Loss of water service during storm caused by ‘human error’
On the evening of Sunday, June 21, a storm whipped Great Bend with 80-mile-per-hour straight-lines winds, shredding trees and knocking out power for many residents. It also caused many to lose water service, a problem City Councilman Alan Moeder wanted addressed at the council meeting Monday night.
“There’s all kinds of rumors flying around about what happened,” he said. “I want to know why three generators (which should have kicked on during the power outage to run the pumps) did not work.”
“The generators worked,” City Administrator Kendal Francis said. On the pumps, there are three settings – on, off and automatic.
“The pumps themselves were in the off position instead of the auto,” Francis said. So, when the power came back to them, it could not turn them back on.
“Human oversight. I mean that’s what it comes down to,” he said. “We’ve taken steps to bypass that issue. We’ve added some devices that will automatically kick them on when the power comes to them.”
Francis said the first thing the on-call city personnel should have done that night was to check the well, but that didn’t happen. “So, we had some human error.”
Moeder was concerned about what would have happened in the event of a fire, a strong possibility during such a storm.
“Candidly, there was a fire,” Francis said. “We were in the process of restoring water at the time.”
The Fire Department does take a tanker truck to the scene as a backup.
Search underway for eco devo president
The search for a new Great Bend Economic Development Inc. president is in full swing, GBED Board member Barry Bowers said during his economic development update to the City Council Monday night. They are looking to replace Jessica Milsap who resigned in mid June after just over four months in the post.
“We are actively interviewing people for the position the president of the economic development,” he said. “We held five interviews last week. Actually, we had a really, really good showing, so hopefully in the next couple weeks we’ll have some good news to report.”
City staff given option to wear face masks
In response to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order last week requiring the wearing face masks to combat the spread of COVID-19, and the Barton County Board of Health’s subsequent repeal of that order, City Administrator said masks are available for city personnel.
“I’ll just tell you as far as operations for the city goes, we have made masks available to staff and it’s their choice to wear them,” he said. “However, we are not providing them to people coming into the buildings. If you want to wear a mask in city facilities, you can but you have to bring your own.”
Census response crucial to city, county
The Great Bend City Administrator urged everyone to fill out the 2020 U.S. Census, noting its importance in bringing critical funding to important programs locally.
“COVID has kind of thrown a monkey wrench in a lot of the plans that they’ve had as far as getting census takers around door to door,” Francis said, addressing the City Council Monday night. But, one can take it online at KansasCounts.org.
“It’s very important for Barton County and Great Bend as far as receiving federal funds,” he said. Kansas received roughly $6 billion in federal funds last year and that money was allocated by population, down to the cities and counties for programs like Medicaid, student loans and Pell Grants, and Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
“Those types of things are all based on Census counts, so it is important that we get an accurate count. So I encourage anyone to do that if they have not.”
The Kansas average right now of people self responding is 65.6%, with Great Bend at 63.1%. “We’re right there with the Kansas average.”
Next Kendal’s Koffee in the works
The next Kendal’s Koffee is tentatively scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday, July 31, City Administrator Kendal Francis said. The informal public question-and-answer sessions is set to take place at Heizer Park, at Eighth and Heizer streets.
“It will be face-to-face, but we will also be streaming live on Facebook,” he said. More details will be forthcoming.
Eco devo board taking public input
As part of its strategic plan, Great Bend Economic Development Inc. is holding a series of meetings with business and civic leaders. The goal is to hear their thoughts and concerns, and build them into the GBED’s vision for the future, board member Barry Bowers told the City Council Monday night.
“We are continuing to hold business summits,” he said. Similar businesses are grouped together for each meeting.
For example, there was one on education with Barton Community College and Unified School District 428 officials invited. Most recently, Monday afternoon, they met with the Hispanic business community.
“The idea was to visit a little bit about what their needs are, what their concerns are, and how can we help them from an economic development point of view and how can they help the community,” Bowers said.
“These all stemmed from a mission and strategic planning session that we did in February,” he said of the GBED Board. “We created our mission statement and core strategies.”
They decided at that point to hold these sessions, he said. They really wanted to get the public perception of what the community needs are rather than just what the five board members thought.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed some of the summits for a spell. “But we’re pretty close to being done,” he said.
They have one more scheduled for next week.
Then, “we’re going to hold our committee session to finish up the end of this month,” Bowers said. “So, hopefully we’ll kind of wrap it all up and finally have a plan.”