The Great Bend City Council Monday night approved the termination of the city’s economic development contract with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. Now, the council’s economic development committee will work with representatives from the chamber on ways to restructure the city’s economic development efforts.
“The (council’s) committee believes that the current approach to economic development is flawed and needs to be reinvented,” said Mayor Joe Andrasek. As such, the council committee is recommending that the city move in a new direction.
“The first step in achieving this new direction is purely a procedural one,” he said. Regardless of the changes that are made, it would first require that the contract with the Chamber of Commerce be voided by giving a notice of termination for the current contract.
“The committee understands that change can be difficult,” the mayor said. “However, it is not promoting change simply for the sake of change, but rather believes it is essential to provide more direct oversight to the department, improve accountability, promote transparency and remain fiscally responsible.”
Furthermore, the committee recognizes the long-term significance of this decision and is committed to thoroughly and thoughtfully exploring all options for the creation of the Economic Development Advisory Council.
In a statement released by the city last Tuesday, the committee proposed ending the contract and hiring a full-time employee to coordinate economic development. The statement noted the committee met on five separate occasions, including once with members of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee.
This new city position would be held in direct oversight by an executive committee comprised of members of the city’s governing body as well as representation from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce.
At Monday night meeting, Andrasek asked chamber board members present to select four of its members to work with the council’s committee as this executive committee.
Furthermore, the city’s committee recommend the creation of an economic development advisory council, appointed by the mayor, “to communicate, coordinate and provide scaled discussion and input regarding economic development. “
Andrasek appointed a five-person committee on May 6 that included himself and council members Jolene Biggs, Cory Urban, Dana Dawson and Chad Somers; however, Somers has since resigned from the city council. The committee’s goal was to analyze the method by which the City conducts its economic development activities.
At the June 3 meeting, the council was set to act on a committee recommendation, but opted instead to table the matter until the meeting this week. The action was in response to pleas to reconsider its actions by Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Board members who attended the meeting in force.
The Chamber Board’s concerns were based on the fact the it was not in the loop on the recommended changes and felt the chamber had been left out of the discussions.
In December, the city and the chamber approved a revamped contract for economic development services to, in part, improve communication with the chamber and require more accountability for eco devo efforts. The old contract was drafted in 1999 when the city first contracted with the chamber and had not been changed since.
Technically, the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce is the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development; the latter part is funded through a contract with the City of Great Bend.
The arrangement allowed the chamber to administer the economic development on the city’s behalf. This involves business recruitment and retention, and workforce development.
Economic development receives $153,000 this year through the general fund, with payments being made semi-annually. That is up from $135,000 in 2017 and 2018.
Chamber makes an annual funding request and it is up to the council to decide what will be budgeted. This year, the chamber also sought $50,000 to fund a study (which would have raised the total to $203,000), but that was not granted.
This involves business recruitment and retention, and workforce development and involves what amounts to about a third of the chamber’s annual budget.
The money for the chamber is funded via a city half-cent sales tax (generating 9 percent of the city’s revenue). The tax is split three ways among economic development, infrastructure improvements and property tax relief.
In all, the economic development slice of this pie is anticipated to generate $370,000 in 2019, up from $350,000 in the last two years. This also funds a portion of Community Coordinator Christina Hayes’ department with the remaining balance transferred into an economic development fund.
But. the city needed to “shore up” the details and better clarify the city’s and the council’s expectations. The council also wanted more communication, accountability and transparency.
The contract outlined some concrete goals that could be set. Among these could be a business incentive program, a plan on how to use economic development funds (recruiting or retaining businesses are possibilities), following through on monthly reports, and documenting and listing empty buildings.
It goes beyond talking to prospects, and there needed to be a greater level of detail. However, there are aspects of business recruitment that have to remain confidential.
The contract automatically renewed on Jan. 1. So when the council gave Francis the green light in September, it allowed the city to give the chamber the requisite 90-day notice that it wanted changes.
Jan Peters, who serves as president and chief executive officer of both the chamber and economic development, was also on board.
Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance:
Council hears info on Amber Meadows groundwater
Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:
• Approved the termination of the city’s economic development contract with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. Now, the council’s economic development committee will work with representatives from the chamber on ways to restructure the city’s economic development efforts.
• Heard information on phase one of the Amber Meadows Groundwater Study. The council voted to proceed with phase two of the $25,000 study.
SCS Engineering of Wichita has completed Phase 1 of the Amber Meadows Groundwater Study which includes a summary of groundwater elevations. In summary, groundwater elevations have risen approximately two to six feet between mid-2016 and the end of 2018. Groundwater elevation in December 2017 was approximately elevation 1,844 to 1,846 in Amber Meadows. Homes in Amber Meadows were constructed with top of foundation elevations ranging from 1,856-1,857, said Kevin Hopkins of SCS.
