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One person received what were described as critical injuries in an explosion reported at 3:08 a.m. Wednesday at 705 10th St. in Great Bend.
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Council accepts fire chief’s resignation
Brent Smith filling in as interim chief
brent smith
Great Bend Deputy Fire Chief Brent Smith will serve as acting fire chief following the resignation of Fire Chief Luke McCormick. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

The Great Bend City Council Monday night approved the resignation of Fire Chief Luke McCormick. In the meantime, Deputy Chief Brent Smith will fill in as acting chief , Interim City Administrator Logan Burns said.

Burns said the search for a new chief won’t begin in earnest until the job of city administrator is filled. At that point, a committee will likely be formed to find the best candidate and recommend that person to the council.

However, this process will be a ways down the road, he said. The hiring of an administrator will take quite a bit of time.

However, Smith said the Fire Department is running fine with him filling in as chief, noting staffing is not an issue.

McCormick’s resignation has been the topic of multiple executive sessions discussing non-elected personnel over recent council meetings. He has not been in the office for going on two weeks.  

McCormick took over for the retiring Fire Chief Mike Napolitano in September 2017. He had been with the department since 2009.

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Approved the resignation of Fire Chief Luke McCormick.

• Approved the city’s applying for a Moderate Income Housing Grant on behalf of  Great Bend Economic Development Inc.

GBED is proposing that the city apply for  the grant, but does not  require the city to put in any additional funds to see the project through, GBED President Sara Arnberger said. GBED  is proposing the city apply for these funds and allow them to be used  towards the building of affordable housing in the Zarah Mall building downtown.  

The MyTown organization owns the building and this is their project.

• Approved a bid from Venture Corporation of Great Bend for $925,900 for the 2023 Street Resurfacing Project.

Project limits are approximately 13 blocks:

• McKinley street (10th to Eighth street) . 

• Firethorn Street, Buckeye Street, Dogwood Street (Third to Barton Drive). 

• Cedar Street, Evergreen Street, Almond Street (Fourth to Barton Drive).

The intent for this project is  to get a high-volume street (McKinley) full-depth repairs and effort to  prioritize residential streets (southeast part of town) as well, said Assistant City Engineer Hitha Kadiyala. Venture Corporation  was the only bidder. 

This project will be constructed  concurrently with 2023 state-federal-funded City Connecting Link Improvement Program (CCLIP) K-96 project so it saves the city on mobilization  costs. 

Start date is expected to be this summer 2023. Funding will come from quarter-cent  sales tax.  

 • Approved the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association Operating Agreement.

The SRCA has been operating the drag strip under an agreement that expired on Dec. 31, 2022. City staff and the SRCA have negotiated an agreement for one year, City Attorney Allen Glendenning said.

Under the deal, the SRCA will pay the city $1 and agree to maintain the facility. It expires Dec. 31.

This is different from the previous agreement in to major ways. First, the amount paid by the SRCA is lower and second, the term is for only one year.

Glendenning said the reason for the reduced rate was the money the SRCA had to spend to correct issues with the track. As for the one-year deal, the city will use that time to assess the causes for the track’s problems so a long-term agreement would be more equitable.

• Heard a report from Interim City Administrator Logan Burns. He focused on the progress  on the new Justice Center and pending legislation in Topeka that could impact how the city regulates zoning in its three-mile extra-territorial coverage area.

• Heard a report from Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Arnberger. She focused on the Ignite entrepreneur program, the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and the progress on the new childcare facility.

• Held a 30-minute executive session to discuss contract matters and consultation with City Attorney Allen Glendenning that “would be deemed privileged in the attorney-client relationship.”

The council reconvened in open session, it approved hiring attorneys Robert Burns and Larry Mott to “determine the condition of the racetrack.”

• Approved a tree trimmers license for Greg Boys.

• Approved the Independence Day and the Great Bend Batcats fireworks shows.  

The Independence Day display is set for the Great Bend  Expo Grounds on July 3. The Batcats  displays will be at home games on June 9, with July 12, as the makeup day, and July 2, with July 24 as the makeup day.

• Approved the change of date for the next regular council meeting. The meeting falls on Presidents Day, Feb. 20, which is a holiday observed by the city. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21.

 • Approved abatements for trash and refuse violations at: 1220 Jefferson St., Valerie Jo Hardy; 1202 Morphy St., Billy Byington; 505 Morphy St., Erika Elliot;  and 212 Chestnut St., Sandra F. Bank Alarcon.

• Approved an abatement for motor vehicle nuisances at 1227 281 Bypass, David and Katie Smith.