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Is it worth it?
Council has a heavy burden to bear
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Sobering news indeed.
For months now, the Great Bend City Council has been cautiously planning the much-needed renovation of the Great Bend Convention Center around a $1 million pricetag and a timeline that had the project done by next August.
However, Scott Bixler and his team from the Wichita architectural firm WDM were at the council meeting Monday night to discuss what the governing body wants. The architects started by giving their ideas and then sought input from the city officials.
 The architects see a $3 million showcase facility that would be the pride of Great Bend, but not be completed until December 2013. This comes to about $121 per square foot.
In all, that is three times the total city leaders had been playing with since the beginning and a delay of four months in its opening.
The team flipped through a presentation of their proposal that would give the center both street appeal and a positive emotional feel. This included a covered entryway, expanded lobby with a fireplace, high ceilings, widened corridor with a glass wall, the option of having four large conference rooms in the main floor area, more restrooms and conference rooms, and a host of other touches, such as skylights and new fixtures.
Homey, yet sophisticated.
They stressed that this was not their building and that it belonged to the city.
To their credit, council members refrained from falling out of their chairs. The overall reaction was that of doing the job right. That could mean spending more to make it happen.
Sure, there were portions of the WDM plan they didn’t agree with. Sure, there was some balking at the price and suggestions that cuts be made.
Now, they have to decide what to do. The money to buy the center was donated by local investors. The money to remodel it will come from taxpayers.
Does the council raise the mill levee four mills for the next 20 years to cover the cost? Do they seek an increase in the bed tax or a sales tax? Do they look for private individuals willing to step forward and pay for naming rights?
In addition, there are policy and procedure issues to be addressed, such as what fees to charge. The council set a team-building work session to discuss these and other center-related matters.
The city was wise to purchase the center. But, from the beginning, the council has not eyed this as a money-making venture.
Let us hope it becomes the gleaming convention masterpiece the city needs and deserves, and doesn’t become a white elephant or a money pit.
Dale Hogg