Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis reminded the City Council Monday the that the council will hold a joint meeting with the Barton County Commission. The session is set for 6 p.m. Monday, March 29, at the Great Bend Events Center, 3111 10th St.
Mayor to sign grant agreement
The Great Bend City Council Monday night authorized Mayor Cody Schmidt to sign the agreement for a $600,000 community development block grant. The money will help fund improvements to an approximately 13 block section of Broadway between Polk and Morton Streets, and the reconstruction of the intersection at 19th and Harrison.
The grant does require a local match for the project.
The engineer’s estimate for the project is $1,292,800, and the city will match 50%, which comes to $692,000. The city will draw on its quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to street maintenance to cover the cost.
However, city officials anticipate the actual amount of the city’s portion being less as city staff will handle construction inspections, said City Administrator Kendal Francis.
The funding comes via a Kansas Department of Commerce Small Cities Community Development Block Grant.
These are federal funds funneled through the State of Kansas. Great Plains Development of Dodge City will administer the grant for Great Bend.
The CDBG program administered by the Community Development Division in Commerce provides federal funds to local governments for the development of viable communities by addressing their housing, public facilities and economic development needs.
Workforce development project continues
The effort to establish a Workforce Development Program in Great Bend continues, Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Hayden told the City Council Monday night.
“The last time we communicated on this, we were reaching out to all of these different organizations in the community that take care of workforce service, and just finding out what everybody does, how they’re advertising and where our gaps might be,” she said. They have completed that first task and are now ready to meet in person.
“I’m happy to say that everybody is very glad to be on board and I’m looking forward to all of their thoughts and feedback,” she said, “I know we’ll be able to come up with some great solutions.”
As part of this effort, GBED contracted with Gruen and Gruen Associates of San Francisco, Calif., which surveyed 91 Great Bend businesses. Of those, 85% need to hire right now or will be hiring five to 10 employees in the near future.
“They also said that their number one dilemma is finding workforce,” Hayden said. “So we know that this is a top priority. We know it’s something that we need to focus on.”
And, if they can help and support existing businesses, “it puts us in a great position to support our new businesses that will surely come,” she said.
Entrepreneurship efforts ongoing
Work on an entrepreneurship program is progressing well, Great Bend Economic Development President Sara Hayden said in a report to the City Council Monday night.
“This is being created with the idea that rural communities, statistically, are most successful when they support growth from within,” Hayden said. “We’ve seen that in Great Bend. Some of our most successful businesses were born right here,” she said. “And so we want to make sure that we’re able to support this for future generations as well.”
This program will include a business incubator setup, mentorship programs, revolving loan programs and competitive opportunities for entrepreneurs. But, “we’re not going to put out anything that can’t be successful for our community, so we’re taking our time,” she said.
“We’re exploring all of the different options that are available, and making sure we’re working with experts in the state that can help us to define what these programs look like,” she said.
This would also be attractive to outsiders, such as potential businesses, she said.
Data collected for housing study
Meetings this week are helping Great Bend Economic Development Inc. get a picture Great Bend’s housing needs as progress on a housing study moves quickly forward, GBED President Sara Hayden said. The goal is to evaluate the existing housing stock and address challenges.
The study, being done by RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, Neb., cost $10,000, but a grant from Wheatland Electric covered half of that, she said, addressing the Great Bend City Council in her monthly report Monday night. The council approved paying the balance in February.
“We were just asking you for the funding a month ago,” Hayden said. “We’re already moving at lightning speed on that.”
RDG Planning and Design was in Great Bend Tuesday and Wednesday. The firm requested that Hayden put together six different focus groups – public sector, major employers, financial organizations, community organizations, builders and developers, and realtors and property managers. There were no more than 10 people per group, and they met over those two days.
The consultants will take all that data and compile it, Hayden said. The city will get a full housing study back by the end of March or very beginning of April.
“we’re moving along quite nicely with that which is exciting,” she said. “The next step after that will be to put together a housing task force where we can take all the information that we’ve gained from that and put together a plan to put into place to take care of some of those needs.”
Downtown strategies taking shape
Downtown Strategies is coming to Great Bend as part of its work with Great Bend Economic Development Inc.’s effort to survey the community and develop long-term strategic goals, GBED President Sara Hayden said, speaking to the City City Council Monday night.
“They are coming for a visioning study next week,” Hayden said. “We’ll do a walking tour of downtown and driving tour. They are going to get to hear really what our wish list looks like, and see it firsthand.”
In November, the council approved a proposal from Gruen and Gruen Associates of San Francisco, Calif., for $9,500 for a retail survey, which gas already been completed. Also OKed was a proposal from Downtown Strategies of Jackson, Miss., for $30,000 for a market workshop, retail academy, as well as a market analysis and the downtown strategic plans, and that is underway now.
The Downtown Strategies consultants will take back that data and local input, she said. They’ll put it all together to produce three-year and five-year plans by the end of March.
The firm has also conducted a survey. Representatives will bring the results when they visit next week.
“I will tell you that they’ve been impressed so far” with the survey results, Hayden said.
City projects resume after cold snap
The bitter cold that embraced the area two weeks ago brought ongoing city projects to a stop, Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis told the City Council Monday night. But, “some of our projects are getting back on track.”
He noted that motorists will see work resuming on the massive resurfacing project on 10th Street (which started on the west side of town) and the reconstruction of the historic Sunflower Rod and Custom Association dragstrip west of town is nearing completion now that temperatures have warmed.