February 21—Great Bend City Council spent an hour and a half on Tuesday evening taking a deep dive into numerous quality of life projects made possible by the government-approved 0.15% quality of life sales tax Great Bend voters in November 2021.
During the work session following the agenda meeting, Interim City Administrator Logan Burns used slides to present a wide variety of proposals to the council. These ranged from over $2 million improvements to the south end of Brit Spaugh Park and $650,000 for a splash pad at Veterans Memorial Park to $10,000 for upgrades to the dog park.
Also included is $15,500 for fish habitats in the city’s lakes.
The projects are part of a ten-year plan to improve the quality of life.
This past spring, the 13-member City of Great Bend Quality of Living Committee was formed. The purpose of the group that met for about six months was to examine how best to spend the funds generated by the sales tax.
Then, in May, the group released a public poll. The aim is to seek feedback from citizens of all ages.
The culmination of all those meetings and the poll results were presented during a council study session on September 19. The plan outlines plans for the next decade, along with projected costs. Most of the items in the list were the best responses to the public poll.
The city official picked the best handful from each category to wrap up the plan, many of which were discussed Tuesday night.
These included for this year and next:
—Bathroom updates (using automatic timed locks for year round access). This has already been done with a portion of the $40,000 earmarked funds left over.
—Improved lighting on Veterans Memorial Park walking path. This will involve 20 LED lighting fixtures along the route and this should also be within the $75,000 budget.
—Relaunch of the pavement improvement cost-sharing program, which has been initiated. This has $110,000 set aside, but it hasn’t been used much.
—Fishing habitats (in collaboration with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks). These are or will be installed. $15,500 was earmarked for this.
The story continues
—Additional Christmas lights with the goal of making this a “Christmas Town”. In all, $32,000 was set aside to improve and repair the displays.
—A paintball course. This was a sticking point due to insurance issues. The city planned $5,000 for a site at the Expo Complex west of the city, but Burns said making a safe course would cost about $80,000.
There is a possibility that a different location could reduce this cost due to the amount of protective mesh required.
That’s key for the teen crowd, board members said, but the cost is steep.
—Dog park updates (maybe creating separate areas for large and small dogs). The plan sets aside $10,000 for it.
—Improvements to the skate part. There’s $130,000 budgeted for it. This will include new asphalt and new fences and other upgrades.
—A public shooting range. This one was taken down, due to liability issues.
It was simply not feasible due to the manpower required to oversee such a facility.
—A splash guard. The city planned $240,000 for it, but it will likely cost about $675,000.
It was rumored that this could be moved down the priority list in light of the cost of the Brit Spaugh project.
—Funds for what is known as the Brit Spaugh Project (the development of the Brit Spaugh south end in conjunction with the Great Bend Recreation Commission).
That adds up to over $2 million. The GBRC pledged $345,700 and Thelma Harms Trust pledged $60.00.
The effort will involve outdoor basketball and pickleball courts, a playground, a soccer field, and restrooms. The horseshoe pits would be moved and the small ballpark eliminated.
Despite the expense, it has been noted that there are community residents who have said that private money is available to make up the difference, whatever the cost.
Over the next two years, other projects on the horizon are:
—Extension of the pedestrian/cycle path.
—Addition of toilet facilities at Langrehr Field.
—A $6 million bond project to build a community center that could include an indoor pool, walking path, and other features.
—Improvements to Heizer Park and 218 Bypass Park.
After the presentation, Burns said he would gather more accurate numbers so the board could initiate as many of these as possible.
Council members have said they want to make it work so the public can see something coming from the sales tax they approved.