also noted the addition of three new council members this year and the loss of former mayor Allen Roth.