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Council OKs grant to help Zarah housing
Goal to bring affordable apartments downtown
council meeting at city hall
Members of the Great Bend City Council meet in City Hall Monday night. This marked the first meeting at City Hall since the council moved its meetings to the Events Center last Spring to allow for better social distancing due to COVID-19. Among the agenda items was the city’s application for a Moderate Income Housing Grant through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation for apartments in the Hotel Zarah building.

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Monday marked the City Council’s first meeting back at City Hall since moving the meetings to the Events Center last Spring to allow for better social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a quick look at what the council did Monday night:

• Following two executive sessions totaling 35 minutes, the council took no action in regard to extending City Administrator Kendal Francis’ contract for another year.

The closed-door sessions were held to conduct a performance review of Francis. It is required that a review be carried out annually on his anniversary date of July 30. 

At the July 19 council meeting, the governing body announced that they will reevaluate him in 90 days. That was moved to this Monday’s meeting.

• Approved the city’s application for a Moderate Income Housing Grant through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation.

Great Bend Economic Development Inc. proposed the city apply for the grant on behalf of GBED. This grant does not require the city to put in any additional funds to see the project through, GBED President Sara Hayden said. GBED is proposing that the city apply for these funds and allow them to be used toward the building of affordable housing in the Zarah Mall building downtown. 

 • Approved the city’s 2022 Blue Cross Blue Shield rates.

BCBS presented the city with a projected 13% rate increase for 2022. In 2019, they had a 4% savings of claims to contributions, and in 2020, they showed a 15% savings, Human Resource Director Randy Keasling said. 

They did not decrease premiums in 2021 in an effort to keep premiums more consistent for instances just like this, he said. “Having come off of a very good year in 2020 with low utilization as well as not dropping our premiums, we are recommending holding our rates flat for 2022.”

• Approved a resolution designating a 15-minute parking zone in the fourth stall north of 10th Street on the west side of Williams Street for That One Groomer.

Parking spaces in front of That One Groomer and First National Travel are being parked in by people not there for business, Public Works Director Jason Cauley said. Once the spaces are occupied, the vehicles are left for long durations, causing difficult access to the businesses. The owner of That One Groomer requested the one parking stall in front of her business and First National Travel to be marked as 15-minute parking to alleviate this problem.  

There were concerns about a flood of similar requests and about how the limits would be policed.

• Authorized Mayor Cody Schmidt to a lease extension with Texpar. 

Texpar has leased  about two acres at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. The company has large tanks for storing petroleum products on the premises. 

They have been at the airport for 25 years and wish to extend their lease. The lease is for the land and Texpar pays $500 per year, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. 

The real estate sat empty from the time the city acquired the airport in 1947 until Texpar leased the land and constructed the tanks. “The company has been a good tenant at the airport,” he said. 

The lease runs through March 21, 2026. 

Texpar re-purposes oil residue out of oil tanks.

• Heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis. He focused on projects including the proposal from the Kansas Department of Transportation to redo the 10th and McKinley intersection with a new light, including a left-turn only feature. There is no time line for this project, but it could be up to two years away.

• Heard a report from Christina Hayes, community coordinator and Convention and Visitors Bureau director. She focused on the success of this past weekend’s Great Bend Airfest. She said there were 9,000 attendees and she praised the city staff and volunteers for making it happen.

• Approved a two-day cereal-malt beverage license for Chad Erlich for the Car Auction at the Expo Grounds on Oct. 1 and 2.

• Approved abatements for trash and refuse at: 208 Fruit, Ismael and Amalia Campos; 208 Locust, Leesa Maupin; 2013 Baker, Marie Drewel; 1706 Holland, Nereyda Sanchez; 1412 Broadway, Roberto Guzman Jr.; 819 Pine Pl., MJ Linares Properties LLC. and TM Acquisitions LLC.; 432 locust, Myriom Concepcion Banuelos Silva; 408 locust, Miguel Mota Gamez; 1622 19th, Sandra Wright; 1447 Park, Jim Hanks; 1208 Morphy, Kenneth W. and Bonita J. Thomas; 2406 18th, Ishmael A. Montelongo; and 509 Odell, Brian Eugene Jonas.

• Held a work session following the meeting to discuss Great Bend Economic Development Inc. bylaw changes. It was the consensus of the council to expand the GBED Board from five to seven members and to enter into a cooperative economic development effort with Barton County on a one-year trial basis.

To help continue the effort to bring more housing to Great Bend, the City Council Monday night approved applying for a Moderate Income Housing Grant through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation. The action was taken at the request of Great Bend Economic Development Inc. to develop affordable housing in downtown Great Bend’s iconic Zarah Hotel building. 

“If not us, it will go to another community,” GBED President Sara Hayden said of the funding. She stressed that this grant does not require the city to kick in any additional money for the project. 

“The purpose of this grant is to put more funds into a housing project to allow the owner to then rent the units for a lesser amount,” Hayden said of using the funds for Zarah renovations. They realize this is an opportunity to attract more funds to overcome housing shortage challenges and “allow for nicer housing options to be available at an affordable cost,” she said. 

They selected this building because of the number of units that will be able to be constructed, Hayden said, noting this was the only space available that met grant criteria. They will apply for the grant every year for other projects as they arise. 

The medium income level is based on the Area Median Income. For Barton County, that salary ceiling is about $85,000.

This would help with nine apartments in the building, which is owned by downtown development group MyTown. The rent would be between $750 and $850.

In all, this would be a multi-million-dollar endeavor, Hayden said.

The KHRC limits grants or loans to no more than $400,000 per awardee, but Hayden said the GBED is asking for $350,000. Requests for Proposals are released each summer, with applications due to KHRC in mid-October.

Cities and counties with populations under 60,000 are eligible to apply. 

According to the KHRC, the Moderate Income Housing program serves the needs of moderate-income households that typically don’t qualify for federal housing  assistance. MIH grants and/or loans are awarded to cities and counties for down payment assistance or to develop multi-family rental units, single-family for-purchase homes, and infrastructure in communities with populations fewer than 60,000 people.