Election filing deadline looms
The deadline to file for the Aug. 4 primary and Nov. 3 general election is noon on June 1, Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis said Monday night, addressing the City Council. All candidates must file with the Barton County Clerk’s Office at the courthouse, 1400 Main Street, Room 202, in Great Bend.
Filing forms may also be picked up at the Barton County Annex Building drive-through at 2223 Broadway in Great Bend.
Completed forms can be delivered to the courthouse or mailed.
Council members whose terms expire in 2021 include: First Ward, Lindsay Krom-Craven; Second Ward, Barry Bowers; Third Ward, Dana Dawson; and Fourth Ward, Brock McPherson.
City welcome signs still on track
Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis reported to the City Council Monday night that the two new welcome signs at the north and east entrances to town are still on track. “We are in the permit submittal phase,” he said, noting that since both are on state highways, they require Kansas Department of Transportation approval.
Still, the city is on pace for July 1 installation. “So those are moving along.”
The east sign will be near the Kansas Department of Transportation office, and the north near the flood control levee. Flood lights will illuminate them from the front.
The signs will be suspended by two stone columns. They will stand 8 feet and be 19 feet across.
In December, the council approved a bid from Marks Custom Signs for a total of $38,724 ($17,122 for the north entrance. $21,102 for the east entrance, and a $500 state license fee). The east entrance costs more due to the earthwork involved.
Community Coordinator Christina Hayes stressed that funds for the signs will come from the Thelma Faye Harms Trust, and will not cost the city anything.
The signs are part of the city’s new three-year strategic plan aimed at improving the appearance of the community,
Outside agencies to request funds in writing only
Traditionally, the Great Bend City Council has asked outside agencies that request city funding to make in-person presentations to make their cases and talk about their programs. But, due to meeting restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, “we thought that this might be a good year to end that tradition,” City Administrator Kendal Francis told the City Council Monday night.
“Obviously, the pandemic situation makes it a little bit trickier bringing a lot of people into the council meetings,” he said. “And, quite honestly, I don’t know that it serves a great purpose so I, my recommendation would be that we would just take the requests in writing.”
This wouldn’t be a real big change, he said. The requesting non-city agencies already submit written proposals for consideration.
“We can work them out through our budget process,” he said. The in-person presentations were scheduled for the next council meeting June 1.
“So, we would still be able to see their paperwork that they turn in to substantiate why they need what they need?” asked Councilwoman Jolene Biggs.
“Absolutely,” Francis said. The deadline for the requests is Friday and copies will be sent to council members as quickly as possible.
The council then gave its collective nod to the change.
Transient guest tax nets more than anticipated
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and fears of revenue shortfalls, Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes had a bit of good news for the City Council Monday night. She reported that the most recent transient guest tax totals were higher than projected.
The payments from the Kansas Department of Revenue cover the bed taxes collected in the first and second quarters of the state’s fiscal year. This fiscal year differs from the city’s calendar budgeting year that runs from January through December.
“So, we are up, which is good,” she said. “That means our last year took care of us.”
In the state’s first quarter that ran September through November 2019, the city received over $100,000 compared to the previous year which netted $87,000, Hayes said. For the second quarter, the payment was almost $63,000 for December through February, compared to $57,000 in 2018-19.
The fact that the two different budgeting years are off-set is a good thing, she said. “It really benefits us because we know at least, we have two good quarters of our transient guest tax.”
Now, the city is waiting for the shoe that is about to fall. “Of course, we’re expecting extreme, extreme drastic changes in the next two quarters” because of the lack of motel occupancy caused by the pandemic.
“But, I still think this is a positive because we get two good quarters, and it’s actually higher than what we had last year,” she said. “That’s something to be proud of. Our hotels are doing it right. And I think that’s a good thing for sure.”
This tax funds the Events Center and Convention Visitors Bureau.
City eyeing code enforcement update
Great Bend City Councilman Junior Welch, addressing the entire council Monday night, said he’s heard concerns from residents about the poor condition of some yards around town. This sparked a larger discussion about the abatement process and an ongoing effort to revise the city’s code enforcement procedures.
“I think some people are afraid to come in and say anything,” Welch said. There are several options for those wanting to lodge a complaint, from contacting him directly to using the request tracker on the city’s website where reports can be filed.
As a matter of fact, code enforcement revisions are part of the city’s multi-year strategic plan which went into effect this year. City Administrator Kendal Francis said there have been preliminary discussions on the issue, but suggested it be the subject of a council work session once some sense of normal emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic mess.
“Our ideas are to try to streamline that process a little bit,” Francis said. “The first time an abatement is identified, it can be as much as a month and a half before reaching the City Council. That’s a long time for those cases to be active.”
Francis did emphasize that many cases are resolved by the property owners before they require council action. But, “we still have issues and some tighter enforcement needs to be done.”
Discussions will also likely include city ordinances on penalty levels and what to do with repeat offenders.