City reaches agreement on auditorium renovations

By Corene Brisendine

City commissioners approved an amendment to the contract with Bruce McMillan Architects for the final design of the City Auditorium renovations Tuesday. But the agreement came with a caveat.

Commissioners voted 4-1, with Karen McCulloh dissenting, to move forward with the renovations after checking with the historical board to ensure that the plans did not violate any agreements, compacts or laws. The renovations include removal of the stage, an increase in the number of basketball courts, and construction of office space.

Several people spoke during public comment on the project informing the commission the City Auditorium’s stage was actually a “living memorial” for the 101 soldiers from Manhattan who died during WWII. They all asked the commission to not tear out the stage-memorial.

Randi Dale, a Manhattan resident, gave commissioners a handout and a brief history of the auditorium. At the time it was built in 1954, it was named “Peace Memorial Auditorium.”

Dale said to remove the stage went against what the auditorium was created to do.

Commissioner Rich Jankovich said after reading her handout, the original feedback from the community in 1946 was to include several things that were not in the finished auditorium, which included multiple basketball courts and office space. He said making the space more usable was in agreement with a “living memorial” because that concept changed with the times.

Butler agreed. He said the stage had only been used four times last year, and said other stages were available for performances at a “minimal cost.”

City administrators will check into what they can or can’t do to the auditorium before moving forward with the finalized design.


On a split vote, commissioners approved allowing a Petsmart to be built between Home Depot and Manhattan Veterinary Clinic on the east side of Seth Child Road.

Butler and Jankovich opposed the proposal because they did not want to allow any more construction in the flood plain feeding into Wildcat Creek.

Jankovich said although there was no ordinance prohibiting the building, he was not comfortable with allowing the builders to move 2,000 cubic feet of dirt to the site in order to raise the finished floor two feet above the future flood plain.

Brent Sells, engineer for Davidson Architecture and Engineering in charge of the design of the Petsmart building, said they tried to orient the building on the property out of the flood plain, but Home Depot was not willing to move the “curb cuts” that created the entrance and exit into the parking lot. Rather than making the entrance off the access road, the entrance to Petsmart will be inside Home Depot’s right of way and parking area.

Rod Harms, a member of the Wildcat Creek Working Group, asked commissioners to require the builders to use dirt from within the flood plain rather than hauling dirt from outside the area to use as fill. He said this would create “no impact” on the flood plain because they would be moving dirt from one area of it to another. He also asked whether the parking lot could be reduced by 10 spaces in order to move the building closer to the access road, and therefore farther out of the flood plain.

Sells said they would be happy to use local dirt to fill, but did not want to use dirt on the property because it would destroy the natural barrier of trees and vegetation protecting the creek bed from erosion. As for the parking spaces, he said that would be a moot point because the building sitting as far back from the road had to do with where the curb cuts were.


Other business

Commissioners passed the consent agenda items and the building of a billboard along Kansas Highway 18 off Skyway Drive. Jankovich abstained from two consent agenda items because of conflicts of interest associated with his job. Those items were rezoning the Northlake Addition and easements and right-of-ways for the addition. The addition is located about 150 feet west of Brookpark Drive and Northfield Road intersection.

The items passed 5-0, with the exception of the two items Jankovich abstained from, which passed 4-0-1.

They also discussed whether to modify city benefit district policies to finance and participate in various public infrastructure developments.

Commissioners told city staff that a letter of credit would be detrimental in development of residential property in Manhattan, but they should pursue other options. A letter of credit would require developers to put between 1 and 3 percent of the total value of the property in a type of bank account, like escrow on a home. Then in addition to that percentage, the developer would also have to put some sort of down payment in the form of collateral on top of the cash. The bank would then write a letter of credit for the developer to develop the property.

Jankovich, Butler and Matta said the option of providing an affidavit stating the developer did not owe any back taxes was the least invasive and rewarded those developers who did not “game the system” by using the city as a sort of bank.

Matta said developers did that because the system “allowed them to do it.”

Commissioners also agreed to send a letter to the state requesting that legislators consider changing state laws governing sales taxes collected on the property developed for infrastructure use.

Tim Schultz, owner of Schultz Construction, said he has wanted to pay for the infrastructure outright, but could not because that would require him to lose his tax-exempt status. He said he would be more than happy to pay for the improvements rather than go through the process of creating a special benefit district on certain developments.

City staff will bring the modifications to the city’s benefit district policies back before the commission at a later date for more guidance and discussion.

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