Each year, the City of Great Bend schedules the Youth Academy, where middle school students tour city departments and get a firsthand look at what goes into running our community. This year’s Youth Academy coincided with another annual event, the Great Bend City Council’s tour of city departments.
City Administrator Howard Partington spent time with both groups.
“We do the tour of facilities to prepare for the budget work session,” Partington said. Council members and Mayor Mike Allison meet with department heads. The met at City Hall and visited the Wastewater Treatment Plant, flood control and compost site, Sports Complex, police shooting range, the Expo area and Great Bend Municipal Airport, as well as two cemeteries, all before lunch. Then they toured Fire Station No. 2 and the Convention Center; met with street, water and sanitation personnel; stopped by the zoo and water park; and finished the day at the band shell in Jack Kilby Square.
Meanwhile, staff from PBA Architects, Wichita, were at the band shell, taking measurements.
When the city tour arrived, Partington explained that money has been set aside for a master plan study on possible improvements in the park. Planners are looking especially at providing shade at different times of the day, but they’ll also look at lighting, electrical hookups, water and ventilation in the band shell.
The Youth Academy tour was more hands-on. Kids got to ride in patrol cars and ambulances as they traveled to some of the same locations visited by the council members. Typical activities include operating a fire hose, petting a snake at Brit Spaugh Zoo and going 35 feet in the air in a bucket truck.
Before they left, the students had a brief “idea exchange” with Partington.
The suggestions were many, from wildlife preservation to a city veterans memorial. One student suggested a monument honoring Roger Brining, the Great Bend man who recently died in an airplane crash in Barton County. Others wanted a place to play paint ball, or improvements at the skateboard park.
Some Youth Academy suggestions do lead to future city projects; the skateboard park is one example. Youth Academy began about 15 years ago; with the completion of this summer’s activities, more than 1,300 students will have participated. Many will be invited to the Youth Academy reunion on July 11.
When it was time for the idea exchange to end, there were still many hands in the air. Great Bend Police Officer Jefferson Davis, who coordinates Youth Academy, reminded students that their involvement in community planning would continue. “It doesn’t mean that we’re done talking,” he said. “We want your input.”