It is an honor to serve as mayor of the First City of Kansas. Leavenworth is 166 years old. Along with Fort Leavenworth, our city has played a unique and pivotal role in helping settle the nation’s west. And while we are proud of our history, the Leavenworth of today is on the march, confident its best days lie ahead.  

Under the leadership of first Mayor Preisinger and then Mayor Wilson, I would like to acknowledge the Leavenworth City Commission’s work over the last two years. With the support of the community, the city is making progress in a number of areas. My intent is to keep this momentum going by listening, learning and most of all leading.  The goal is straightforward but challenging: improving the quality of life for all Leavenworth citizens and being proud to call our city home.  

Priorities for the City Commission in 2020 fall into a number of areas: infrastructure, especially roads and the city’s stormwater system; appearance and image of the city; developing a comprehensive plan focused on development and redevelopment within Leavenworth over the next 10 years; public safety; parks and recreation programs, including the second annual citywide festival known as Camp Leavenworth; current economic development actions; and strategic communications and outreach. The remainder of this column will provide some specifics on the city’s priorities in the first three areas outlined above. I will address priorities in the other four areas in my guest column next month.   

Road funding for 2020 has received a well-needed shot in the arm, increasing to $2 million, an increase of $700,000 over previous years. This money will be used in an aggressive mill and overlay program focused on improving our roads and streets in all areas of the community in a meaningful and sustained way. Major projects in 2020 include finishing up the reconstruction of Thornton Street, reconstructing one or two downtown parking lots to continue to enhance services to visitors, business owners and downtown residents, and awarding design contracts to upgrade additional roads and streets that will be prioritized based on a digital survey of the city’s roadways performed last year by a company named Stantec. Following the design work, the Commission’s intent is to begin reconstruction in 2020 on roadway(s) at the top of the city’s priority list.  

This year begins the second year of the city’s stormwater management program, which last year resulted in the completion of a major project on S. 16th Terrace, six “orange fence” projects and a few emergency repairs. One of the most visible projects in 2019 included an emergency repair at 500 Limit St., where the frequently traveled road started to fail as deteriorating corrugated metal pipe collapsed.   

Major projects for 2020 include Independence Court, Second and Chestnut streets and Phase II of S. 16th Terrace. Falling in between major projects and emergency repairs, the city has scheduled 10-15 “orange fence” projects in 2020 that address the backlog of reported stormwater infrastructure failures. Staff is completing a scoring matrix, which will assist the Commission in prioritizing stormwater repair projects. In the near future this matrix will be posted online on the Stormwater Projects page of city’s new website. This is part of the Commission’s commitment to transparency and outreach, especially on matters that affect citizens directly.

Improving the city’s appearance and enhancing its image remains a priority in 2020. There are many facets associated with this priority, but only enough space in this column to discuss a few. First, in partnership with KDOT, the city will take over the regular maintenance of a right-of-way that has historically looked less than desirable.  What this means is the city will be able to keep the gateway to the city clean and manicured to an extent that it hasn’t been previously. We want our citizens to feel a sense of pride as they enter Leavenworth, and for newcomers to have a great first impression of the First City of Kansas.

Second, wayfinding signage located in our 28-block historic downtown has been installed to further beautify and assist shoppers and visitors in finding businesses and offices within the city. An aggressive street sign replacement program is under way to assist in sprucing up signage throughout the city, and will continue in 2020 to help improve the community’s appearance.

Third, identifying unsafe and blighted properties within the city remains a priority. The Commission is committed to a policy of owners either fixing the problems in a timely fashion, or the city moving forward with the demolition of these blighted structures.  

Fourth, later this year the Commission will review a recommendation from staff to implement a significant road striping project. This project would improve the appearance of roads and streets, but even more importantly enhance traffic and pedestrian safety within the city.

Perhaps the top priority for the Commission in 2020 is implementing the process to develop a 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the city. On Dec. 10, we selected a firm, Shockey Consulting of Lenexa, Kansas, to help facilitate the city’s work throughout this process. The final deliverable will be a comprehensive plan that will guide the development and redevelopment of Leavenworth for the next 10 years. With this end in mind, the process undertaken by Shockey and the city will engage and give the community opportunities to provide input and feedback. This part of the approach will be essential in developing a shared vision for Leavenworth, which is a prerequisite for a 2030 comprehensive plan that not only unifies the city, but is forward thinking and achievable. 

Let the city manager and/or I know if you have ideas about the city going forward or of any concerns you may have with city priorities, policies and operations. Our contact information is on the city website at www.leavenworthks.org

My city email address is mgriswold@firstcity.org and my cell number is 913-240-1295.

Mike Griswold is the mayor of Leavenworth.