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County helps Ellinwood with water, sewer projects
Included are the new hospital, new housing
hutchinson and krier at commission meeting
were the only two in the commission chamber, with commissioners Jennifer Schartz and Barb Esfeld taking part via telephone. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Wednesday morning:

• Approved offering financial assistance for the City of Ellinwood in the amount of $300,000 to help with the cost of materials for water and waste water improvements needed due to the new hospital and a planned housing development.

For some time, the City of Ellinwood has worked to develop a water and wastewater improvement project, said City Administrator Chris Komarek. • Approved infrastructure improvement assistance for Rural Water District 1 totalling $65,000.

Russell County Rural Water District No. 3 has proposed acquiring Barton County Rural Water District No. 1, said Mary Anne Stoskopf, secretary/treasurer, Barton County Rural Water District No. 1. In addition to providing Barton County residents with an option for an improved water system, the consolidated Water Districts would be poised for a planned project that involves purchasing water from the City of Hoisington to sell in bulk to the City of Bunker Hill.  

Stoskopf asked the Commission to contribute funding to improve infrastructure.

• Approved offering  helping the City of Claflin with a Kansas Department of Health and Environment grant.

Claflin was awarded a KDHE grant for the purchase of a new recycling trailer. The grant award is $15,720.75, with a cash match amount of $5,240.25, said City Council member Robert Gunder. They asked the county to provide 50% of that match, coming to $ 2,620.13.

• Approved assisting Sunflower Diversified Services with its glass recycling project in amount of $3,196.97.

Sunflower had requested matching funds for a grant to support glass recycling efforts. The agency asked the county to provide up to a 50% match for the $12,878.96 project which would have been $6,393.93.  

• Approved a Facade Improvement Project grant deadline extension.

During the Sept. 21, 2021, commission meeting, AJN Investments LLC. was allocated $20,000 for facade improvements to the building at 1315 Main, Great Bend. As the building has now been moved into an historical district, project planning has been delayed, county Operations Director Matt Patzner said. So, the commission extended the grant period to June 30, 2023.

• Approved a resolution extending the application deadline for ditch mowing applications from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15.

The commission  may revisit this resolution in the future to make more alterations to it, such as strengthening the possible penalties for those who mow but fail to remove the bales in a timely manner. 

To help the City of Ellinwood to move forward on two key development projects, the Barton County Commission Wednesday morning approved offering $300,000 to defray the cost of materials of water and waste water improvements needed for the new hospital and a planned housing addition.

The motion allocates money earmarked specifically for the water and wastewater improvement project to be held by Great Bend Development Inc. until the city needs the funds. This is pending a memorandum of understanding between the parties. 

The county opted to include GBED since commissioners see this as a economic development effort.

“We’re asking for the county for a little assistance on funding to make these projects happen,” said Ellinwood City Administrator Chris Komarek, noting he has worked with the county for a while on this. “They’re going happen one way or other. It’s just how smoothly they’ll go, what we’ll have to do without and where we’ll have to cut.”

The money granted would come from the county’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“We’ve looked at several other funding sources as well,” Komarek said. They eye various grants state grants as well as loans from the United States Department of Agriculture, but the city either didn’t qualify or the programs were not a good fit for the community. 

“I think that I can speak for the whole commission, and just say that we were very impressed with you and your mayor (Irlan Fullbright who was at the meeting), and the city council,” commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3, said. “When we got this ARPA money, we were supposed to divvy it out to some different places, and Ellinwood is at the top that list at this point.”

The projects

Komarek outlined the three projects in the works in his community.

• First is the new Ellinwood District Hospital Building on the west end of town. “They hope to break ground in November,” he said.

But, the city needs to extend the utilities to that area. “Once we do that, it will make that area available for new housing and new businesses as well,” he said.

The cost for this is $138,000 for materials, plus $250,000 for a new lift station. Hospital officials indicated they’ll be sharing some of the cost.

“That’ll be were we start at,” he said, noting this is the first of the big three.

• Second is a planned housing development on 13 acres in the northwest corner of the town the city purchased over 10 years ago. “Hopefully we can put up at least 14 Lots out that way if not even a little bit more.”

Again, utilities need to be added. That includes water, wastewater and electricity, the three utilities provided by the city. There will also be streets and storm water services.

The materials cost for this is an estimated $300,000, about half of that being for the storm sewer.

This would be the second item on the list.

• Third is the downtown area. “We’re trying to revitalize downtown a little bit,” Komarek said.

They’ve applied for a $1 million-plus grant through the Kansas Department of Transportation for new sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and street lighting. There would be a 20% local cost share.

The sidewalks were last replaced in 1982. “They’re about 40 years old and they they’ve really deteriorated since that time,” he said, noting back then, they didn’t update the lighting or the curbs and gutters.

The price is a little over $100,000 for materials. 

This project is about a year and a half away from starting.

In addition, the water mains along the street are 114 years old. While not causing problems yet, “it is time to replace them,” but this is not part of the grant application, Komarek said.

What is involved

When Komarek mentioned materials, these include pipe, manholes, valves and related parts. Everything will be installed by city employees, he said.

“We don’t we don’t hire contractors. That’s a huge expense,” he said. “I have great employees. They’ve got great talent. We can do this ourselves.” 

“I’d like to commend you and the City of Ellinwood for asking for supplies rather than the whole project,” District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier said. It was impressive the work could be handled in-house.

The total material costs for all three comes to about S536,000. That encompasses 6,200 feet of water main, 5,600 feet of sewer main, 17 manholes, and about 1,000 feet of 48-inch storm water pipe. 

He did say they city will have hundreds of thousands more invested in these projects by the time they are done.

“I like project one and project two,” said Krier. But, “I don’t want to set precedents showing that we are giving money out for maintenance,” which is how he viewed the downtown initiative. I want to help new hospitals and new housing. That will add infrastructure into your communities. So that’s kind of where I’m headed.”

“I just want to agree with what Mr. Krier said,” said District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz. “I think the commission was really on top of the hospital and creating a way to build new houses to improve the tax base, not the sidewalk project.”

She did ask about the sidewalk effort and if it would impact the historic underground tunnels in Ellinwood.

No, Komarek said. “The sidewalks around the tunnel are a whole different project than this project that I proposed today.”

They are looking at other KDOT grants for the tunnel area. This is a separate $250,000 project.