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City to close buildings, parks in light of Covid-19
Action taken at special council meeting Friday morning
city covid-19
Great Bend Mayor Cody Schmidt, second from left, and City Council members Barry Bowers, Jolene Biggs and Dana Dawson discuss closing city facilities due to Covid-19 during a special meeting Friday morning. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune.

Effective at noon today, all city facilities are closed to the public until further notice due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This action was taken after the City Council approved a resolution outlining the measures during a special meeting earlier in the morning.

“Things are kind of fluid,” City Administrator Kendal Francis said. “I’m sure there are some things we probably haven’t thought of, but we will figure it out as we are faced with it.

“We’re still committed to serving the public,” Francis said. “That’s what we are here for but with an abundance of caution for protecting the public and our staff.”

“All we’re doing is taking the proper steps to try to make everybody safe,” Mayor Cody Schmidt said. “Hopefully a month from now, we are back to our normal lives, and not six months.”

So, “there’s no need to panic,” he said. “This is all just safety for the citizens of this community.”

The move was made shortly after the Barton County Commission approved a countywide Declaration of a State of Local Public Health Emergency and took similar steps to close county buildings down as well.

County Commissioner Jennifer Schartz appreciated the council’s action.

“It is a show of solidarity,” she said. “The county is here. I hope we can continue to work together.”

Not a unanimous vote

At the council’s last regular meeting Monday night, the council enacted protocols deal with the situation, City Administrator Kendal Francis said. This outlined a two-phase plan.

Phase one, which was already in place, called for the city to follow Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order banning gatherings of 50 people or more. Phase two, enacted if there was a positive Covid-19 case within 60 miles of Great Bend, would close city facilities to the public.

“Earlier this morning, the county moved to close the courthouse based on the recommendation of the county health director,” Francis said. “In discussions with the mayor, we felt it was appropriate to follow suit based on that same recommendation.”

He had prepared two resolutions, one for all facilities excluding parks and one including them.

It was Schmidt who pushed for the parks to be included. He works for Unified School District 428 which has already closed its playgrounds to the public. 

“The virus can live up to two weeks on equipment,” he said. The district just didn’t have the resources to continually disinfect playground areas.

Any temporary fencing is not an absolute deterrent, but it will keep most people out, he said. 

“My concern is the weather. What do we do this weekend when it jumps to 60 degrees and there’s nowhere for anyone to go,” he said. Parks would be a great place for folks to gather, which is what the city is trying to prevent.

“We want to influence people to stay home and have your own little party in your own park,” he said. 

Schmidt said they wouldn’t have to worry so much about policing this, just put up some barricades with signs saying “enter at your own risk.” 

Councilwoman Lindsey Krom-Craven could see closing the bathrooms, playgrounds and posting signs, but she had problems closing areas like Veterans Memorial Park for walkers. Exercise has been recommended for people to alleviate cabin fever and prevent depression from being isolated.

“We  have a lot of public sidewalks for that, too,” Schmidt said. “I think if we are going to close down city facilities, it needs to be all or nothing.”

Councilman Cory Urban agreed with the mayor and moved to approve the resolution including the parks. “We’ve done the best that we can at that point.”

Creating a panic? 

Before there was a second to the motion, Councilman Brock McPherson questioned either resolution.

“I think we are kind of creating a public panic here,” he said. “We made a decision at the last meeting that if there was something within 60 miles of Great Bend we would close these things.”

“It’s not a panic,” Schmidt said, disagreeing with McPherson. It is just a matter of doing what is best.

As of yet, there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Barton County, but Schmidt said county health officials indicated there are tests pending. He didn’t want to have to meet again should one of these tests come back positive.

“We made a decision,” McPherson said, adding that under that, if there is a positive case, things close without needed council action. “Why don’t we just stay with it.”

“I just think this is the proper step to follow with the county doing it,” Schmidt said. “I think we all need to be on the same page with this and work together to prevent this from escalating.”

Councilman Junior Welch then seconded Urban’s motion. 

Before a vote, Councilman Dana Dawson said he agreed with closing the parks, but not everything else. “If we’re closing down the city, I think we should stick to the original plan. Nothing’s changed in four days. We don’t need to make any more panic than there is.”

The council met shortly after the Barton County Commission held a special meeting and closed county facilities to the public, as well as approved a countywide Declaration of a State of Local Public Health Emergency.

This may have been a change, but “I think they are panicking somewhat,” Dawson said of the commission.

Still, “If go along with what the county has done, we are all sending a message together and I think that’s a positive,” Councilwoman Jolene Biggs said.

“We are not sending people home,” Francis said. “It will be business as usual. We’ve made preparations on how we can deal with the public and still provide the services. We’re just preventing access into the city facilities.”

In the end, the resolution including the parks passed 5-3. Urban, Welsch, Biggs, Barry Bowers and Alan Moeder voting yes, and McPherson, Dawson and Krom-Craven voting no. 

Other items

For now, utility payments can only be made through the drive-up window at the Front Door, drop boxes (City Hall, Front Door and the Dillons store on West 10th), automatic bank draft or online. Building permits will be handled electronically as well.

Francis said there is also a city COVID-19 Information Help Line. The number is 620-791-5035, and it is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In addition, the city set up a dedicated email address, City website, has public information as well. 

The council will continue to hold meetings in person, but are working on video, but still allow public access to City Hall to view them. This has to be done offering full city access and without violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Meetings may be moved to the Events Center where there is more space. That way, the public and the council meetings could be spread out more to observe social distancing guidelines.

Francis said there is also a city COVID-19 Information Help Line. The number is 620-791-5035, and it is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In addition, the city set up a dedicated email address, City website, has public information as well. 

City facilities impacted include:

• City Hall

• Front Door

• Police Department

• Municipal Court

• Fire Department

• Codes and Inspections

• Events Center

• Brit Spaugh Zoo and Raptor Center

• Department of Public Works’ buildings 

• Department of Public Land’s buildings 

• All city parks

• All other buildings where Great Bend City operations are conducted

The city committed to serving you via the following methods:

1. By phone at 620-793-4111

2. By email at

3. Through the website at

4. Utility payments may be made via the Front Door’s Drive-thru window, On-line Bill Pay, Drop Boxes located at the Front Door, City Office or Dillon’s on west 10th Street or by auto-bank drafts.

Continue to watch the Great Bend City Council Facebook page for current updates on Covid-19 and the city’s website