Lenexa State of the City Address
February 19, 2014
Good afternoon and welcome to my annual State of the City Address.
I would like to begin by thanking Kansas City Power & Light for their continued sponsorship. I believe they have sponsored the luncheon in each of the 12 years that I have spoken to you. We have a great relationship with KCP&L and appreciate all that they do for the Lenexa community.
When I reflect on the past year a few words, such as momentum, progress, and partnerships, comes to mind, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity today to share highlights of the past year and look forward with you into 2014 and beyond.
Every other year, we survey our citizens to gather information about their priorities, and to ask their thoughts on the quality of city programs and services. The most recent survey was conducted in November and December of 2013.
While survey data and statistics are important, it’s the story behind those numbers that is meaningful. The survey reveals answers to such questions, such as:
- Are we living up to the high expectations our citizens have come to expect?
- Are we engaging residents in a way that makes a meaningful difference in their lives?
- Are we holding on to the values and characteristics which make us an extraordinary community?
By looking at the meaning behind the numbers, we can help answer these questions.
I ask you to bear with me as I share the survey data with you – not only for the sake of the numbers, but for the stories they tell. I will begin with survey questions which rated Lenexa overall and then throughout the address, share some more specific, department information.
When asked to rate the quality of life in Lenexa, 92 percent of our residents responded they were satisfied or very satisfied. Since we’ve had such positive results on this question for more than a decade, it might be easy to dismiss that finding.
But consider that when the same question was asked in other communities in the metropolitan area, the average response was 20 points lower and the national average is 11 points lower.
When residents rated the overall value received for their city tax dollars and fees, 77 percent of our citizens answered positively. Not only is this number more than 30 digits higher than the metropolitan and national averages, it is the highest that Lenexa has ever scored on this question.
We also asked participants to rate Lenexa as a place to raise children. Impressively, 95 percent rated this question as good or excellent, compared to the national average of 81 percent.
And finally, when asked to rate Lenexa as a place to live, 97 percent of residents indicated they were satisfied or highly satisfied. Again, we surpassed the national average by 12 points.
One reason our community continues to receive high marks from our citizens is the outstanding men and women who serve as members of the City Council. Each council member is dedicated to understanding the needs and wishes of those they represent, and they work hard to serve our community.
While each council member goes above and beyond for our community, I want to take a minute to recognize two individuals.
Andy Huckaba, who represents Ward Four, is acknowledged as a national leader with the use of technology and social media in local government. Andy presented a seminar on this topic at the 2013 National League of Cities gathering in Seattle. He also represents NLC on the FCC’s Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.
I would also like to acknowledge Amy Slater from Ward Three. A little more than a year ago, Amy was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of hiding this very personal issue, Amy chose to use this challenge as an opportunity to inspire others. She served as the national spokesperson for Lee Denim Day and talked openly about her battle against breast cancer. Amy is doing great and we are thankful she was able to continue to serve the city through this difficult time.
I thank each council member for all they do for our community and I am grateful to work with such remarkable individuals.
On your table you will find a copy of the Year in Review. This document provides insight into Lenexa’s accomplishments in 2013 and I encourage you to read this informative publication.
Winning awards is one measure of how we’re doing – and I’m pleased to let you know we won a number of awards last year. While there isn’t time to share them all, let me tell you about a few.
Lenexa was honored as the Google eCity of the Year for the State of Kansas. This is a new program sponsored by Google, and Lenexa was the first community in Kansas – and the only city in the metropolitan area – to receive this award. In selecting the winning cities, one of the criteria was: how small businesses were embracing online technology. This award shows that Lenexa businesses understand the importance of connecting with clients through technology.
Our Parks and Recreation team does an exceptional job of creating programs for our community. Recreation Supervisor Jenny Doty accepted the “Outstanding New or Innovative Recreation Program Award” given by the Kansas Recreation & Park Association.
Jenny and her team created the Playground Passport program, which encourages children and families to discover each of Lenexa’s 26 playgrounds by completing a puzzle with clues provided at each location. Jenny is here today and we thank her for the great work.
Municipal Services Director, Chuck Williams was also honored this year. Chuck was chosen as the “Leader of the Year” by the American Public Works Association, and was named to the APWA’s national Board of Directors. Chuck, we thank you for all you have done for our community.
