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City, college joint effort stalled, but Convention Center improvements making a difference
new deh convention center pic
The City of Great Bend is rethinking its plans for the Convention Center after a joint project between the city and Barton Community College fell through. - photo by Tribune file photo

Council OKs board appointments

The Great Bend City Council Monday night approved a host of appointments to various city boards and commissions at the recommendation of Mayor Mike Allison. However, Allison said there are still a few vacancies remaining.
Included were:
• Airport Advisory Board: Roger Brining, Mark Kitch and Jim Hayes were reappointed.
• Board of Construction, Trades, Examiners, and Appeals: Barry Stalcup and Dirk Davis were reappointed. Steve Dyer was not eligible for reappointment, leaving an opening.
• Building Board: Robert Winiecke was reappointed, but Andy Mingenback was not eligible for reappointment, leaving an opening.
• Cemetery Board: Carol Arnall and Glenn Miller were reappointed. There is one vacancy.
• Tree Board: Judy Reed was reappointed and Sarah Panning was appointed for the first time. There is still one vacancy.
• Commission on Aging: Delbert Tunks and Jean Cavanaugh were reappointed.
• Convention and Tourism: K.P. Patel, Amit Patel and Lynda Jamison were reappointed. There is one opening.
• Housing Authority: Leroy Keith was reappointed.
• Humane Society: Ken Roberts was reappointed, and Chris Klima and A.J. Chrest were first-time appointees.
• Library Board: Derinda Bussman, Bill King, Robert Button and Colleen Newman were reappointed.
• Zoning Board: Todd Anspaugh was reappointed.
In addition, council member Nels Linberg was named to the Public Works Committee, and council members Wayne Henneke and Edwin Roberts were named to the Administrative Committee.
For more information, contact the City Office at 620-793-4111.

For the City of Great Bend and its Convention Center, it’s back to square one – sort of.
City Administrator Howard Partington Friday received word that Barton Community College was no longer pursuing the so-called E3 project, a joint venture between BCC, the city and potentially other partners to share use of the center. The message from college President Carl Heilman said the private parties that had been working with them had also withdrawn from further involvement.
“There is some disappointment,” Partington said. “It was a great concept; it just didn’t work out.”
However, “we’re going to make the most of it,” he said of the embattled city-owned facility.
Improvements being made by city personnel and private contractors are really starting to make a difference. “We’ve been really please so far,” Partington said.
There is new lighting in the bathrooms, some new carpet and some fresh paint. “The TLC is paying off. People are starting to comment (positively),” he said. For now, we’ll just see what happens.”
The next step could be replacing the outdated heating and air conditioning systems. Since extensive renovations won’t be required now that it is just the city involved, these systems won’t cost as much as they would have otherwise.
Whatever happens next will be in the hands of the city council, Partington said. He didn’t know when the matter would be on the agenda again.
Whether it is dubbed an events center or convention center, he is optimistic about its future and potential.
On Feb. 4, Heilman and BCC Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Johnson made a presentation to the council regarding workforce training and economic development opportunities utilizing the center. Their idea was for the city to work with BCC and other entities to explore how to develop the project.
“Barton Community College and interested parties represented in E3 discussions to date (including USD 428), have been most appreciative and thankful for the city’s interest in assessing a joint E3 concept proposal,” Heilman said Tuesday. “We all agree that the event center challenge represented a great opportunity for a partnership to be formed between the city, college, the school district and private industry.”
However, due to circumstances, both related and unrelated to the partnership concept, the college believed it was time to end further discussion, the president said. These included finances, timeliness and conditions supporting future funding and operational needs.
The term “E3” comes from that presentation. Competitive communities, Heilman said, align the three Es – education, economic development and employment.
“The components must be managed by a public/private partnership,” Heilman said at the February meeting. Involved should be colleges, employers, chambers of commerce, elected officials and state job service personnel.
Heilman said the center could be used for career fairs, trade shows, training and mass hiring events that would benefit the college and its career technical education efforts. At the same time, it could still have been used for chamber gatherings, private events and other functions of a convention center.
While the convention business is sagging, the heightened focus on non-degree education is a national trend, Heilman said. The project would have  enabled the center to continue its traditional role while serving other uses.
The overture came after over eight months of wrangling with the center’s fate.  
BCC has an enrollment of 17,000 students. Of those, 40 percent are in the college’s 73 technical programs, showing how important this move can be.
The college had been mulling over the idea for six months. In fact, BCC officials had considered building a new facility on campus to house it.
At the earlier meeting, Heilman said the college may be able to step in and help fund work to the center.
The next step, the president said, was to identify other partners. These could include the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, KansasWorks, Barton County and Unified School District 428. These entities could have offices in the building as well.
With this information in hand, the council voted to keep the center open as is through the end of 2014. Various painting, cleaning and other repairs have already been made.  
More improvements are planned. These could include a total repainting of the interior, more deep cleaning, all new carpet and what could be $60,000 for new air conditioning and heating, and any big-ticket items would require council approval.