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KDOT Cost-Share helps SRCA project
Kendal Francis Kiwanis 2019
Kendal Francis talks to the Kiwanis Club about the grant to restore the SRCA dragstrip.

By offering to contribute $1.1 million toward a Kansas Department of Transportation Cost-Share project, the City of Great Bend will spend less than the $1.5+ million estimated cost of repaving the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association dragstrip, City Administrator Kendal Francis said. As an added bonus, KDOT funds will pay to resurface about 7.2 lane-miles of 10th Street. 

Francis recapped his first year as city administrator on Wednesday when he was the guest speaker at the Great Bend Kiwanis meeting. Most of the projects he talked about when he visited the club a year ago have been completed, including the $6.5 million waterline project, building a new section of 8th Street and reconstructing the intersection at 10th and Grant.

“It had its hiccups, but we got it completed,” Francis said of the latter project.

The new HVAC system at the Crest Theater is nearing completion and should be done around the first week of December.

“Probably the next biggest thing that’s going on was the recent announcement that our application for the (Kansas Department of Transportation) Cost Share Program was awarded,” Francis said. This is the first year for the project, with the Legislature providing $50 million in one-time funds.

“The idea is to try to leverage local monies to help (cities and counties) catch up on some of the most deferred maintenance type projects in the local areas,” he said. Great Bend has matched state funds for other projects, recently repaving a portion of 10th St. using a City Connecting Link Improvement Program (CCLIP) grant where the city paid 10% of the project cost.

The city applied for other projects, including more repairs to 10th Street, but the grants are highly competitive and some applications had already been denied.

“So along comes Cost Share,” Francis said. “We started looking at it and said, ‘Well, how about the SRCA dragstip? It has an economic development component to it, which was something that scored fairly high with the Legislature.”

But a dragstrip project alone, while it would qualify, would probably lose to a Wichita interchange or something like that, state officials said. The project was too narrow.

Instead of giving up, the city looked at some of the CCLIP projects that had already been denied. “So we applied to mill and overlay, essentially, everything else (that hasn’t been done) on 10th Street.”

Francis said these projects “move at the speed of government,” which means they probably won’t be done until late 2021 or 2022. “But 2022 is a lot sooner than it would have been done if we’d done this on our own. In fact, we may not have been able to do it,” he said.

The first phase of redoing the dragstrip was the actual racing surface, estimated to cost about $700,000. The second half is what they call the shutdown area, which the drag racers use as they start slowing down. 

“That was going to be about $900,000, give or take,” Francis said. “That was the estimate we received – about $1.5 to $1.6 million to replace the dragstrip. Now, for $1.1 million we’ll replace the entirety of the dragstrip and throw all of 10 Street in for free. So it’s a pretty good deal for us. We’re blessed have been awarded that.”

He added that Kansas Sen. Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), brother of SRCA President Hank Denning, was a strong proponent who fought for Great Bend’s project when it came time to make the project selections.

“We’re hoping that we can get to work on the dragstrip almost immediately. Quite honestly, it’s at its end of life and we want to prevent shutting it down. We’re hoping to be able to get this project rolling and completed in 2020.”