State of the City column
The 2017 year-in-the-life of El Dorado was filled with exciting events coupled with steadfast service. Looking back, El Dorado experienced a fantastic year, and is poised for an exciting 2018. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the El Dorado community for your confidence and thank my fellow commissioners, Nick Badwey, Kendra Wilkenson, Gregg Lewis, and Chase Lock for their dedication and work in 2017. As Chase leaves the commission, we welcome Matt Guthrie.
In the 2017 State of the City, I referred to 2016 as a year of change and transition. 2017 has continued to be a year of change and transition. We began by interviewing City Manager candidates. From a pool of very good applicants, we are very happy to welcome David Dillner and his family to El Dorado. Joining us in March, David jumped into the middle of our FY18 budget process. Thank you to David and the city staff on your work during 2017.
Transitions aside, 2017 was a busy year for El Dorado. With the work of City staff and Commission, we begin 2018 with a balanced budget, and amended financial policies that support balanced budget practice into the future. We did see an adjustment in mill levy for the support of the police and fire departments. 2017 saw the retirement of Fire Chief Moody and the appointment of Joe Haag as our new Fire Chief. The El Dorado Police Department was recognized with the AAA Gold Award for service. The Public Works Department commissioned our first commingled trash collection vehicle, allowing the savings of a single pass around town to pick up trash and recycle containers. This mechanical arm collection truck offers savings in key areas; safer working conditions and thus reduced work comp claims; compressed natural offering fuel savings and reduced emissions. The Engineering Department continued to focus on infrastructure and, along with our annual street improvement program driven by the Sales Tax, the department has completed improvements to Griffith Street and continues to work on solutions to the storm water systems in the downtown area.
The Parks and Recreation Department ushered in the opening of the El Dorado Disc Golf Course at Legion Park located adjacent to the BG Veterans Stadium. The course, designed by professional player and designer Eric McCabe, has been a hit among the sport and has hosted several tournament plays already. The course is woven around the wetlands and former American Legion golf course and is the result of a great partnership with the America Legion Post No 81.
The summer months in El Dorado were packed with great activities that we are looking forward to hosting again in 2018. The Drums Across Kansas and the Dam Music Festival were regional attractions that brought several thousand people to the El Dorado community. The Shrine Bowl was a wonderful event that saw a week of events including a parade and golf tournaments the culminated in the Kansas Shrine Bowl football game. We hope to stay on the rotation as regular site for the Shrine Bowl into the future.
Economic development continues as the City approved Industrial Revenue Bonds for the expansion of BG Products. We have seen new and existing businesses expand and continue to offer good employment opportunities in El Dorado. In addition to business expansion, El Dorado has seen a sharp increase in building permits or new houses. As you drive around town you will notice that the new schools are taking shape, and the former middle school is transitioning into a Performing Arts Center.
As we look to 2018, the current commission has developed a strategic plan to provide focus and direction for the coming year. With a day-long session we met with administration to collectively outline achievable goals. The Commission and staff will be focusing on five primary issues.
Water. This is a resource and focus that continues to be at the forefront. The priority of water is broad and includes protecting our resource in El Dorado Lake, looking into development opportunities for the surrounding property, and continuing the discussion of prudent sale and distribution regionally.
Community Image. Working with our partners in the Chamber, El Dorado Inc, Main Street, and the community as a whole, the Commission goal of 2018 is to affect and enhance the community image of El Dorado.
Industrial/business Park development. Considering the old adage, of “good and bad news”, the El Dorado Industrial Park is full. The investment made in the 1980’s has paid off with all of the development over the years. The good news is that El Dorado continues to offer opportunity as we work to develop newly acquired land adjacent to the current industrial park into shovel ready industrial sites. With the resources of water, highways, rail, and workforce, El Dorado continues to be an important part of the regional economic development picture for south central Kansas.
Parks and Recreation. The commission adopted the Connect 2025, parks and rec master plan. Within this plan are some exciting projects that will make a big difference to the quality of life in El Dorado. The commission is committed to finding the means to continue to improve our parks and embark on improvements as we can afford.
Public Safety. Recognizing that a safe community is the most valuable asset to quality of life, the commission is committed continuing support for our police and fire departments.
2018 will be an exciting year for El Dorado. Come and join us!!