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Stone Street still on City’s ‘to do’ list
railroad ave joint project
This aerial shot shows the stretch of Railroad Avenue that was repaired via a joint effort between Barton County and the City of Great Bend. - photo by Tribune file photo

It’s been more than two years since Great Bend’s Interim City Administrator George Kolb suggested the city might want to entirely reconstruct Stone Street from 10th to 12th. 

At a recent public speaking engagement, City Administrator Kendal Francis said the area is still a problem but it’s not on the list of 2020 projects.

“Stone is a terrible street ... in horrible shape,” Francis told the Great Bend Kiwanis members on Nov. 20. Some of it is concrete, and the only way to properly fix the area is to tear it out and start over. “It would be a waste of time and money to patch holes,” he said.

For being only two blocks long, the area in question carries a lot of traffic to and from the City Hall, Municipal Auditorium and the Great Bend Recreation Center. It’s on a street improvement plan for the next five to seven years but, “we don’t know where it truly fits,” he said. “That’s one of those streets that quite honestly is beyond maintenance. It gets to the point that it needs to be rebuilt.”

The street is also wider than most city streets because it was made to include off-street parking. It would make sense to eliminate the extra width, except for the fact that businesses on 10th Street rely on the parking.

In July of 2017, Kolb said the City’s on-call engineering firm, Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita, estimated the reconstruction of the two blocks could cost as much at $945,000. Francis said reconstructing two or three blocks was estimated to cost $1.1 million, but he doesn’t believe the estimate was accurate.

“I think it was padded by our interim predecessor ... I think he told them to pad that number because it was not a project to do. I don’t think $1.1 million is an accurate reflection of what it would take to rebuild that street – but it would still be substantial.”

It’s not clear where the project should fall on the priority list. The vision for next year probably starts with repairs to Broadway Avenue, an arterial street that carries a lot of traffic across town. That is where the money could best be spent, he suggested.

“But that being said, I know the city council gets a lot of pressure to address Stone Street, so we have to figure that out. But as I stand here today, we don’t have the answer.”

Street evaluation plan

Francis’s program with the Kiwanis Club addressed his first year as city administrator. He last visited the club in September of 2018, when he had been in Great Bend for two months. He was hired by the City Council on July 16, 2018.

“One of the things that we did accomplish last year, and are trying to finish up right now, is called the Street Evaluation Plan. We went to every street and visually inspected every street in town. We’re developing a formalized plan for the next five to seven years for maintenance and repairing the streets, but first we need to find out their true condition.”

The city hired Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita, the city’s on-call engineering firm, to travel every street in town and take photos and notes. All of this was logged into a DI GIS system which the city is developing through its engineers. “So, in a two-for-one situation, was have a new GIS system,” Francis said. “And we’re finishing the touches on a five-year street maintenance and improvement plan.”

County-city partnerships

Francis was also asked about this year’s project that resurfaced part of Railroad Ave. The City of Great Bend and Barton County worked together on that project.

“I have had discussions with (County Administrator) Phil Hathcock about joint meetings between the city council and county commission and it is something that we both would like to do. We want to improve our relationship with the county. I think there are some fences that need to be mended,” he said. “We need to look at how we can work together instead of being two separate entities, and how we can better focus our resources together. So that’s something I’m excited to say that we’re going to be doing in 2020.”