By MELISSA NECH
Great Bend Tribune
HOISINGTON — A proposal to buy the Windgate Apartments and the announcement of new fees to ride the Hoisington Trolley were on the agenda at Monday’s Hoisington City Council meeting.
Chris Wikoff appeared before the council Monday, regarding a proposal to buy the Windgate Apartment project. Because of rising interest rates, Wikoff’s approach would be slightly different than his original plan, he said.
“I approached Jonathan (Mitchell, City Manager) with all or nothing,” he said.
With interest rate quotes now over 9%, Wikoff would stabilize the roofs and the outside of each of the six buildings but only update the interior of one building at a time, he said. Once the building was filled with renters, he would update the interior of the next building.
Council members were concerned whether families would prefer apartments over single-family dwellings. Also, some were concerned if having some vacant buildings would put off potential renters.
Wikoff plans to develop 30 apartments with the majority being three-bedroom units.
“It sounds great (to build houses) but not everybody can move here and buy a $250,000 to $300,000 house,” he said. “I know; I have one on the market. How many apartment buildings have gone up in the last two years in Great Bend? They are completely full.”
The council had originally purchased Windgate Apartments for $200,000 with the intention of clearing the six lots for residential housing. The City would spend another $350,000 for asbestos remediation during demolition.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment would cost-share, but Mitchell has had no firm commitment regarding funding, nor a timetable.
Meanwhile, the buildings continue to deteriorate. Wikoff commented, “they are savable.”
The council reached a consensus to table the discussion for the evening.
Also offering public comment Monday was Kathy Copp, Hoisington Senior Center Site supervisor and Trolley dispatcher, who announced that on Dec. 1, Trolley trip costs will increase from 25 cents to $1 for each trip. For example, a trip to the grocery store would be $1 and the return trip would be another $1.
Non-refundable tickets for $15 are available for purchase that provide 20 one-way trips for a savings of $5.
“So far, I’ve had positive feedback,” Copp said. “A lot of people are saying it’s about time.”
Council member Karen Van Brimmer noted that the $15 ticket would make a good gift for Christmas.
The second item of new business was discussion of holiday bonuses and leave for Christmas. Last year, the council approved giving staff a full day off for Christmas Eve in addition to Christmas Day. This year, City staff requested to have the Friday before Christmas and the Monday after Christmas off to make a four-day weekend. They also authorized a taxable bonus of $125 for full-time staff and $75 for each Emergency Medical Services volunteer, non-seasonal part-time staff, and council members. Additionally, the administrative staff proposed a 4% 2023 cost-of-living increase with an additional 1% retirement match for all staff that choose to participate.
The last item of new business was the annual fee resolution that incorporated the pre-approved 5% escalation to utility rates, removed the clause about future escalation for utility rates, made adjustments to incorporate the columbarium niches, and adjusted other fees more in line with rising costs including ambulance charges, permits, licenses, inspections and services. Some fees had not changed for a decade.
For example, if an ambulance run is made within or outside the city limits where no medical intervention is needed, only physical assistance and no transport, then a change of $100 will be billed after a patient has had three non-emergency physical assists within a year. This is an increase of $50.
Mitchell prepared a letter to Russell Rural Water District No. 3 Board of Directors in which he expressed support of the city of Hoisington for the endeavors of the water district. While the City will not be making a direct financial investment into the project, the City will continue its role providing water to RRWD3, which includes the city of Bunker Hill. The City of Hoisington is interested in selling water to the district at the same rate as in-town water customers. Currently, the city has an adequate supply but should issues involving nature, mechanical or regulatory changes reduce the amount of water available, the City of Hoisington will be the first priority.
The City of Hoisington Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, at the City Council Chambers located at 109 East First Street to consider an application for a special use permit. The permit was requested to combine two properties and add office space and the construction of additional storage. This property includes the laundry mat and office space.