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City picks air carrier, OKs housing tax credits
new deh city council pic
This is the area on Grant Street south of 10th where a developer is proposing to build an apartment complex. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Student project to give back to community


The goal of the Great Bend High School Student Council’s planned school-wide community service project is simple – involve the entire GBHS student body in the day-long event.
That was the gist of remarks made by GBHS students Greg Burley and Salem Ball to the Great Bend City Council Monday night. The effort is proposed to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 24.
“Education should go farther than just the textbook,” Burley said. This project would get all students involved within the community, give the school a better reputation and will increase the moral inside the school.
Burley said he likes Great Bend. “I want to leave my mark. I hope to raise my kids here someday.”
The project will also help clean up the city, build character for the students and provide a chance for students who don’t belong to a club or organization to get involved. This idea could become contagious and could spread to the smaller surrounding schools in the future.
Activities for the day might include planting trees, picking up trash, touching up paint and cleaning parks and other public areas, and working with businesses. The students would be supervised by teachers and administrators.
Some students would rotate to different sites. School transportation and sack lunches would be provided.
There is little or no cost to the city, Burley said. Funds are coming from business donations and the local Unified School District 428.
The council offered its support of the event.
This marks the second year for the service project. Despite cold, dreary conditions last year, 850 students worked at 60 locations.
“We had a lot of positive feedback,” Burley said.

Depending on the actions of federal officials, there may be a new airline in town.
The Great Bend City Council Monday night passed a motion to accept the city Essential Air Service Committee recommendation to pick SeaPort Airlines of Portland, Ore., as the EAS provider at Great Bend Municipal Airport. This recommendation will now be forwarded  to the United States Department of Transportation which has the final say in the matter.
City Human Resources Director Terry Hoff said the USDOT sent the two proposals the city. The federal agency administers the program and will make the ultimate decision, but wanted local input first.
SeaPort offers 18 round-trip flights to Wichita each week via a nine-passenger aircraft. There is also a chance some of the flights could be through Kansas City.
The other bid came from Cheyenne, Wyo.,-based Great Lakes Aviation which is the current EAS provider. Its plan, which is similar to the current one, called for 12 round-trip flights per week to Denver via a 19-passenger plane.
Every two years, the USDOT solicits bids for EAS carriers.
Hoff spoke on behalf of the committee in making the recommendation. There were several factors that went into the decision.
First, “the current carrier is not meeting our expectations,” Hoff said. The airline canceled 22 of 48 flights in November, canceled 18 in December and has only flown on flight so far this year.
There were other stories of poor service, passengers being stranded in airports and lost luggage.
But, said Council Member Nels Lindberg, the Federal Aviation Administration changed pilot hour requirements. This has lead to a pilot shortage for Great Lakes.
Lindberg also asked a Great Bend resident who flies out of Great Bend to Denver often to speak. The frequent passenger said a flight to Wichita is “pointless” and Denver is a major hub, making for fewer layovers.
“It’s a bad situation,” said Lindberg, adding it was a difficult choice. He was the only council member to vote against the SeaPort proposal.
Hoff said he was involved with the EAS selection two years ago when Great Lakes was selected. There were also bad reports about Great Lakes then when there were no FAA changes.
A city’s EAS status depends on the number of passengers and its distance from a hub, Hoff said. However, passenger count is the big factor, and should people stop flying Great Lakes due to the service, “we run the risk of losing EAS.”
But, Hoff said, there were other advantages to the SeaPort bid. Its bid of $1.4 million was $541,000 lower than Great Lakes, and the feds might look favorably on that.
Also, SeaPort uses Cessna Caravan planes which are still in production. Great Lakes flies Beechcraft 1900s which are not being made anymore, causing problems getting parts.
Other considerations were the Transportation Security Administration screening process and the proximity to other airports in the area.
Up until two years ago, Hoff said Great Bend worked with four other western Kansas cities as sort of a rural air coalition  – Dodge City, Garden City, Hays and Liberal. Garden City has since sort of broken away and sought a different carrier, and Hays is doing the same thing this year.
 The city learned of the two competing proposals sort of at the last minute in late December. Mayor Mike Allison and Great Bend Municipal Airport Manager Martin Miller quickly formed a committee to study the matter. The goal is to have the panel in place by the end of the year and a proposal before the council this meeting.
The committee was made up of Miller, city administrators and staff members, council members, airport users and other interested individuals. 
 City officials will forward comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation with the deadline being Jan. 13.
According to the Department of Transportation, the Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978, gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which markets to serve domestically and what fares to charge for that service. The EAS program was put into place to guarantee that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers.
This is done by subsidizing two to four round trips a day to a major hub airport. The department currently subsidizes commuter airlines to serve approximately 163 rural communities across the country that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a resolution supporting tax credits for an Overland Park developer wanting to build a complex of subsidized apartments in Great Bend.
This resolution is similar to the one adopted last year with the main change being that the area is now included in the recently approved Rural Housing Incentive District. The city learned in December that its application for the RHID,  had been OKed by the Kansas Department of Commerce.
 Matt Gillam of Overland Property Group is looking to build a 32-unit complex of “affordable” rental units on Grant Street just south of the Comfort Inn motel.
He had planned to develop the project in early 2013, but could not get the credits he needed to make the endeavor work.
• Heard a report from Sunflower Rod and Custom Association President Hank Denning who reviewed the club’s activities in 2013 and looked forward to 2014.
Weather, from ice to rain, forced many events to be cancelled this past year. So, Denning said, the club is looking at taking fewer risks and planning fewer events in the coming year so it can replenish its savings.
The club did make its $20,000 payment to the city. But after other expenses, it netted just at $1,000 in 2013.
A high note for 2014 will be a proposed car show/race Sept. 26-28 for cars with either a 348- or 409-cubic-inch engine. A promoter from Kansas City said the event should bring in a lot of cars, some of which are very rare.
The promoter said similar events in other cities have been very successful.
• Approved a request from local attorney Brock McPherson who asked that the handicapped-accessible parking that was approved at the last council meeting for his business be repealed. The marked spot along 12th Street would have eliminated an additional parking space besides the accessible one.
• Approved a second amendment to the lease agreement with tire recycler Blizzard Energy. The company is requesting an additional six months for them to begin their processes. They are wanting to make sure they have all of their permits and that the process is sound. The deadline would have been Jan. 31.
• Approved the final plat of the property at the corner of 10th Street and Patton Road, the site of the old drive-in movie theater. The Planning Commission, which met Dec. 31, recommended approval.  It was submitted by  ComPro Realty LLC of Salina which asked the parcel, which is zoned for commercial use, be divided into lots. The company’s intentions for the land are not known.
• Heard an update on the activities of city departments from Partington.