City of Gladstone, Missouri

State of the City Address

Mayor Les Smith

April 12, 2004



I would like to begin by thanking you for this opportunity to present the first ever State of the City Address, an address that I hope will become an ongoing tradition in our community. It’s exciting to be able to share with you the many great things that are happening in the City of Gladstone.


Since 2001, public service has received a lot of focus nationally, and public servants have received some long overdue recognition. Both the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Gladstone Area Chamber of Commerce recognized our employees this past year, with our employees even being named honorary parade marshals for the 24th Annual Gladfest parade.


Although I wish we could introduce every single person who works for the City, please allow me to introduce to you the members of our leadership team and ask that they take our recognition back to all of those in their respective departments:

Kirk Davis, City Manager

Scott Wingerson, Assistant City Manager

Dave Ramsay, City Counselor

Bill Adamo, Public Safety Director

Cash Sweiven, Finance Director

Andy Noll, Director of Public Works

Sheila Lillis, Parks & Recreation Director

Charlene Leslie, Human Resources Administrator

Cathy Swenson, City Clerk

Diane Whitaker, Executive Administrative Assistant


And although they might not be here this evening, I would like to recognize the City’s most recent “Employees of the Year” -- Stan Dobbins, Madelaine Cockrum, and Danny Shinneman.


Please join me in thanking these and all our city employees for the exceptional work they do.


The past twelve months have provided the City of Gladstone with many opportunities and a few challenges as well. It was a year in which everyone in our nation had to face the challenge of terrorism and war. It was another year where the economy had a major impact on our city’s operation. It was a year in which the City faced the most devastating natural disaster in the City’s history. It was a year when staff, council, and community worked together very closely to address current and future issues.


Shortly after this council was seated, we were faced with balancing a budget that reflected revenues equal to 1999 levels and expenditures that grew by inflationary factors. The City was challenged with balancing the budget without cutting essential city services and with continuing to fund planned capital improvements. I’m proud to announce that through a total team effort we have accomplished all of these despite the fact that some revenues have been on a steady decline since mid-2001. We cut positions through attrition, consolidated other positions and responsibilities, and kept a close eye on budgeted expenditures in the General Fund. 


Just as we were in the process of balancing the budget, a devastating series of tornadoes blew through the metropolitan area, causing damage in Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas, Liberty, and Gladstone. Nearly 400 homes and businesses in our city alone sustained a combined $30 Million in damage. Thankfully, and miraculously, we did not have any fatalities, due in part to our early warning systems. The City responded immediately. We maintained an emergency operations center for the next two weeks, managed more than 350 volunteers from cities throughout the metropolitan area, and saw a staff exceed any reasonable expectations for public service at any level. In the end, we had expended nearly $750,000 in the recovery effort.


Emergency management experts nationwide heralded the City’s response; we have received many letters of appreciation, and have received various commendations from around the country. Today, nearly one year later, although the afflicted areas appear to be returning to normal, many residents of our community are still rebuilding. 


July marked the dedication of our new amphitheater, which was rebuilt after the arson fire that destroyed it in 2002. Through the efforts of people from around the entire metropolitan area, the facility was rebuilt even bigger and better, and will provide us with more cultural and entertainment opportunities in the future. Not only does this regional amphitheater host the largest Blues festival in the Kansas City area, we have scheduled more than a dozen events for the coming season.


With the many wind and ice storms of the past few years, we have been very cognizant of the tree damage our community has sustained. We began the process of repairing, replanting, and trimming trees on city property throughout our community because we recognize their importance to our environment, the aesthetics of our community, and the quality of life we enjoy. This effort resulted in our community being designated a Tree City USA for a second straight year, and last September we received a $10,000 T.R.I.M. II grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation to evaluate trees and identify planting areas in our public spaces.


The City, like every other institution in this country, has had to retrench fiscally since 2001. In 2000, the City began to focus more intently on economic development and implemented several economic development initiatives. One of those initiatives concerned the revitalization of the North Oak corridor, and more specifically the Gladstone Plaza shopping center. Recognizing the economic deficiencies, lack of investment, and economic performance of the 210,000 square foot Gladstone Plaza Shopping Center, the Council declared the property blighted. The City then requested proposals from interested developers and ultimately selected a partnership of JP Realty and Walton Construction for the redevelopment of Gladstone Plaza. We are currently negotiating a development agreement that will allow the partnership to acquire, and make the necessary investments, to make this center an economic engine for our city.


