The Great Bend City Council went through a list of potential city projects for which the federal COVID-19 relief American Rescue Plan Act could be utilized during a study session following its regular meeting Monday night.
City Administrator Kendal Francis presented what he called a “laundry list” of possible ways to spend the ARPA money. He was seeking guidance from the council on how to proceed.
Great Bend was initially awarded $2,271,654.72, which was to be distributed in two equal installments. The first payment was received last July and was earmarked for the downtown loft project, and the second payment is expected this July.
In addition, the city received an extra $67,500 in ARPA money last year and is expecting to get that again this year. These are funds left unclaimed by other cities in Kansas.
The projects totaled $1,748,169.44. The council debated and discussed these and their priorities.
“I’m not in favor of doing anything until we figure out the police station and how we’re going to fund it,” said Ward 1 Councilman Alan Moeder. He was referring to possibility the cost to build the new station may far exceed the original cost estimates.
And it was Ward 4 Councilwoman Natalie Towns who questioned using ARPA funds for park improvement efforts. These, she said, could be covered by the new quality of life sales tax.
“We need to take care of what we already have in our community before we add any more to it,” she said. Her priorities were street and waterline improvements.
However, others on the council disagreed. The city does have a sales tax dedicated to these infrastructure concern and the ARPA funds would only be a drop in the bucket in terms of funding this sort of work.
“We all have our opinions,” Mayor Cody Schmidt said. After going through the list and hearing the input from council members, Francis will put together a more detailed proposal.
This project has been developing over many months. However, it has not been brought forward as the city is awaiting receipt of Kansas Wildlife and Parks’ Land and Water Conservation Fund grant. They were notified in February that they recommended fully funding our request of $161,260.
A community survey identified the top four desired improvements: Bathrooms, playground equipment, improved lighting and picnic areas.
“We do potentially have enough funding to move forward,” he said. The Harms Trust has pledged $50,000 toward this project and he proposed using $200,000 of the ARPA funds. There have been other private funds pledged as well.
Members of the council wanted to see this project broken into phases.
This is a project the council has identified as a priority and is included in the strategic plan.
Francis said they are developing a three-phase plan: Condition assessment at an estimated cost of $500,000; drainage study at a cost of $150,000; and policy changes at a cost of $15,000.
Francis said there could be federal funds available to help with this. He said the overall cost for the repairs would likely be in the millions of dollars.
The council believed the city should at least do the assessment to find out the conditions of the system.
• City-wide surveillance camera system/license plate readers.
Police Chief Steve Haulmark and Francis have researched this project for over a year “to enhance our policing capabilities,” Francis said. Initially we looked at a “smart” surveillance camera system with people and vehicle recognition capabilities.
Francis suggested utilizing $50,000 ARPA funding for this project.
This would be enough for 10 units for about four years.
This project was developed as a solution to the long-standing problem of utility billing errors, which was a result of meter readers inaccurately reading meters, failing to read all meters, and/or making frequent and repeated estimations, Francis said. The problem has been exacerbated by frequent employee turnover and poor performance.
This, he said, is costing the city money.
AMR (automated meter reading) is commonly called a “drive-by” system because the meters send the readings to a computer mounted in a vehicle. The meters are read as the employee drives in proximity to them.
The plan would be to purchase and install approximately 6,100 commercial and residential water meters with AMR technology. The anticipated cost when this idea originated was approximately $2.2 million.
The city has secured a low-interest loan from the State Public Water Supply Revolving Loan Fund. Council has expressed concerns with issuing debt.
“This is understandable as it is a significant up-front cost and there are costs associated with future maintenance of the meters,” Francis said. However, when the city conducted its utility rate study in 2019, these types of capital expenditures were factored into the rate requirements.
He proposed using $400,000 of the ARPA funds to offset the initial purchase and installation costs.
Bids are currently being taken. The bid opening takes place June 28.
• Basketball/pickleball courts at Brit Spaugh.
This is a project which has been discussed for several years prior to Francis’ arrival, and the council has included it in the strategic plan. The original idea was to construct an outdoor basketball court, on the south edge of Brit Spaugh Park, between the Kansas Army Reserve building and the horseshoe pits.
“We have had initial discussions with the Recreation Commission, who is supportive of a collaborative project,” Francis said. The commission has begun looking at a “master plan” of that area to include basketball and pickleball courts, playground area, soccer mini-pitch and restrooms. Ideally, this would be a public-private partnership to fund the entirety of this project.
They estimate a basketball court with lights and fencing to cost approximately $150,000. The addition of pickleball courts would likely double the cost.
The city has earmarked $60,000 in Harms Trust funds for the project. He suggested using $50,000 of ARPA funds to begin the work.
Additionally, the city’s Quality-of-Life committee is considering utilizing funds for this.
The council was supportive, but wanted to see a phased approach plan.
Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council meeting did Monday night:
• Approved a resolution creating the city’s in-house profit-sharing retirement plan for uniformed first responders through Mission Square.
• Approved a request from Isern Inc. on behalf of Ronald Chrest, 405 Kiowa Rd.. which is outside the city limits, to connect to the city’s sewer system.
All permit applications for persons outside the corporate limits of the city shall be subject to approval of the governing body. When connecting to the sanitary sewer outside of city limits and in a non-benefit district, the sewer connection fee is $1,000 dollars, Building Official Logan Burns said.
• Approved a curb and gutter improvements bid from L&M Contractors of Great Bend for $147,425.
This includes curb and gutter, two storm boxes, as well as three inlets and caps along both sides of 1Oth street from Kiowa Road to Harrison Street, Public Works Director Jason Cauley said. It will also be sections of the sidewalk repaired.
There is a projected start date in August. The city has transferred monies the last two years for curb and gutter improvements that total $150,000.
• Approved the purchase of the motor grader from Murphy Tractor for $159,500.
This is a 2016 John Deere 672G motor grader with 4,935 hours that will replace a 1984 John Deere 770A with 8,741 hours, Public Works Director Jason Cauley said. The 770A grader has become difficult to repair with parts hard to find and expensive.
Murphy Tractor is giving the city a trade-in value of $13,000. The new grader has a warranty through December 2023.
It is an upgrade to the existing fleet of graders as it is a six-wheel drive grader th\at will be an asset for snow removal and heavy dirt work.
• Heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis.
• Heard a report from Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Hayden.
• Approved abatements for trash and refuse violations at: 454 Evergreen St., Mario Huitron; 3022 18th St., Jose Reza; 3116 17th St., Carolyn Stacey Farris; 1615 1 ph St., Kevin and Marleen Davison; 313 Maple St., Christopher Madrid; 821 Pine St., Maria Teresa Rodriguez; 117 Maple St., Baudilio Hernandez; and 1723 3rd St., Aida Molina.
• Approved an abatements for motor vehicle nuisances at: 1520 Hubbard St., Howard and Catherine Johnson; and 117 Maple St., motor vehicle nuisance Baudilio Hernandez.
• After the agenda meeting, the council held a study session with two agenda topics. These were outside agency budget funding requests and city projects.