Ingram’s Magazine named Lenexa as one of five Cities of Distinction in the metropolitan area. In doing so, they noted that Lenexa is “one of the region’s most dynamic, economically stable and attractive communities to call home.”
Finally, three members of the Lenexa Police Department were honored with a Life-Saving Award by the Metropolitan Chiefs and Sheriffs Association. Officer Megan Larson, Master Police Officer Perry Meyer, and Sergeant Scott DeWitte were presented the award for their valiant efforts to successfully rescue an individual who attempted suicide. Please join me in thanking them – and all of our first responders – for their remarkable work throughout the year.
These awards and honors are the result of the tremendous work by the professional staff for the City of Lenexa. These dedicated professionals are committed to our community and help ensure that Lenexa remains a great place to live, work, play and raise a family.
I would like to acknowledge City Administrator Eric Wade for his work and leadership. In addition to his regular duties, Eric served as President of the Kansas Association of City/County Management last year and is currently on the search committee to find a new executive director for the League of Kansas Municipalities. Eric and his Administrative Team provide outstanding leadership and work tirelessly for Lenexa.
I would also like to recognize and thank the many individuals who volunteer for the city. From those who serve on various boards, councils, and commissions, to those who volunteer with various city departments, they make a tangible impact on our community. Last year 450 volunteers donated more than 12,000 hours of their time to Lenexa.
The Police Department’s 50 volunteers were acknowledged for their outstanding work in 2013. These volunteers were recognized by the International Association of Police Chiefs for the exceptional work they do on behalf of the department.
I now ask all city staff and volunteers to stand so we can recognize them for the work they do on behalf of our community.
Now, I’d like to ask you to think a minute about the diversity of the work that our employees accomplish each and every day for Lenexa.
- They make sure roads are kept in good condition, snow is removed, and traffic can move safely throughout the community.
- They respond to emergencies and help teach our children about safety and self-esteem.
- They strive to create an environment where businesses can flourish and neighborhoods are kept safe and clean, and
- They create programs to keep us active, healthy, and connected to our community.
I would like to take a few minutes to share some of the great things employees accomplished last year and the ratings from our survey.
Our Police and Fire Departments continue to do extraordinary work on your behalf. The recent citizen survey revealed that 95 percent of Lenexa residents rated the quality of police, fire and ambulance services positively. This is 13 points higher than the national average. In addition to responding to thousands of emergency calls, the Police and Fire Departments continued to do other important work in our community.
Last year 49 individuals graduated from the Citizens’ Police Academy. During this eleven-week course, participants learn about the department from dozens of officers. I encourage you to consider joining the fall class.
The Lenexa Youth Police Academy had a record number of participants last year. More than 40 middle and high school students completed this summer program which teaches them about law enforcement and teamwork.
Our Police Department also reaches out to our younger residents through the School Resource Officer program. These officers teach elementary students lessons on safety, controlling emotions, wise decision making, and resisting peer pressure. Officer Betsy Peterson, Corporal Shawn Hardeman and Officer Danny Chavez serve as outstanding role models for the 3,000 students they work with each year.
I am pleased to announce that a fourth SRO position was added this year thanks to a grant from the Department of Justice. Master Police Officer Derrick Pierce has been selected to fill this important role.
The Lenexa Fire Department also does extraordinary things for our community. There are approximately 31,000 fire departments in the United States. Lenexa’s Fire Department is one of only 187 agencies across the nation to be accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. The department also has an ISO rating of 2, recognizing that it is among the elite in the nation.
The Fire Department also works extensively with our community providing both outreach and education. Last year they dedicated numerous hours to public education and reached more than 12,000 adults and kids with important messages about fire prevention and safety procedures.
Lenexa is the only fire department in the State of Kansas to own a tiller truck. This impressive piece of equipment allows firefighters to navigate corners and tight spaces. During the past year employees from the fire department trained extensively on the tiller truck and we are more prepared than ever to deal with emergencies.
Another department which impacts everyone daily and continues to do terrific work is Municipal Services. When asked to rate the cleanliness of city streets, 87 percent of citizens gave favorable responses. This compares to a national average of 63 percent.
The department’s work of maintaining city streets, snow removal on major streets, and mowing of public areas all ranked in the 80th percentile.
National averages for these questions range from 58 to 66 percent by comparison. This work continues to be a priority for our citizens and we are pleased they appreciate the hard work which goes into these services.