As the word spread that Gladstone is serious about redevelopment, we began to see other action in the area. A 134-unit town home project is now underway directly east of Gladstone Plaza that will ultimately connect to North Oak via a planned parkway through the new shopping center. A new Walgreen’s Drug Store will be built and approximately 40,000 square feet of additional space renovated on the southwest corner of 64th and N. Oak. Additionally, new commercial structures are being planned near 61st and North Oak, including our new fire station, which is nearing completion, Burnett’s Lighthouse Frozen Custards, and a proposal on the Council’s agenda this evening for the relocation of one of our long-time local businesses. Last August, during the trek to Sturgis, Worth Harley Davidson hosted more than 10,000 bike enthusiasts at its Oak Street dealership as part of Harley’s 100th anniversary celebration.


For many years the City has discussed the need and desire for a downtown area. The North Oak Corridor Study identified this potential district as a vehicle that might encourage reinvestment elsewhere along the corridor. The City enlisted the services of Hugh Zimmer and Associates to complete an economic feasibility study for a mixed use, high density, commercial development near 70th and N. Oak. I’m excited to announce that the City has begun the process of acquiring properties that will encourage such an investment. This is the type of economic initiative the city needs to overcome a stagnant economy and encourage growth. This is the type of activity that encourages economic growth, which provides services and products needed by our citizens. It also provides for a very low cost of living in our community.


The Antioch Road corridor is also realizing renewed commercial interest. Sheridan’s Frozen Custard was recently approved for Prospect Plaza, a remodeled Tommy’s and McDonalds re-opened following the tornado, and an addition is planned for Hy-Vee at 72nd and N. Prospect. The former gas station and seasonal retail location at 58th and Antioch was demolished and development interests are being pursued for this location. Meadowbrook Shopping Center is full and has several exciting new tenants. We will continue to make economic development a priority and continue to focus on quality redevelopment in Gladstone while at the same time protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods.


Another long-term economic development goal was reached this past year with the creation of the City’s first Community Development Corporation. This organization is designed to provide low interest loans to businesses for façade and building renovations, modern signage, landscaping, and other site plan improvements.


During difficult economic times, just like our local businesses, we must make internal changes that will help the organization remain competitive and continue to provide services. Several internal management steps, or structures, have been altered or initiated this past year. These are not issues the public will have heard about, or even been very interested in, but they do help the organization change and provide a foundation for the provision of public services. Programs such as Positive Performance Management, a new Wellness Program, GASB 34, Civicall, Fire Staffing analysis, Performance Evaluation Systems, NPDES, and other internal programs and studies were completed this past year. Many new ordinances were enacted to enhance our community, and the City reacted to such issues as Concealed Carry and a possible change in the provision of our emergency medical service.


The City continues to focus on capital improvement planning and the implementation of recently developed capital spending plans and bond issues. As promised to the voters, almost $2.5 Million in sanitary sewer repairs have been made in the past three years. And as mentioned earlier, our new fire station on North Oak will be a tremendous public safety asset for the citizens of our city. Other bond projects have resulted in the just completed addition to City Hall that will provide much needed storage and meeting space. The 2002 Certificates of Participation promised the city hall project, the expansion of Happy Rock Park, a long overdue rebuilding of 76th Street, and a renovated Public Works site. We are nearing completion of the final design for the new portion of Happy Rock Park and will see this project out for bid this summer. The design of 76th Street from North Oak to North Euclid has been completed and 95% of the easements and rights of way have been obtained. The utility companies have begun their relocation process, which should allow us to be under construction this summer, and the preliminary site plan improvements for the Public Works facility are being designed. 


The City issued approximately $6 Million in storm water bonds in 2000. These funds were provided for construction of the top four priority projects from the Stormwater Master Plan, which have been completed or are nearing completion at this time. The 68th Street & North Prospect detention basin is virtually complete as parking, landscaping, and tree maintenance are being completed at this time to allow for passive parkland use. The Rock Creek Channel improvements in Brooktree are also under construction and will result in an aesthetically pleasing new channel that will reduce erosion, flooding, and damage to property along Rock Creek. Over the last 20 years the City has allocated nearly $10 Million for improvements to the Rock Creek basin, the channel itself running north to south through our city.


