City to submit grant application to fund project in south development

By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer

Support for a grant to fund a walking and biking trail around the south flood control area was not unanimous amongst Concordia City Commissioners Wednesday night.
On a 4-1 vote, with Gary Fraser against it, the Commission approved allowing Concordia City Manager Larry Uri to submit an application to the Kansas Department of Transportation for a transportation enhancement grant. The project, estimated at $1.2 million would include a 1.3-mile asphalt multi-use trail around the 21st Street dam area. It includes three footbridges, a parking lot adjacent to Cloud County Community College, a shelter, and a restroom building.
There are $15 million in federal funds to be awarded through the program, and Uri said he expects it to be a very competitive process. Should Concordia receive the grant, it would require a 20-percent match. Uri proposed using Tax Increment Financing funds for the match – approximately $200,000.
Fraser said he did not think a walking trail qualified as a TIF project.
"TIF funds are for economic development," Fraser said. "How does this qualify as economic development?"
Uri said the use for TIF money is defined as "construction of lighting, sidewalks and other infrastructure to support the private development of commercial services and entertainment . . . to meet the demands of future developments.
"I think we can say economic development because it supports this whole area as an attractive place to be in," he said.
Fraser still didn't agree.
"I have a problem with using that much TIF money when it could be used for helping businesses come in here, rather than building a trail," he said.
Mayor Lyle Pounds said he assumed from the beginning of the process that TIF money would be used to complete the trail project.
"I thought that was brought up a long time ago and I felt comfortable that we weren't going to have to raise the mill levy to take care of this project," he said.
Commissioners Marsha Wentz and Tim Parker both said they felt the enhancement of the area would be a draw for potential businesses.
"This will give the economic development people more leverage to get those businesses in," she said. "It depends on how you look at it, but I think if that area is developed, you'd much rather put a business out there than in an area that's just blowing dirt."
On a 4-1 vote, the Commission approved allowing Uri to submit the grant application.
In other business, the Commission approved a resolution adopting the Airport Master Plan.
Brad Waller, with Alfred Benesch & Co., gave an overview of the plan, which the Airport Advisory Board had been working on since the spring of 2008.
Waller said the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to update their master plans every 10 years to qualify for federal matching funding. The plan calls for future updates at the Airport, which includes a new primary runway for an estimated cost of $8.64 million. A new wider and longer runway will allow larger aircraft to land at the airport, including an air ambulance service.
Kirk Lowell, chairman of the Airport Advisory Board, said one of the turf crosswind runways will be closed to accommodate construction of a new hospital.
After Commission approval of the plan, it moves on to the FAA for final approval.
After his presentation on the master plan, Waller updated the Commission on his work with Cloud County Health Center for the proposed new hospital.
He said a $675,000 KDOT aviation grant has been received, which would be used to connect the proposed hospital with the airport runway.
Waller also said he is in the process of applying for a $1 million economic development grant from KDOT to upgrade the intersection of Highway 81 and College Drive. To accommodate the hospital, a turning lane from the south would need to be constructed, and the east side of the intersection would be widened.
During staff comments, the Commission learned from Finance Director Amber Farha that the general fund ended 2012 with a reserve of $666,529, more than the $267,289 that the city had budgeted. Farha said the savings were because revenue collected was 104-percent of budget, and expenses were only 88-percent of what had been budgeted.

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