Flanked by Spanish translator Venessa Favela, Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis Monday night held his first Kendal’s Koffee of the year at the Great Bend Events Center. The topics from projects to improvements varied widely.
The sessions are informal gatherings for the public to ask questions about what’s going on in the city. This was a change of time and venue for these events, which have taken place in the mornings at business and sites around town.
“This is a new and improved time slot,” Francis said. While the crowd was small in the Santa Fe Trail Room prior to the City Council meeting, the briefing was followed via the Facebook live-stream.
Topics Monday included the elimination of the COVID-19 mask mandate and ongoing vaccination efforts at the Health Department, upcoming city election filing deadlines, rules regarding the use of the new Bird electric scooters, coming improvements to Heizer Park, code enforcement regarding tall grass and the accumulation of tires, and the ongoing improvements to 10th Street which should wrap up by June.
As he spoke, he paused to allow Favela to repeat his remarks in Spanish.
The major issues are recapped below:
Elections and boards
The mayor’s position and one seat in each of the city’s four council wards are up for election in November, Francis said. These are for Mayor Cody Schmidt, Lindsey Krom-Craven of Ward 1, Jolene Biggs of Ward 2, Cory Urban of Ward 3 and Junior Welch of Ward 4.
The deadline to file is noon, June 1, and the filing fee is $20. Filing must be done at the Barton County Clerk’s Office.
“I get a lot of questions about how to get involved in the community,” Francis said. Elected posts are great opportunities, but some may not want that much of a commitment.
“There are other opportunities to volunteer,” he said. There are numerous city-sponsored boards that oversee such things as the library to construction that need members, and there are other chances to participate as well.
Those interested should contact City Clerk Shawna Schafer at 620-793-4111.
“I probably get the most questions about the improvements to Heizer Park,” he said. They surveyed area residents and had a great interest with over 400 responses.
The top four improvements requested were:
• New playground equipment to replace what now dates to the 1980s.
The city is seeking a Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks grant to help fund this. The deadline is in September and they will requests public letters of support closer to that time.
There may also be some Thelma Faye Harms Trust money available.
• Additional lighting.
Wheatland Electric awarded the city a $1,000 grant toward this. Once locations are determined, this will be done in the near future, he said,
• Additional picnic areas. This will be done later this year.
“Unfortunately, this is very costly,” he said. They are looking at funding sources, but this will likely be the final improvement to be made.
Besides these four, Francis said they will be making free Wi-fi available at the park very soon.
It was in August of last year that Francis held a Kendal’s Koffee at Heizer Park. It was a chance to highlight the coming changes to the park in southeast Great Bend.
In October 2019, the city was awarded over $3 million through the Kansas Department of Transportation Cost-share program to rebuild the historic the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association dragstrip and to mill and overlay of nearly all of 10th Street. KDOT covered 75% of the cost.
“I am happy to report that the dragstip is substantially completed,” Francis said, noting there are just some last details remaining. The first race on the new track is set for June 5.
As for 10th Street, “that is nearing completion as well,” he said. Weather permitting, that should be done by the first week of June.
“Those are two very big projects,” he said. “We are proud to offer those to the City of Great Bend.”
“A lot of people ask how we determine which streets get fixed,” he said. The city has a yearly maintenance plan determined by a ranking system that uses a complex formula based on pavement ratings.
“Tenth Street was a high priority because of all the traffic it carries,” he said. “But, we also understand we need to be addressing residential streets.”
The city taps a sales tax dedicated to street repairs to fund these projects and that yields about $700,000 each year. But, this work is expensive and they sometimes pool this tax money for multiple years.
They are also looking at grant possibilities, such as the Community Development Block Grant that will pay for most of the resurfacing of Broadway from Polk to Morton, a job slated for next summer.
There are also several blocks of gravel streets in the city, he said. City crews are experimenting with how they can save money by repaving these in-house.
MacArthur south of 10th Street was the first test of this. If this works, they will try it elsewhere.
“We get lots of complaints about tall grass and weeds,” Francis said. A yard is in violation if the vegetation is nine inches tall or more.
He outlined the abatement process, from a certified letter to the property owner to the city coming in and mowing at the owner’s expense.
He also touched on the accumulation of old tires, which is another violation of city ordinances.
Anyone with questions can call Code Enforcement at its new number, 620-791-5010.
As a side note, Francis said the city’s ordinances are all on its website greatbendks.net. It utilizes Google Translate, so the ordinances can all be read in another language.
“We’ve had a lot of questions about where you can legally ride the scooters,” Francis said.
One can ride them on city streets and on the roads in city parks. They are illegal on sidewalks, downtown public parking lots, Jack Kilby Square and on USD 428 property.
Riders musts be 18 or older, and only one rider is allowed on a scooter at a time.
“The police are not actively giving tickets,” Francis said. However, they may stop someone who is riding illegally and remind them of the rules.
Water park, etc.
“We are getting close to summer,” Francis said.
With that, the Wetlands at Great Bend Aquatic Center is set to open on Saturday, May 29. There will be no restrictions on capacity or social distancing, but there will no lounge chairs on the pool deck.
In addition, the water splash pad in Jack Kilby Square will also open soon.
The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo is also open with no restrictions.