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Observation highlights importance of travelers to region
new deh county commission pic
Pictured left to right are Barton County Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg, Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Cris Collier, Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters, Commissioner Don Davis, Commissioner Don Cates, Hoisington Chamber Board President Brian Wilborn, Hoisington Chamber Director Stacey Bressler, and commissioners Jennifer Schartz and Kenny Schremmer. They took time at the Barton County Commission meeting Monday morning to recognize Kansas Tourism Week. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

County departments to get new phone systems


The Barton County Courthouse and Health Department will get new phone systems that will both make calling easier and save the money, following a decision by the County Commission Monday morning.
After soliciting bids, the county opted to go with a local company, Nex-Tech, to provide phone (local and long distance) and Internet services, and new telephones and switches. For the courthouse, the cost will be $38,500 and for the Health Department, it will be $19,500.
Information Technology Director John Debes estimated the new systems will save the county about $1,000 per month and pay for themselves in just over three years.
There are other advantages, Debes said. “We’d be getting everything from one vendor. This is a turn-key job.”
County Administrator Richard Boeckman said the county was notified last August by the current provider ATT that it was time to renew the service agreement. However, ATT seemed unresponsive to Barton County needs and failed to submit a proposal.
The phones in the courthouse are 14 years old and those at the Health Department are 10 years old. Parts for the phones and switches are increasingly hard to come by, Debes said.
It will take four to six weeks to get the new service up and running.
 In other business Monday morning, the County Commission:
• Reappointed Barbara Konrade as county appraiser. By statute, a county appraiser must be appointed for a four-year term every fourth year following July 1, 1993.  The appointment must be made by resolution and must be submitted to the Property Valuation Division of the State of Kansas. Her new term would begin July 1, County Administrator Richard Boeckman said.
Konrade, who has served in the post for five years, was praised by commissioners for her service. “We have a department to be proud of,” said Commissioner Kenny Schremmer.
“I am very happy to serve Barton County for the next four years,” Konrade said.
• Approved designating emergency vehicle status to Doonan Truck and Equipment, Great Bend, for its The 2012 Peterbilt wrecker truck, operated by Doonan personnel, that is used for towing and wrecker services in Barton County and elsewhere. According to state statute, such an application to use flashing red lights needs be submitted to the commission in the county in which the vehicle will be operated, said Sheriff Brian Bellendir, who recommended the action.
This is a heavy wrecker and such trucks are rare in Kansas, Bellendir said.
• Heard an update on the activities of county departments from Boeckman.

It is fitting that Barton County celebrate Kansas Tourism Week this week, Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Cris Collier told the County Commission Monday morning.
In 2011, she said, travelers and tourists spent $38.6 million in Barton County alone, a figure that was up 8 percent from the previous year. “That’s a staggering number.”
In light of this, the commission authorized a proclamation recognizing the observation.
According to information from Collier, the travel business generated $5.8 billion in economic input in Kansas in 2011, with $4.5 billion going to tourism-related industries. Looking at this another way, this spending generated 14.4 percent of all Kansas state and local tax revenues. The average tax contribution per Kansas household was $917.
What’s more, travel is among the Kansas’ largest private-sector employers, supporting 128,000 tourism-related jobs in 2011. That was up 7.8 percent from 2009.
 “As stakeholders in the Kansas Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway, it is vital that local citizens realize the economic impact that tourism has on this region,” she said.  
The beauty of the byway is that, taken as a whole, it makes the area more attractive. “It makes a nice, comprehensive package,” Collier said.
Often, she said, area residents see hunters as the only tourists lured to the county since they don camouflage and blaze orange, thus are more obvious. But, bird watchers and others flock to the byway as well.
The route, which has the designation of being a National Scenic Byway, holds a state and national reputation as a premier attraction, Collier said. As this grows, “our numbers will only get better and better.”
“The county has continued to invest in the byway,” said County Administrator Richard Boeckman. It spends thousands of dollars each year on related issues.
Furthermore, the byway is truly a county-wide initiative, he said. Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend and Hoisington all have a good working relationship.
“With all of us working together, we can get them here and get them to stay,” said Stacey Bressler, Hoisington Chamber of Commerce director. “They (the tourists) can see what we have to offer.”
But, it goes beyond Barton County to include Stafford County, Collier said. “It is a great regional effort.”
Collier said the State of Kansas hired a consultant and did a lot of research to arrive at these results, which were calculated on a county-by-county basis. She was so shocked by the stats that she doubted them at first.
Commission Chairman Don Cates said the report indicates tourism is the state’s third-largest industry. “That’s remarkable to me.”