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Center could be pricier than anticipated
Architects present grand vision of Convention Center to council
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When Great Bend City Council members first started discussing their vision of a refurbished Convention Center, they planned on spending about $1 million, and having the facility remodeled and up and running again by next August.
That may have changed Monday night.
Scott Bixler and some members of his team from the Wichita architectural firm WDM were present at the Great Bend City Council chamber to discuss what the council has in mind by way of improvements to the center. The architects started by presenting their ideas and sought input from the city officials on how to proceed.
 They envisioned a $3 million facelift that would not be completed until December 2013. For the 24,000-square-foot facility, this comes to about $121 per square foot.
“We want this to be something the community can be proud of,” he said. As it is, the center lacks character, it doesn’t comply with current codes and much of the mechanical workings are 30 years old.
“This will be a great place to go,” Bixler said. But, he stressed, “these are our ideas, not yours. This is your building not ours.”
The architects then went into an overview of their rough proposal that included a covered entryway, expanded lobby with a fireplace, high ceilings, widened corridor with a glass wall, the option of having four large conference rooms in the main floor area, more restrooms and conference rooms on the west end, and a host of other touches, such as skylights and new fixtures.
To the designers, the street appeal and the emotional feel of the center were important as well.
However, “we want to know exactly where you want to go with this project,” Bixler said. “We just want to get you talking.”
Updating the heating and air conditioning, the lighting, the plumbing and the sprinkler system could cost as much as $830,000. That excludes the remodeling work.
They proposed letting the bids by next March with construction starting in May.
Council members were a little stunned by the total, but agreed the project should be done right. “I think we need to do this up well,” Mayor Mike Allison said.
However, many were concerned with the loss of convention floor space due to the changes suggested and wanted to make sure it remained flexible in terms of what it can accomodate. They also thought there could be some places where costs could be cut.
In addition, there are policy and procedure issues related to the operation of the convention center, such as what fees to charge. The council set a team-building work session to discuss these and other center-related matters for 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, at the City Office. They could also address how much they are willing to spend. Paying for a $3.5 million project would require raising the mill levee four mills (10 percent) for 20 years.
Further input from the council will be forwarded to WDM. The firm will present revised plans in two weeks.
 The city takes over day-to-day operations of the center on Jan. 1, 2013. Originally, officials had planned on closing the center that same day to start construction. A coordinator was to be hired by then to market and manage the center, and handle bookings after it reopened in the late summer of 2013.
But, there were delays in choosing an architect and now it is uncertain when the facility will be shut down for renovation and when it could resume operation. So, WDM and the council are discussing the development of a new schedule to replace the one decided on two months ago.
On Oct. 16, the council gave Mayor Mike Allison the go-ahead to sign a contract with WDM. The firm was recommended by a council committee at earlier meeting, but the full council delayed its decision to allow time for more bids to be solicited.
In addition, the council established what should be done by the architect and what could be done by city personnel. It was decided that, generally speaking, everything done to the inside and outside of the center building should be the responsibility of the architects.
The so-called “flat work” done outside to the parking lot can be done by the city’s engineering department.
 The company’s fee for the work comes to $93,300 for the design, administration and coordination of the project.
Last August, Ambika Enterprises, a partnership between husband and wife Tejal and Amarish Patel of Concordia, and an uncle, Ishwar Patel of Vancouver, Canada, bought the hotel portion. The family, which already operates smaller hotels in Concordia and Beatrice, Neb., officially took over the hotel portion of the Highland Complex on Aug. 23, 2011.
Then, the council approved utilizing $500,000 donated by an anonymous group of local residents to purchase the convention center.  

In other business, the Great Bend City Council:
• Approved abatements at: 425 Buckeye, owned by Ruth Lisenby, for accumulation of refuse; and 119 Becker Court, owned by Jaime Velazquez, for a motor vehicle nuisance.
• Heard Economic Development Director Jan Peters’ monthly report. She praised the efforts of Innovative Livestock and the local investors who are in the process of purchasing Fuller Brush, and Chad Sommers and Dennis Call for their work on the new movie theater downtown. She will be presenting two new business prospects to the council in coming meetings.
• Heard City Administrator Howard Partington’s update on what is happening within the city organization.
• Approved the first amendment to the loan agreement with Kansas Department of Health and Environement for the city’s sewer line replacement program. The city was able to reduce the borrowing needs due to a number of factors.
• Approved a motion to accept the low bid from L&M Contractors of Great Bend for $114,866.50 for the parking lot expansion work at the city’s Sports Complex. It also authorized Mayor Mike Allison to sign the appropriate paperwork.
• Discussed the city’s code for sidewalk replacement by homeowners. This was first brought up at the Oct. 15 meeting. The council voted 5-2 to allow homeowners do to the work on their own without hiring a licensed contractor.
• Approved a resolution establishing four handicapped-accessible parking spaces west of the First United Methodist Church on Stone Street immediately south of Forest Ave. This includes signs and markings.
• Approved a change order in the amount of $2,515.50 for the 2012 Curb and Guttering Replacement Project. The work for this project has been completed. The original project costs were $71,253. During the course of construction 61 linear feet of curb and gutter was removed from the project for a deduct of $1,372.50. A section of curb and gutter consisting of 42 linear feet along 10th Street was added in the vicinity of 1222 10th Street for an add on of $1,428. There was also some addition material required to replace the 246 linear feet of curb and gutter at various locations along 10th Street due to the extra work required for removal and replacement of the curb and gutter due to the curb and gutter having been poured with a thickened base, and increase of $2,460. Therefore taking into account the total deduct and additions to the work completed the project costs increased by a net amount of $2,515.50.
• Approved exchanging the federal funds at the Kansas Department of Transportation for state funds which would allow the city to have $74,243.92 available for street repair this year. There is $82,493.24 in fed funds available for exchange for state funds. The exchange rate is 90 percent for a total of $74,243.92.
•  OKed a tree trimmer’s license for Arnsman Services of Kinsley.
• Set a special council meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, for discussion of the health insurance bids. The deadline for bids from prospective insurers is 2 p.m. Nov. 15. Charlseworth and Associates, the consultant hired by the city to sort through the bids, will present summaries of the proposals at the meeting.
• Learned there will be an opening on the Great Bend Recreation Commission Board at the end of the year, and there is an opening on the Commission on Aging.
• Accepted the retirement of Wayne Henneke from his position as city clerk/finance director. He is retiring after 16 years. “It’s kind of a sad thing,” Mayor Allison said. Henneke was helpful, professional, dependable and a good boss for his staff. “He will be missed,” Allison said.