MERRIAM, Kan. — The countdown is on for the Aug. 3 primary election.
To help voters get a better idea of where candidates stand on issues impacting residents, FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to all primary candidates in Johnson County.
In Merriam, three candidates are vying to replace current city council member Brian Knaff. Candidates hoping to represent Merriam’s 2nd Ward include Richard “Rick” Gendvil, Nancy Hammond and Amy Rider.
FOX4 did not receive a response from Nancy Hammond. Here’s what Rider and Gendvil had to say:
Q: What is your top policy issue for the City of Merriam?
Gendvil: Top policy issue. Not an easy question. Only because there are so many things that need to be addressed. But, I think if I were going to concentrate on one, it would have to be diversification of income streams.
While Merriam is considered a hub for new car sales with multiple dealerships housed here I fear we are too reliant upon such and need to expand sources of revenue. Diversification of businesses needs to be lured into our area. Consider if you are providing a product and your sales are reliant upon one customer and something happens/alters to that customer so that they no longer need your services .What happens to You/your business? It collapses. It is much the same with the city relying upon the car dealerships for so much of their income stream, tax revenue.
We need to bring in other sources, diversification. And the inclusion of the other monolithic business (IKEA) is hardly diversification. So, instead of one egg in our basket we now have two. Too much real estate is being monopolized by that White Elephant, when several other variables could/should have been brought in. And now what do they do? They’re (the current administration) bringing “Bob’s Discount Furniture” into [the location] where Henhouse used to be housed, across the street from IKEA. The most uniformed business decision I have heard of in some years.
It serves Merriam no purpose, and will likely be out of business in a year and a half. Merriam needs to be reinvented. I have other issues for Merriam. I want an affordable Grocery outlet brought in. Into Ward 2 specifically. They want affordable housing brought into Merriam? The old K-Mart property has just been umbrella-ed under the I-35 Redevelopment Project. Put your new housing there.
I want the BNSF tracks crossing Johnson Drive to be raised onto an El. It is inevitable and mandatory that the tracks be raised if we wish for Downtown Merriam to be a viable marketplace. The disruption to the I-35 exits and traffic flow due to train passages must be cured for the economic stability and growth of Merriam businesses.
Rider: Community accessibility is my top priority. I want to see Merriam continue to invest in high-value gathering places. The addition of community gardens, a dog park and similar spaces, would give people more opportunities to interact and be involved in the community. In addition, I want to enhance alternative ways of getting to those gathering places, or simply getting from one side of the city to the other, by repairing or installing sidewalks and bike paths for increased accessibility for all the residents.
Q: What do you feel will be the biggest challenge to the city in the next 10 years and how should it be addressed?
Gendvil: Diversification of business, tax income. Bringing new life into the City. Reinventing Merriam into a viable marketplace with a down home, truly suburban atmosphere. Protect our residents and their home values. Give them more, give them what they deserve for their tax dollars.
Rider: The biggest challenge Merriam faces is affordable housing. I would like to see more diverse housing options, such as townhomes or condos that can accommodate the needs of the elderly and the disabled. Expanding the options in both the rental and home sales markets we would allow individuals and families of all ages to find suitable housing.
Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in the city budget?
Gendvil: The City Budget. Don’t get me started. This is going to be totally revamped if/when I get seated. Give the people what they deserve. I want Public Sanitation within Ward 2, if not the totality of Merriam proper. Start taking bids on it from every private company already servicing the area. I am certain we can get the cost of each residence cut at least in half if not to a third if a provider is granted the totality of an area. Grant a Ward to a different servicer so as not to generate dissension within, or from, the industry.And this will be accomplished with (read my lips) No New Taxes.
I am tired of the waste coming out of the Parks and Recreation Department. That is going to be completely gone over and revamped and new management needs to be brought in.That department is totally mismanaged. It has no vision or concept it is heading towards much [of] the same can be said perhaps of the entire plan for the “Concept” of the City, if there even is one.If there is,it is not apparent to me.
Rider: Merriam gets most of its money from sales tax, not property taxes and I think it should stay that way. Areas that can be improved on are the business districts where buildings are sitting empty and becoming dilapidated. They are causing financial strain on the city rather than contributing to the budget. By getting stores into the empty buildings we would increase the city’s budget without raising residential taxes.
Q: What is your view on the use of tax incentives for new commercial development? What criteria would you use when determining if incentives should be granted to developers wanting to build within the city?
Gendvil: Tax incentives are the way of business dealings and management everywhere. Such actions have to be taken. The problem with this city and its current administration is that there are no business minded people at the helm and in control of the ship. No one knows how to orchestrate and manage, i.e. “manipulate”/control, no influence [on] the outcome.
This is because, to my eye, no one cares to take the initiative. No one cares to get involved; they respond to me saying, “It is not within our control or jurisdiction. It is private property, they can do/bring in what they want, as long as they adhere to guidelines and are legal.”
To which My Response is, “You know what you understand about business? NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.”It’s time for a change.You are going to grant tax incentives to new construction? Then make CERTAIN there is something going in that is beneficial to the City. I repeat – beneficial to the City, something the City needs. Not simply what is convenient for you to construct.Everything being done these days in this city is a matter of convenience. The easiest way out the door.
Rider: I am not opposed to using tax incentives to draw businesses or, better yet, help launch and grow local businesses. But the use of tax incentives should be carefully structured to ensure that existing local businesses are not placed at a disadvantage. Additionally, care should be taken to ensure that businesses receiving tax incentives uphold the values of the city and provide quality jobs.