Typical basement depth from top of foundation is eight feet resulting in basement elevations ranging from 1,848 to 1,849. After the recent rain events in May, the city’s on-call engineering firm Professional Engineering Consultants (Wichita) Field Services obtained the elevation of 1,851.78 for the water surface level at Veterans Memorial Lake on May 24.
• Approved the city’s annual audit report as presented by Vickie Dreiling of Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball. She said the city received an “unmodified opinion,” which is the highest opinion it can earn.
There were also no budget violations and the only problem was one internal control issue involving all contracts being approved by the council. This has since been rectified.
• Approved the sixth and final change order for the on-going water line project.
Throughout the project, the Public Works Department requested additional work from project contractor APAC of Hutchinson at various locations via the bond issue money. There were also several areas during the project with unforeseen conditions that required the contractor to perform additional work to be paid by the same mechanism.
The final change order amounts to $115,299.96. The remaining budget available for additional improvements totals $116,960.83, making this still $16,000 under budget.
This basically closes out the contract with APAC, said Josh Golka of PEC.
• Approved the FY 2019 City Connecting Link Improvement Program (CCLIP) resurfacing improvements project for 10th Street from Hickory to 1,300 feet west of Kiowa. The City received one bid from Venture Corporation with a total base bid of $490,217.50.
This is an 80/20 split with the Kansas Department of Transportation, meaning the city pays 20 percent of the cost, or about $99,000.
• Approved a conditional-use permit requested by Kelly Stenzel. She applied for the permit for her house at 2206 27th Street for an Air BnB in an area zoned for residential. The Planning Commission met on May 28 and conducted a public hearing, and there were no interested parties attending other than Stenzel, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. The commission recommended approval.
She will follow the Air BnB guidelines and the occupancy will be limited to four people.
• Approved a zoning ordinance amendment requested by F&L Rentals, doing business as Harper Camperland. This will allow above-ground storage of propane in real estate zoned M-1 (light industrial).
The Planning Commission conducted a public hearing and heard from Dan Lear with Harper. The Fire Department and city staff has recommended approval of the change, and after the public hearing, the commission recommended that the amendment be passed by the Governing Body, Suelter said.
In related matters, the council also approved a revised propane storage tank ordinance. The Fire Department suggested regulations for above ground propane storage tanks with a capacity up to 1 ,000 gallons within the City. This ordinance sets out those regulations.
Suelter and Fire Chief Luke McCormick addressed the matter.
And, after this, the council OKed a conditional-use permit for Harper Camperland to store such a tank on its property on east 10th Street. They are wanted to operate a propane filling station for their customers since there is no place in Great Bend to fill a camper propane systems after noon on Saturdays.
• Approved a rezoning request for Randy and Debbie Deutsch. They have entered an agreement to purchase 15 acres of real estate at 176 20 Rd. conditioned on the real estate being rezoned from A (agricultural) to C (commercial). The real estate is located about two miles northeast of the city in the city’s three-mile zoning radius around Great Bend. If rezoned, the purchasers will use the site as a business for Distinctive Draperies and as a wedding venue site. The Planning Commission conducted a public hearing in the matter and the only interested parties to appear were the owners and the proposed purchasers.
The rezoning will allow the purchase to go through. The Planning Commission has recommended that the rezoning be approved, Suelter said.
“I think this will be a good addition to the city,” Suelter said. “It will be a nice venue.”
The Deutsches are also moving their Distinctive Draperies business to this location.
• Approved the sale of city-owned property and authorized Mayor Joe Andrasek to sign the contract.
At the May 20 meeting, the Suelter was authorized to solicit offers for real estate at the southeast corner of Seventh and Main. Notice was made by advertising in the Great Bend Tribune and on the city website.
One offer was received from the Great Bend Coop in the amount of $15,000. The Coop will pay all broker fees and the City and the Coop will split the cost of title insurance. The total cost of the title insurance is $213 and the City’s half would be $106.50, Suelter said.
The Coop has no immediate plans for the site, zoned light industrial. But, it would make further expansion possible since the Coop owns the land across the street.
• Heard an update on city activities from City Administrator Kendal Francis.
• Heard are report from Christina Hayes, community coordinator and Convention and Visitors Bureau director. She focused on upcoming events and June Jaunt.
• Approved all of the annual business licence renewals.
• Andrasek appointed council members Jessica Milsap, Cory Urban and Jolene Biggs to a committee to review applicants for the Second Ward council seat left vacant by the resignation of Chad Somers.