Since becoming mayor, the City of Great Bend has once again become a community that looks to the future. These 14 years have witnessed a complete turnaround in Great Bend; from “the last one out of town, turn out the lights” to a growth attitude with many stepping forward with ideas and investment. The population of Great Bend has increased from 14,750 to more than 16,000 ..
One of the things I have alway talked about is a cooperative spirit. Just this past year, Railroad Avenue, between Main and Washington, was paved through a cooperative effort shown by the city and the county. The drag strip was resurfaced in partnership with the city and SRCAGB. The new sports complex was opened. This was accomplished because the city, USD 428, Kiwanis, Harms Trust and many individuals came together to accomplish this project. The Jack Kilby Memorial, a long term project between the city and private individuals was completed and dedicated this past spring.
We have worked very hard to keep our public safety first class. Since I have been mayor, there has been a concerted effort to make sure that our fire department has the best equipment and training available. With the leadership of Chief Mike Napolitano and Administrator Howard Partington and always with the approval of the Council, we have the newest and best trucks and equipment there is for your protection. You should go to our firehouses and see. Our police officers all go through the Academy for training. We have a new school liaison/DARE officer who works with our children. We just purchased new body armor for our police officers. These officers are here for your safety.
Instead of being like many of the cities that you read about, we have not neglected our infrastructure. We continue to make better. The sewer line replacement project has been completed. What was to be a $4.6 million project will now need only $1.6 million bonded due to appropriations from our senators, FEMA reimbursement, a good bid and paying as we go. We have a good water supply. Our wells are from 90 to 120 feet. We draw/pump from 65 feet. Even with the drought, the level has been maintained.
As with each year, we continue to work on street replacement and repairs. To me, it is overwhelming how many miles of streets we have and how many have been restored or resurfaced. This past year, we also started repairing more curbs and gutters. This year, we are going to concentrate on repairs to some of our older concrete streets. As you have seen, we have already started the repairs on Kansas Avenue. and later into the summer, we will do the repairs that are needed on Lakin Avenue. Starting late this year or early next year, you will see a total change and upgrade of the intersection at 24th and Main as part of trying to make our traffic flow safer and easier. You can believe me when I say this.
Even through difficult economic times, our city has done well. Sales tax collections were the best ever, coming to $1,935,239. Our local merchants thank you. There were many businesses that remodeled or expanded, including Dove’s, Marmie’s and Bank of the West. There is a new location for Sunflower Recycling and Playa Azul expanded. New businesses include the Rosewood Winery with their just opened downtown location. We have Johnson’s BBQ and downtown are Gambino’s, Just Fabulous Darling, A440 Music, Refined Medley and Nextech just to name a few.
This year will see the opening of the Golden Belt Cinema 6. On the west side of town, Sutherland’s will open a new store in the old K-Mart building. This makes five large stores to shop in on the west side of town: Sutherland’s, Home Lumber, Orscheln’s, Aaron’s and TruValue. Also, this year, a Papa John’s and Baskin Robbins will open in the old Sinclair station. On the east side of town, a new Family Dollar store will open.
We are a successful community. Investments are being made. A local group of investors has purchased Fuller Brush and it will grow due to the change. The Great Bend Regional Hospital will build a new medical office building this year. HOI will add 11 duplexes with 22 units and a clubhouse at Bedford Place. A new apartment complex next to the Comfort Inn is to be started this year. This is good.
One of my priorities has always been the youth of Great Bend. Many youth activities have been initiated or enhanced. The DARE program, which is a cooperative effort with USD 428 to fight drug use; the City Youth Academy that gives 7th and 8th graders a chance to see how the city functions and campus visits to KU, KSU and FHSU to encourage former GBHS graduates to come home to Great Bend are all programs that contribute to the vibrancy of Great Bend.
Besides being Mayor, I have maintained a full time dental practice in Great Bend. I came here from Germany in 1969 after serving five years in the United States Air Force. I served in SAC and USAF European Command. I have always been active in community and professional activities. I am a past Cub Master, past-president of Babe Ruth Baseball, past-president of the Panther Booster Club, past-president of the Central District Dental Society and was CDDS Man of the Year in 2000. I have served on the Kansas State Dental Association Executive Board and am presently serving on the board for the Friends of Cedar Crest Association. I, along with my wife Sally, raised three boys who graduated from Great Bend High School. I lost my biggest supporter in 2009 when Sally passed after a long illness. I have three grandchildren and five step-grandchildren.