Archive for Thursday, February 6, 2003

Conner, Yanez highlight infrastructure, city staffing changes

February 6, 2003

Mayor Ron Conner's interest in street improvements and City Administrator Mike Yanez's desire for downtown development showed both city leaders' priority for growth and infrastructure issues during their State of the City speeches Saturday at the Eudora Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Conner told the group an additional east-west route may come more quickly than he originally thought because of the proposed Grand Addition development, which would require the city to address 14th and 15th streets. A year from now, Conner said, he hoped a Church Street upgrade would be farther along. The city has already had preliminary discussion with Douglas County officials, and the city's on-call engineers at BG Consultants had been looking at a preliminary design, he said.

A year ago, Conner said, he was at the podium discussing Winchester Road, and this year he was in the same place.

"It should be complete -- I wish it was," he said. "But it hasn't started yet. We have one right of way left to obtain, and that's in progress. This spring we should be seeing that going."

Conner also mentioned new equipment that would help the city grow its infrastructure as the city itself grew. But Yanez said he worried as the city grew it was moving away from its center.

"I think downtown Eudora is dying," he said. "It's going to be a ghost town. We get one business open, and two businesses vacate."

He said reviving downtown would require a cooperative effort between the city and the Chamber, with which the city would "sit around the coffee pot and brainstorm."

Yanez said he asked the city's engineering firm to develop infrastructure improvements, such as improved sidewalks and streets, decorative lighting, pedestrian amenities and other features that would make downtown Eudora an attractive place for businesses to locate. In the future, Yanez said he would unveil his vision of downtown Eudora and see if city leaders were interested enough to look at cost estimates and means to finance such a project.

"I think any community is known for the characteristics of its downtown," he said.

In addition to the pool project, the mayor and city administrator mentioned the need for increased commercial development, and both mentioned how the city's comprehensive plan -- scheduled to go before Eudora's Planning Commission meeting last Wednesday -- would help the city plan for development and the infrastructure necessary to sustain it.

"If you want a say in what Eudora's going to be in 10 years, please come to those public meetings, because that's when you as a citizen have the right to speak up to local officials who are going to paint that picture of what Eudora's going to be," he said.

The addition of Yanez's position was one Conner mentioned when talking about how the city's staff has grown and changed as well, including adding an on-site wastewater plant operator, a new city superintendent and soon, a new police chief.

"Sometimes when you make a decision you feel like it's the right thing to do, and you find out every day that you're right," Conner said.

Having a city administrator had been one of those decisions, he said.

"It's been excellent for the city, and I think we have an excellent city administrator, also," Conner said.

Yanez said capable and enthusiastic staff and department heads, a forward-thinking Council, involved committee members and chairs, a mayor who "instead of pouring gasoline on fires tries to put them out," and Eudorans who attended public meetings and got involved made his job easier.

"(Eudora) is a town full of such energy and excitement; such optimism and such promise, and such clear-thinking people," he said.

Still, the city has to worry about federal and state budget cuts that will mean less money for Eudora -- about 3 mills of property tax, Yanez said.

"We will be coming to the Council to eliminate services or cut back on capital plans or maybe not to fill a vacant position rather than to go to the people of Eudora and say, 'We'll have to move up your property tax in the future,'" he said.

But Conner said, echoing the statements of a NASA official after the Columbia crash earlier that day, the United States -- and Eudora, Conner added -- were a place where "if you have a bad day, you fix it and go on."

Similarly, Yanez said he'd been able to erase items from the "to do" blackboard in his office, while at the same time adding some items, too.

"As I tell everyone who comes in and looks at this list: There's nothing on this board that's impossible, and that's why I really like being in Eudora."

-- Contributing: Theresa Abel

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