In the last year we have had a lot of snow. During one storm in early 2013, crews worked around the clock for six days to clear a record 22 inches of snow.
While the crews did a great job of clearing the roads, a few citizens voiced frustration that they did not have up-to-the-minute information about the snow removal plan.
Listening to our residents and desiring to meaningfully respond, staff from Municipal Services and Communications joined forces in the following months to create a proactive approach to this challenge. Our website now features a Snow Headquarters page, which shares timely information during snow storms. Social media and e-newsletters are also used to share information as it becomes available. This is just one example of how city staff continues to develop new ways to meet our residents’ needs.
Stormwater management is an important function of the city. When asked to rate Lenexa’s stormwater management system, 82 percent of residents gave a positive rating. This compares to 55 percent in the metropolitan area and 66 percent nationally.
As you know, Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park was renovated in 2013 to improve water quality and recreational opportunities. This work has been recognized as the “Project of the Year” in the Environmental Category by the American Public Works Association.
The Community Development Department also had a very busy and successful year. Through the diligent work of staff, an updated Comprehensive Plan was adopted by City Council. This plan guides the future growth and development of Lenexa.
Several years ago the Planning and Public Works departments reorganized with the goal of creating a streamlined process to better meet the needs of the development community. This restructuring has been a tremendous success and I would like to thank Beccy Yocham, Tim Green, and Chuck Williams for embracing this change. The development community has definitely taken notice and has provided very positive feedback.
During the past year, we have seen significant growth in permitting for both residential and commercial properties. The total value of construction approved in 2013 was more than 228 million dollars, up 30 percent over the 2012, and more than triple the amount of 2011.
I would like to take a minute to review of some of the ongoing major projects in Lenexa.
Under the watchful eye of Copaken & Brooks and J.E. Dunn Construction, the Perceptive Software’s headquarters saw substantial progress during the past year. We understand the target date to occupy the 1st building along Renner is this May and the second building facing 89th Street in June. We look forward to welcoming this international software leader to the community.
Block Real Estate Services broke ground on The Lenexa Logistics Centre site at 113th and Renner in 2013. The site has been rebalanced and construction of the first building is underway. At build out, the project will consist of approximately 1.5 million square feet of office and warehouse space valued at approximately $150 million.
Price Brothers Real Estate has built an exciting addition to our community at 95th and Renner. This development includes the Patio 95 retail center, which is home to Spin Pizza and Brewbaker’s Bar and Grill. It also includes Prairie Market, Jimmy Johns, and Prairie Creek Apartments, which provides the city with another 308 luxury apartment homes.
Redevelopment projects also continue to be a priority for Lenexa and the reinvestment is paying off. The northwest corner 95th and Quivira was redeveloped this year by MD Realty. This new retail project replaced the long-closed gas station, quick lube, and pizza restaurant with an attractive new center, joining the redeveloped Orchard Corners to the south in enhancing this eastern gateway of the city. I hope that you are enjoying the new entry feature and art in the median nearby.
To improve traffic circulation at this intersection, construction of additional turn lanes for east bound 95th and south bound Quivira will begin later this year.
The Community Development department also ranked high in the citizen survey results. When asked how well Lenexa is planning for its growth, the positive results were 25 points higher than the national average. When asked about enforcement of codes and ordinances, 72 percent responded positively, compared to the metropolitan area figure of 48 percent. Residents also approve of how the city handles traffic flow and congestion management as our survey results are 18 points higher than the national average.
The Parks and Recreation Department continues to do great work in our community. The survey asked residents to rate the quality of our parks and recreation programs and facilities. Ninety-three percent responded positively compared to a figure of 69 percent for the metropolitan area and 71 percent for the national average. The survey showed residents were very satisfied with the maintenance of our parks, the number of parks, and the walking and biking trails in Lenexa.
The Parks and Recreation Department continues to produce outstanding events and festivals. From traditions like the Chili Challenge and Spinach Festival to new offerings like Get Outdoors Lenexa and Sar-Ko Aglow, a wide variety of events are available for everyone.
While these festivals draw a lot of attention throughout the region, there are also many year-round programs which engage the Lenexa citizens on a daily basis. From kids learning to swim to seniors enjoying dancing and Zumba, thousands of people participate in these programs every year.
