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Ellinwood impresses County Commission
Commissioners review joint meeting with Ellinwood council
county commission short-handed pic
With the Barton County Commission shorthanded due to two absences, commissioners Shawn Hutchinson, Kirby Krier and Jon Prescott discuss the commission’s joint meeting last week with the Ellinwood City Council. Commissioner Jennifer Schartz was on vacation and Commissioner Barb Esfeld was attend county-related meetings. - 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 meeting did Wednesday morning:

• Appointed Operations Director Matt Patzner as the county contact for the Kansas Department of Revenue.

The Kansas Department of Revenue, overseeing the Division of Taxes, Division of Vehicles, Property Valuation Division, and Alcoholic Beverage Control, collects taxes and fees, administers Kansas tax laws, issues licenses, enforces alcohol law and aids Kansas citizens and local governments, Patzner said. 

This hasn’t been updated since former County Treasurer Kevin Wondra was listed as the contact person.

• Held an overview of the commission’s joint meeting last Wednesday night with the Ellinwood City Council in Ellinwood.

• Held a study session discussion with County Treasurer Jim Jordan on Kansas House Bill 2380, known as the motor vehicle fee bill. 

Essentially, this calls for increasing certain registration and title fees on  vehicles for services performed by county treasurers and the division of vehicles, and decreasing certain fees related to administrative costs and disposition of such fees and eliminating the division of vehicles modernization surcharge. 

This bill has not been passed into law. It is anticipated that the Kansas County Treasurer’s Association will reintroduce this bill in an effort to reduce state-mandated operational costs.

• Following the meeting and study session, commissioners served at the Barton County Employee Picnic held on the south side of Jack Kilby Square. 

Barton County commissioners left a joint meeting with the Ellinwood City Council last Wednesday night impressed with what is happening in the community. The gathering was a topic during the commission’s meeting this Wednesday morning.

“There was some wonderful conversations and I love the vision of the City of Ellinwood and what they want to do to grow that community,” said District 4 Jon Prescott. “It also affects the growth, in a positive way, for the entire county. So it’s pretty exciting.”

There was a lot of open discussion and candid discussion. “It’s refreshing to have those kinds of meetings and not worry about somebody getting upset.”  

District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier said Ellinwood City Manger Chris Komarek presented three available shovel-ready projects to his City Council during the meeting. “I think he has a handle on all three. It looks good, Here’s a huge shout out to Chris Komarek’s great leadership there.”

These endeavors include the new Ellinwood District Hospital on the west edge of town, a new housing development in the northwest corner and a Main Street street-scape initiative.

“Those are all very important things in the community of that size,” said commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3. It’s not easy to budget for such infrastructure because it only gets more expensive the longer they wait.

“I think overall, we all thought on our side, that the meeting was excellent,” said Komarek, who attended the meeting this week. “There was good communication, and we appreciate the county commissioners having an interest in what’s going on in Ellinwood.”

“Commissioner Hutchinson and I have been promoting that we’re all one community,” Krier said. “We want that to continue.”

What’s happening in Ellinwood

Komarek outlined the three projects in the works.

With the hospital, “that’s still not all exactly finalized yet,” he said. But, it should be good to go come late July or August.

“We’ve got a lot of utility infrastructure we need to add there,” he said. This includes water and sewer lines, as well as a costly lift station.

As for housing, “we’d like to build another block up there in the northwest corner town,” he said. This has a potential for 15 large lots 

Lastly, “we’re also waiting on notification in either late July early August on our downtown street-scape project,” he said. This is potentially a $1 million-plus effort and the city applied for a Transportation Alternatives Grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

“We’re going to have to wait and see if we get that grant,” he said.

Some of the downtown water pipe dates back to 1908. “It’s not causing us any problems really. It’s hanging right in there, but, after 100 some years, it’s probably time to update that pipe.”

So, they hope to break ground this year. “But, if it doesn’t happen, if we don’t get the award this year, we’ll re-file for next year and hopefully get it the second time around.”

He noted that Kansas Housing Resources Corporation officials will visit Ellinwood Thursday to tour the city. The agency can offer Moderate Income Housing Grants, and Komarek said his community could be in the running for one of the awards.

“We’re looking at those,” he said. “We’re pretty excited about that.”