Mayor urges added effort
Now that the city has the right attitude, Mayor Jeff Meyers hopes Shawnee will meet the challenge of becoming an even better community.
Meyers expressed this hope through his second State of the City Address Wednesday at the Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. In addition to praising some of the accomplishments of 2005, Meyers outlined the issues the city will face in the coming years.
Meyers delivered his speech in front of a crowd of nearly 200 people, one of the biggest crowds ever gathered for the annual chamber function.
"I kind of feel like I'm at the State Championships for the second time this year," he said, referring to his Olathe East football team's run for the 6A state title.
Meyers again drew from his experience as a teacher and head football coach at Olathe East High School when selecting a theme for this year's speech. In his first State of the City address last year, Meyers asked the city to join together in a positive Shawnee attitude.
"I am so proud of the attitude everyone has displayed throughout the year," Meyers said. "... We accomplished our goal of being a team and working toward improving our city as a great place to live, work and grow."
Noting some of the challenges ahead for the city, Meyers themed his speech "Meet the Challenge." He said he hoped the city would meet challenges and have successful results through effective problem solving.
Meyers recognized the accomplishments of city staff and departments in 2005 and noted the continuing growth and economic development over the year. His speech included a video highlighting the city's business growth, revitalized downtown, infrastructure improvements, quality residential developments and expanding parks and recreation in 2005.
Meyers said in the future, the city would have to plan carefully for capital projects and make important decisions in planning those projects.
"In 2003, those decisions became even more difficult because more and more of our operational budget is being taken up by increasing debt payments," he said. "Many projects have been delayed indefinitely because the funds are just not there to build them."
One challenge the city hopes to meet in order to improve funding is to increase the commercial and industrial tax base, which brings in more taxes than residential property, from 26 percent to 35 percent at full development. The city created this goal through many discussions in 2005 concerning the city's economic development.
Attracting the right kind of developments, maintaining and upgrading infrastructure and providing amenities for residents and businesses while maintaining a fiscally sound community is a big challenge. But Meyers said he thought the city was up to it.
"The people of Shawnee have never been afraid of hard work," Meyers said. "So this year, as we celebrate 150 years of community in Shawnee, I have not doubt that we will continue to do what it takes to meet the challenges that lie ahead of us.
Mayor Jeff Meyers noted the following statistics in his State of the City Address:
- The city got the bronze Bicycle Friendly Community award for the third time.
- Crime was down 2.4 percent, traffic accidents were down 12 percent and fatality accidents were down 25 percent as compared to 2004.
- Fire Department ran 4,112 calls, and Fire Station No. 1 was the busiest in the county with 2,400 calls.
- More than 15,000 people participated in 465 recreation programs.
- The Soetaert Aquatic Center had 13,500 memberships and more than 113,000 visitors.
- Public Works overlaid 15 miles of street, repaired 30,000 feet of curbs, repaired 330 signal lights and 589 street lights and plowed snow in seven snow storms.
- Four major stormwater drainage projects were completed. In the last five years, more than $8.8 million was spent on storm water projects; of that, more that $7.3 million has come from the county-wide stormwater assistance program and Shawnee's one-eighth cent Parks and Pipes sales tax.
- The city issued 1,478 building permits, with a total estimated value of $161 million. Shawnee, Olathe and Spring Hill were the only cities in the county with an increase in the total number of housing units constructed in 2005 from the previous year.