The departments I have focused on thus far have a high profile in our community. I would also like to recognize those departments that do a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to make sure our city is efficient and effective. These departments include our Legal team, our Enterprise Systems and Technology staff, and our Finance and Human Resources staff. These unsung heroes provide the foundation upon which all others depend to make Lenexa a top rated city government and community.
The Year in Review publication includes detailed information about the city’s finances and budget. As the economy improves and stabilizes, and our revenues increase, we continue to be mindful of expenses and ensure that funds are used efficiently. The financial outlook for our General Fund over the next five years is very positive as we project a balance budget into the future. Lenexa IS on solid footing financially.
The coming year promises to be another great year for Lenexa. I am excited to share a few of the projects on the horizon.
The Lenexa Civic Center at City Center is envisioned as a unique gathering place for Lenexa. Based on citizen feedback, the Civic Center will combine a number of activities under one roof and will serve our community in new and important ways.
Last year the City Council approved a contract with PGAV Architects for program development and design services for the Civic Center. An oversight committee, consisting of council members, chamber members, city staff, and volunteers, is guiding the progress of this important development. We look forward to sharing details about the project in the coming months as the timeline for design and construction becomes more defined.
Groundbreaking for the Hyatt Place Hotel in City Center East is expected this August with an opening scheduled for summer of 2015. The project will feature 127 rooms, a 14,000-square-foot conference center and an upscale restaurant. We are pleased to be working with DJE CCE, LLC and RHW Management on this signature project.
Just to the north, located on Renner and 84th Street, WaterCrest at City Center will offer more than 500 luxury apartments and amenities. Groundbreaking for the first phase of the project, being developed by Block Real Estate Services, took place in City Center Northeast last October.
Renner 89, being developed by Copaken & Brooks, is currently under construction. The first floor will consist of restaurant and retail space. Perceptive Software has leased the second floor as a conference center. This site will be ready for occupancy in the spring.
The Domain at City Center will offer 200 high-end apartments on the southwest corner of 88th and Penrose Lane. Groundbreaking is scheduled for spring and construction will be completed in two phases, with occupancy expected in 2015. This project is being developed by The Domain at City Center, LLC, which many of you may be familiar with as they have also developed similar projects at Mission Farms and near the Plaza.
Another important project that will begin this year is the second phase of the Johnson County Gateway project. We are proud to partner with KDOT to ensure the Gateway project meets its goals to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow. Phase two of the Gateway project will take place over the next three years. The project will begin in 2014 with improvements to College Boulevard and construction along the I-435 corridor between 69 Highway and I-35. 2015 will see major construction on I-435 as well as at the K-10 and Renner interchange. Finally, 2016 will complete phase 2 with construction of a Diverging Diamond Interchange at I-35 and 95th Street.
We believe this investment is critical to the future of Lenexa’s business community and ask for your patience and understanding during the construction.
Throughout the project, the city and KDOT will keep residents and businesses updated on the status of construction and will host public meetings to answer questions. If you have a civic group or a neighborhood association that would like to know more about the Gateway Project, please visit their website at www.jocogateway.com to arrange for a presentation.
In preparation for the Gateway Project, the city is investing 3.24 million dollars in several arterial and collector streets this construction season because we know the Gateway project will change driving patterns and we want our streets to be in prime condition for the increased traffic.
Finally, 2014 will bring another exciting signature event to our community. Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 10 to join us for the Lenexa Art Fair. This juried exhibit will feature high-quality artists from across the country and will be held in the beautiful Central Green at City Center. Visitors will be able to visit with artists, purchase art, sample local wine and craft beer, and listen to live music.
In closing, I would like to thank the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce staff members for their friendship and service to our community. I am continually visiting with Sarah Dietz about a potential member, Sarah Schooley about a ribbon cutting, or Julie Steiner about the CVB or Leadership Lenexa; I have the upmost respect for Ashley Sherard, a valued member of the legislative process in Topeka, always representing the views of the Lenexa business community during the legislative session and assisting with economic development prospects throughout the year. Like our city associates, these ladies go above and beyond to make the Lenexa Chamber a great asset to Lenexa.
Finally, I want to thank Blake Schreck, the recognized leader of all things chamber and economic development, for his leadership and guidance. Rarely does a day go by that Blake & I do not talk, email, or text about all things Lenexa. Please join me in recognizing Blake for his dedication and service to the Lenexa community.
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.