In other business Monday morning, the Barton County Commission:
• Heard a report form Kansas Wetlands Education Center Site Manager Curtis Wolf . The year was dominated by the impact of the drought which impacted the number of visitors to the center, he said.
Drop-in visitorship suffered the most from the drought, with almost 1,000 fewer visitors. The total number of contacts in 2013 was 20,661, which was a 6,000 total decrease from 2012, surely a result of the drought conditions and a suppressed advertising campaign.
But, he said, as a highlight, the KWEC offered a total of 474 programs (232 onsite; 242 outreach), 10 more than in 2012 and servicing a total of 12,386 participants. They conducted 303 school programs with most area schools and added several new schools. They are still Scheduled programming for grades K-6 with USD 428 for 2013-2014 school year.
Notable special events included: Winter family programs; spider program, prairie chicken lek tours, Wild Goose Chase 5k/1mile, butterfly count, Perseid meteor shower viewing, Mad About Monarchs and crane viewing tours.
There is also a new billboard on I-70 and a coloring contest for area students.
For this year, Wolf said they want to bolster visitor numbers and on-going programs.
• Re-appointed Dr. Perry Smith to the Center for Counseling and Consultation Governing Board. This Board reviews and makes recommendations on mental health services in Barton County and the surrounding area. The term expires in December, 2016, Boeckman said.
• Appointed David W. Keil as the clerk for the Fairview Township Board upon the recommendation of board members. Keil replaces Jane Steinert who has resigned effective Feb. 10, said County Clerk Donna Zimmerman.
• The Barton County Engineer’s Office hosted the Annual Township Meeting Monday. The meeting took place at the Elks Lodge, 1120 Kansas, Great Bend. County officials and commissioners attended the meeting.
The Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area scenic overlook on K-4 between Hoisington and Redwing is closer to getting a long-awaited upgrade.
Monday morning, the Barton County Commission approved the submission of a grant application to the Kansas Department of Transportation for Transportation Alternatives Funds. This money comes through the Federal Moving Ahead For Progress in the 21st Century Act.
The 2014 grant, for a maximum of $208,000, will cover the construction of a wooden 10-foot viewing tower at the overlook, said Barton County Administrator Richard Boeckman. Barton County and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism are joining forces for the application to get the KDOT money.
This grant is an 80-20-percent match, with the county and KDWPT picking up 20 percent, Boeckman said. The two entities will each pay half the match, or about $23,000.
The tower, which would be built in 2015, will stand east of the overlook kiosk. A gradual series of ramps will lead up to the top, making it accessible to those in wheelchairs.
“I’ve had a lot of support for this idea,” Boeckman said. The tower will be a great addition that will benefit the county, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Management Area and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.
“It is something we would use on our tours,” said KWEC Site Manager Curtis Wolf. Wolf was at the meeting Monday to give an update on the center, and offered his insight on this development.
“It will be a real attraction to the area,” Wolf said. “People like to climb up something.”
This project has been very near and dear to Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer’s heart. He has promoted it for several years.
“I am extremely enthusiastic about this,” Schremmer said. He recalled going out to the site of what is now the overlook as a kid.
As a condition, the county assures KDOT of adequate funding for the project and its lifetime maintenance.
In 2013, Barton County joined with the KDWPT to apply for $90,000 in KDOT funding to make other improvements to the overlook. The grant covered such things as handicapped parking and a paved road that bettered access to the site.