Council to seek public input on Convention Center
BY DALE HOGG
The Great Bend City Council decided Monday night to hold a special meeting to discuss the wayward Great Bend Convention Center, with to goal to garner public input on the project. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the center, 3017 10th St.
Scott Bixler and some members of his team from the Wichita architectural firm WDM will be present and city officials will have some cost estimates on what it would take to renovate the city-owned center. The possibility of building a new facility will also be discussed.
The council set the meeting when it met Monday. City Administrator Howard Partington gave an update on the center, saying the council needs to consider keeping it open while its fate remains undecided.
There are also concerns about the dismal quality of the attached, privately owned Highland Hotel and how it might drag down use of the center.
The city took over day-to-day operations of the center on Jan. 1. At first, officials had planned on closing the center that same day for 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.
Because of this, a number of scheduled events have canceled.
From a new apartment complex to a new medical office building to support of Fuller Brush to a new discount store, the Great Bend City Council Monday night gave a nod to incentives and initiatives to spur economic development.
First on the agenda was a resolution for the council to support the use of federal low-income housing tax credits to help finance the building of a 32-unit apartment complex. These low- to moderate-income multi-family apartments will be located on 5.36 acres near Eighth and Grant streets, across the street from Wal-Mart.
Matt Gillam of the Topeka-based Overland Property Group presented the plan for the project to be dubbed The Reserves at Trailridge. It will include a club house with laundry, fitness equipment and community room, and a playground.
“We did target Great Bend about a year and a half ago,” Gillam said. The company has already completed about 2,000 apartments stretching from Texas to Iowa, with the bulk being in Kansas.
The firm analyzed the housing situation in Great Bend. “We determined the housing stock here is very small,” indicating the need for more housing was great.
Overland Property operates facilities in Dodge City, Garden City, Hays and other communities. Officials there have given the company good reviews.
Their locations elsewhere maintain at least a 90 percent occupancy rate. There are also waiting lists.
By supporting the credits, the city will not be out any money. But, Gillam said, the credits which come through the Department of Housing and Urban Development are about the only way to get such a complex funded.
“This will address probably our biggest challenge in Great Bend, and that is housing,” Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters said in introducing Gillam.
The project still requires final zoning and site-plan approval.
“These are important projects,” City Administrator Howard Partington said regarding three other projects that should help retain existing jobs, create new ones and make way for expanded entertainment options in the community.
Sarah Steele with the Wichita firm of Gilmore and Bell, which advises the city of bond- and tax-related matters, was present to discuss the opportunities. She said none of the proposals will cost the city anything.
• First, the council held a public hearing regarding issuing $1.8 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds and a property tax abatement for Great Bend Regional Hospital for the purpose of financing the acquisition, construction, furnishing and equipping a medical office building.
“We need more space desperately,” said Dr. Roger Marshall, who is affiliated with GBRH. The addition of new staff and doctors has created a need for more room for offices and other uses.
The building will be located near the hospital, 524 Cleveland.
After the hearing, the council approved a “resolution of intent” which is merely the preliminary step. Steele said the finalized resolution will come at a later meeting.
• Next, a public hearing was held regarding a property tax abatement for economic development purposes for Fuller Industries LLC. It was requested for the acquisition of buildings and equipment after Fuller Industries was purchased by local investors.
When the hearing was over, the council approved a motion to have the first draft of the documents prepared. Mayor Mike Allison said city officials and consultants for the city will now prepare what is necessary for the granting of the property tax exemption.
Those involved with the purchase who were at the meeting said they are focusing now on getting a management team in place and hope to begin other hiring soon. They said they want to make sure Fuller stays in Great Bend and is successful.
• The council then approved holding a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 on the creation of a Community Improvement District for Golden Belt Cinema 6, the new movie theater under construction at Lakin in Kansas.
CIDs are allowed under the Kansas Community Improvement District Act. Under the act, cities can establish CIDs for improvement projects with in the bounds of the district. These are funded by a CID tax (sales tax) levied by the entity requesting the CID and would be returned to the entity.
In this case, the theater would charge a 2 percent tax to its customers to help offset the cost project. No other businesses would be impacted by the tax.
By state statute, such districts can only be in place for 22 years and Partington said this one will likely reach that maximum.
Project developers have said the theater is still on track to be completed in May.
• Lastly, the council approved a request to vacate a portion of 10th Street that was formerly known as Ellinwood Avenue as requested by Jerry Marmie. City Attorney Bob Suelter said 10th Street was originally dedicated as Ellinwood Avenue, but the name was changed in the early 1900s. The path of 10th Street was changed to line up with U.S. 50 North (now U.S. 56).
When this happened, this stretch of 10th from Hickory Street east half a block on the south side of what is now 10th Street (across from the U.S. 281 Bypass intersection) was no longer used as a roadway.
Suelter said there are records indicating this street had been vacated prior to 1908, but no vacation ordinance could be found. The right-of-way was used by the former tenant, the Sands Motel, as an entry way as if it had been vacated.
However, with the sale of the property, the abstract company discovered the problem. A Family Dollar store is looking at building at the location.