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Ellinwood City Council approves housing study
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Mel Waite presents the Barton County Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan to the Ellinwood City Council Tuesday night. The plan is a tool for future planning, and will not require any upfront expenditures. The council endorsed the plan. - photo by Veronica Coons, Tribune staff

Other items of discussion and actions taken included:

Service awards were announced for Ellinwood firefighters Mark Pohlman (25 years) and Tony Schmitt (15 years) for their dedicated service to the citizens of the city. Both were unable to attend, so Mayor Irlan Fullbright will personally deliver the awards.
Approved a request by Chamber of Commerce Director Jacque Isern to use city property for the fifth annual June Jaunt which will be held Saturday, June 4. Due to anticipated work on Santa Fe, exact locations for different events are still to be determined. The council approved use of all city owned property needed.
Approved a Cereal Malt Beverage license for Casey’s General Store #3484. Sometime around April 16-20 is the projected opening date.
Rejected the bid from Nowak Construction Company in the amount of $3,362,480.70 for the city’s Water/Sewer Relocation Project at the recommendation of KDOT. An earlier engineer’s estimate for the project was $1,983,044.
Approved the renewal of the city’s General Liability, Property, and Casualty Insurance prior to the April 1 renewal date. A slight decrease in renewal premium in the amount of $710 was realized. The new premium will be $117,314.

The Ellinwood City Council welcomed the opportunity to hear from two different sources vying to bring new housing to the city. Vicky Dayton, Executive Director of Housing Opportunities Inc., and Justin Joiner of Joiner Construction both indicated their desire to secure funding through the state’s Moderate Income Housing Program (MIH) in order to bring additional moderate income housing to the city. Therefore, both made a case in favor of the city conducting a market study for housing.

MIH funding comes in the form of grants awarded to Cities and counties with a population fewer than 60,000, according to the Kansas Housing Resource Corporation. Applicants are allowed to partner or contract with outside entities or individuals, including but not limited to public housing authorities, non-profits, community housing development organizations, developers and local employers.
The program helps communities, via housing developers, respond to housing issues and needs in underserved areas, Dayton explained. Funds are awarded on a competitive basis annually for an amount up to $500,000. Housing developers obtain funding to supplement a primary loan for the development. Communities achieve added housing stock with an enhanced tax base to further their economic and community development efforts. The program is effective in addressing some of the most difficult rental housing development needs that communities have.

Under the MIH Program, moderate-income is defined as $68,063 to $128,344 and is adjusted for family size.
“In the 17 years we’ve been building, I’ve never yet see an award go to a community that did not first do a market study,” Dayton said.
The basic study, which could cost the city in the ballpark of $8,000, would include information on existing rental housing, the existing rental market, and several other factors, concluding with what the city is actually lacking, if anything.

City Manager Bud Newberry informed the council his office is aware of at least three different firms that could conduct the study, and offered to do additional research at their direction. Through consensus, the council directed him to do so.
Once completed, the city may choose which contractor or non-profit they would like to endorse to for a project. Dayton informed the council that with the limited amount of funds available, the decision makers frown on awarding funds to more than one project in a city at a time.

Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan presented
Mel Waite, a Be Well Barton County coalition member and Ellinwood resident, presented the newly completed county-wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. Developed by the Be Well Barton County coalition in 2015, the plan creates a cohesive vision that may be used by local governments as a tool for planning and development, Waite said.

A few years ago, Barton County’s health rating was ranked 86 of 105 counties. That doesn’t bode well for the county he said. Working with the Kansas Health Foundation, Be Well Barton County decided to look at healthy lifestyles. Assets were identified, and they hired They approached RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, Neb. to develop a master plan the entire county could use as a tool for future city and county planning.

Waite, an active cyclist, personally cycled around Ellinwood and the surrounding area with consultant Marty Shukert. They identified several locations around the city that could be considered for enhancements to make safe passageways for pedestrians, mostly around parks, schools and the recreation center.
But it was also noted that along many streets in Ellinwood, pedestrians routinely walk on the side of roads because sidewalks are not available. The local traffic self-regulates, so that is not a problem, Waite said.
“There is no need to spend money right away if the city endorses this plan,” he explained. “it’s a tool we can use going forward to help ensure as future plans develop the health and safety of Ellinwood residents is taken into consideration.”

To underscore the point, he addressed the fact that there is only one streetlight crossing at Santa Fe that allow pedestrians to safely access one side or the other of town. With a major road project scheduled to start in the next few months, no plans were included to address additional crossings or pedestrian walkways along Santa Fe, and that would have been the ideal time to do so, he said.
Other simple things the city can do, it is noted in the plan, is to apply sharrows to shared roadways, where both motor vehicles and bicycles travel. Wayfaring signs can also be used.

Waite then introduced Brandon Steinert, a member of Barton County Young Professionals. He explained that funds raised by last Fall’s YP5K run would purchase 20 bike stands, and the group voted to have them distributed to each of the communities included should they endorse the plan and agree to provide installation of the bike racks.
Following the presentations, the council unanimously approved both the master plan and the receipt of the bike racks.

City Manager’s report
Newberry told the council the bill of $3,100 from Devine Masonry, listed in the month’s appropriations, is for the preparation of the wall exposed following the demolition of the properties at 1st and Main Street last month. Sometime in April, Pickens will apply spray concrete to further protect the wall of the building where The Cutting Edge was once located. That building is now owned by the city, and Newberry said it is more sound than expected following the demolition. Also, the foundation is in very good condition, he said.
“It’s not as bad as it could have been,” he said. One flower planter was destroyed, and the city is withholding payment for that from the contractor.

Concerning the bid for engineering of both the water and sewer projects associated with the KDOT project that was rejected, the city and KDOT are seeking now to combine both projects which should realize some savings. The projects will be rebid later this month or in early April, and the city hopes to have a contractor on site in early May, he said.

Thursday night, Newberry will meet with Township trustees to finalize plans on elevation work on NE 100 Rd. Those plans will detail how water will be directed away from town through ditches to alleviate flooding concerns the city has faced in recent years. Community members voiced concerns and asked Newberry to call a public meeting where these concerns could be addressed for those that will be affected by the project. It is a critical project, especially in light of ongoing flood plain mapping happening now in the area. The city agreed they would arrange for that meeting.

With no other questions or comments the meeting was adjourned. The Ellinwood City Council will meet again on Tuesday April 12 at 7 p.m. at the Ellinwood City building