With the completion of these projects, all of the projects promised with the aforementioned bonds will be completed, and 19 of the top 20 stormwater projects in the Master Plan will have been funded or constructed. All told, the City has managed to have under construction nearly $15 Million worth of capital projects this past year.


As areas north of Gladstone develop, our community will continue to see increases in traffic. Traditional Public Safety crime issues will persist, as will traffic congestion and air quality issues. The City must strive relentlessly for a safer traffic environment, and enhance the safe flow of traffic throughout the city.


For the first time in 15 years we are also staring the question of our ambulance service squarely in the eyes. Gladstone provides the finest primary ambulance service available, but we often must rely on M.A.S.T. or other agencies for backup service. The day will soon come that we must decide as a community if we are satisfied with the current arrangement for secondary service or if we wish to find a way to pay for the level of service we have all come to expect - regardless of what time we call for help. Personally, I will support whatever means are necessary for us to be in the full-fledged ambulance business for our residents.


The Special Road District has been a tremendous partner for the City in making road improvements and subsequently this Council feels we must assist in making sure the Road District funds are not cut by Clay County and that they are distributed appropriately. A sampling of road projects being designed or constructed are Main Street from 61st Terrace to 64th Street, North Woodland north of 76th Street, 64th and Antioch by St. Andrews Church, the Pleasant Valley Road realignment, and the design of North Holmes from 70th Street to 72nd Street. Last year we spent roughly $1 Million on overlay, slurry seal, and reconstruction projects alone.


The Water System will continue to see the City focus on the replacement of 2-inch lines throughout the city, the replacement of the water line adjacent to North Oak, and the upgrading of antiquated water meters that allow for “free” water. We will also continue to monitor and work to eliminate storm water infiltration of the sanitary sewer system, which will help control the sanitary sewer charges assessed to Gladstone residents by the City of Kansas City.


The tornado of 2003 made all of us realize how important, and what a valuable tool, regionalism is for our community. We are privileged to be a part of the Kansas City metropolitan area and we should participate in sustaining its strength. The assistance we received from area cities in the aftermath of both the tornado and the amphitheatre fire was invaluable and truly appreciated by everyone in our community. The fact of the matter is that we participate in that regionalism in many different ways, some of which may not be of knowledge to our residents. The City participates in many Mid-America Regional Council committees and the City has taken a leadership role in MARC’s First Tier Suburbs Coalition, Total Transportation Planning, MARC City Managers Roundtable, Long Range Transportation Planning, Operation Green Light (an air quality and transportation initiative), Metro Trails, and the Insurance Trust. We have recently become an active participant in the ongoing Bi-State Tax discussions and the City Manager and I recently facilitated an effort that may result in a meeting of all metropolitan mayors from both sides of the state line to discuss the issue. The City is also active in the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Regional Alliance, which is analyzing regional assets and funding mechanisms, and we had discussions recently with several area mayors to build interest in establishing a working Northland Mayor’s Council. And we have developed and are aggressively promoting a comprehensive legislative agenda at both the state and federal level.


Not only are we involved in regional issues, but several staff members and council members are involved in their professional and national associations. I commend each of these individuals for taking leadership roles in their professions, and with the Missouri Municipal League, City Managers Association, and National League of Cities.


Finally, I would like to recognize the many citizens who are serving as advisors and commissioners for the city. These people donate countless hours serving our community and are invaluable advisors to the Council. In addition to the boards and commissions, a citizen- based strategic planning effort commenced this past year. In placing recommendations for our future in the hands of our residents and business owners, “Gladstone on the Move” is utilizing the talents of more than 100 stakeholders in developing a long-range plan for our community, a plan that will be the foundation for future decision makers in our city.  


It has been said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” We have challenges at City Hall, but we have addressed them head-on and we will continue to address them head-on. But we also have a wealth of opportunity and it’s exciting to think about the potential of our community. We are on the cusp of making things happen that we’ve been talking about around here for 25 years or more, and we have the people in place to make those things happen, many of whom are in this room tonight.


It is truly my honor and privilege to work with a team of such dedicated, professional staff and city council members - true public servants - as we continue the work of making Gladstone the wonderful community that we all enjoy. Thank you for your time.