With focus on local control, incumbent seeks re-election to Lenexa City Council

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LENEXA, Kan. — In Lenexa, Melanie Arroyo, Laura Hill, Gael Wheeler and incumbent Corey Hunt are vying for voter support to represent the city’s 3rd Ward on the Lenexa City Council.

Ahead of the Aug. 3 primary, FOX4 is working to help voters understand where candidates stand on issues impacting residents in the metro. 

FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to all primary candidates in Johnson County. We didn’t receive a response from Arroyo, Hill or Wheeler. Here’s what Hunt had to say: 

Q: What is your top policy issue for the City of Lenexa?

Hunt: It is NOT big state-run projects like the Johnson County Gateway project or others like it. My priorities are Lenexan’s priorities:

#1: Public safety – maintaining superior public safety services for all Lenexans.

#2: Vibrant Neighborhoods – offering a variety of housing options and prices with opportunities for shopping, and support services nearby, as well as great parks and schools.

#3: Thriving economy – Lenexa will continue to be a place thriving with economic activity, a variety of business types and innovative people that create sustainable businesses and jobs.

Q: What do you feel will be the biggest challenge to the city in the next 10 years and how should it be addressed?

Hunt: There are a number of challenges as the city grows and spreads west. A growing city means growing city infrastructure and the need to provide the same level of services across the whole city. The challenge is managing the growth in a way that preserves the very reasons Lenexans love our city. Vibrant neighborhoods, inviting places to gather, integrated infrastructure that connects people to places and ensuring we have a thriving economy for years to come is my (Lenexa’s) vision.

One challenge to the way we manage our city’s growth is Local Control – or lack of it! Each year our Reps in Topeka strip away local control from cities making managing our future more difficult. Examples of this include passing laws/policies that place more of a financial burden on cities (tax payers). These polices range from requiring cities to pass budgets too early in the year to forcing us (Lenexans) to accept utilities in easements without due process (think Cell towers and 5G residential Nodes). We need to maintain Local Control.

In post-COVID times we are challenged by fact that our Master Land-Use map needs reviewed/updated as retail and office space markets have changed dramatically. Where we currently plan for business offices may not be realistic and big-box retailers bring risk to developing neighborhoods (think “dark store” theory). Challenges to maintaining superior public safety programs are real. It is increasingly difficult to hire and retain police officers. I support competitive pay and benefits for LPD and champion the new Public Safety Center.

Another challenge – historically we have not had a Fire Department presence in the northeast corridor of Ward 3 – I support the repurposing of the current Public Safety Center building to include fire apparatus sufficient to cover all of Ward 3 and to house critical city infrastructure like the Employee wellness center and our Information Technology (IT) Department as well as other critical city infrastructure.

You may have noticed I have not addressed infrastructure projects like the Johnson County Gateway, or trying to connect 87th street to downtown Overland Park. I am running for re-election as your Lenexa Councilmember, not a State representative where moving those projects along is their job. I will concentrate on those issues affecting Lenexans now and during the next four years.  

Q: In June, the Lenexa City Council voted to keep the Ad Astra Pool despite a recommendation to close the aging aquatic center. Do you support this decision? What plans do you have for improving city pools and parks? 

Hunt: I do support the decision. The entire exercise of the aquatic study and resident input was to identify our aquatic program’s strengths and weaknesses. With resident input we heard a strong desire to keep a pool at the Ad Astra site and the Council heard that desire loud and clear! We have three aging pools in need of reinvestment. I support the current plan of reinvesting in Indian Trails pool which will increase the size, water features, deck space and programming of events.

Part of this reinvestment of Sar-Ko Park / Indian Trails pool includes an underground tunnel connecting the north side of the Mill Stream trail to the south side of 87th Street in Sar-Ko Park eliminating the need to cross 87th Street to enter the park from the north. Reinvesting in the city’s parks has been part of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan every year I have been on the Council and I have voted for it! Sar-Ko Park has become an amazing destination park for Lenexans with new tennis, pickle-ball and street hockey space. The brand new pickle-ball courts at Bois De Arc park are a big hit with residents and it is packed every day.

Our Black Hoof park (Lake Lenexa) is an award winning natural space, a product of Lenexa’s Rain to Recreation program designed to mitigate storm-water issues and preserve natural vegetation while bringing residents right up front for another uniquely Lenexan experience. All of our neighborhood parks are amenities in our community – residents and parents alike know that the park nearest to them is safe, clean and accessible.    

Q: Lenexa has a mill levy of roughly 29.24, which is higher than other neighboring cities in Johnson County. Do you feel the mill levy should be adjusted? How would lowering the mill levy impact city services? 

Hunt: Lenexa’s Mill Levy is high. We should lower the Mill Levy and I have voted to lower the Mill Levy for the previous three budgets. We currently have a proposed budget for 2022 which recommends lowering the Mill Levy again this year which I support. We have enjoyed several years of really good growth in our city. Because of this our financial reserves are such that we should be able to stair-step the Mill Levy down while still being able to maintain superior services and fund our reserves going forward.

Residents tell us in every survey they feel they get great value for their tax dollars. What we learned during COVID is that our recent growth has positioned us well to move forward with confidence knowing the mix of tax revenue commercial and private is such we can continue to give back to our residents. When I speak to residents they understand where the city tax is and most are satisfied with the value of their property, conditions of their roads, the love they have for the park within walking distance and above all else, they know Police and Fire will be there in (5) minutes or less in those times of need.

There is a lifestyle unique to Lenexans, the community feel, the parks and stream trails, the quality of services rendered to residents and the way the city interacts with her residents, I would say second to none! Yes, we have a high city tax and we have been bringing it down year after year and I will vote to continue lowering the Mill Levy but one thing is certain – when you look around your neighborhood, when you look around your city, when you see our police and fire teams in action – you see where your tax dollars are being spent. Another public service unique to Lenexans is our snow-removal teams – the best in the Metro! Being able to safely travel on streets after an all-night snow is another example of tax dollars well spent and public safety at its finest!   

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