State of the City: Smart choices helped Shawnee make forward progress
Watch the mayor's address
Click here to see video of the state of the city address, provided by the city of Shawnee.
In his eighth state of the city address, Shawnee Mayor Jeff Meyers told attendees one of the same things he said he told his high school football players this year.
“If you want to be extraordinary, you have to make good choices,” he said. “For Shawnee, the path to becoming extraordinary is found in the choices we have made and will make as a community — choices in how we use our resources, choices in protecting our assets, choices about the environment, choices about recreation and choices about businesses.”
Meyers, who coaches at Olathe East High School, spoke last week during the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon on Feb. 8.
Last year, Meyers’ address highlighted Shawnee’s state of “resetting” after several financially difficult years. This year’s speech — themed “Shawnee is Extraordinary” — highlighted how steps the city has taken led to progress in a number of areas:
• Shawnee’s unemployment rate dropped from 5 percent in late 2010 to 4.3 percent in 2011. Shawnee’s is the second-lowest unemployment rate in Johnson County, behind Leawood.
• Sales tax revenues were up 5 percent over the 2011 revised budget.
• The value of construction for all permits issued in 2011 was up by $5.2 million since 2010.
• January 2012 saw the best start in five years for single-family building permits. Grey Oaks, Granite Falls, Lakepointe and Riverview were the most active subdivisions.
Meyers said the office park Cerner plans to build at Village West could further boost demand for housing in Shawnee, located just minutes south of the development. In addition to single-family housing, Meyers said Shawnee is eyeing potential multi-family developments.
Making good choices for businesses is a priority for Shawnee, Meyers said.
“Everyone knows that development has been slow the last few years,” he said, “but instead of sitting on our hands, we have been working on things that would make our community even more business-friendly.”
Shawnee is ready when the economy improves, Meyers said, and the city is already beginning to see more business activity, ranging from new warehouse tenants to retail businesses filling long-vacant, big-box stores.
Downtown, the city is working on plans to renew and expand its Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which counts more than $43.2 million in private and public money invested since 2003.
At Kansas Highway 7 and Johnson Drive, the city celebrated a new intersection expected to improve safety and access, making the area prime for commercial development. Meyers called the intersection a “culmination of years of good choices, and good partnerships.”
Meyers also highlighted what he called the “single most significant agreement for Shawnee’s future with Deffenbaugh Industries.” The agreement, negotiated in 2011, calls for Deffenbaugh to pay the city $100 million in impact fees over the next 30 years.
“We will put this money where the landfill impact is — in our streets, and toward economic development,” Meyers said.
Meyers also highlighted some choices that helped the city cut operating costs.
Doing away with the city’s pet-licensing program helped cut staff time spent on administering it. The IT department cut the number of computer servers from 58 to 20, saving $75,000 in energy and equipment replacement costs. The finance department did away with paper checks in favor of electronic deposit. And recent changes to snow removal routes and procedures — including cutting salt usage from 395 tons to 318 tons per year — helped the city reduce expenses in that area.
Meyers said he hoped to get more input from residents, possibly through a citizen survey, before heading into the 2013 budget process.