City weighs adding position

By Bryan Richardson

Some city commissioners said Tuesday they weren’t sure about adding a full-time public program coordinator at the Flint Hills Discovery Center.

The Discovery Center and Sunset Zoo currently share a public program coordinator. The city is proposing that each entity get its own full-time coordinator.

A proposed half-percent increase to the transient guest tax, which is currently at 6 percent, is being considered for the additional money needed for the center’s full-time coordinator and general operations.

It would generate $102,905 annually, $20,318 of which would be to create the full-time position.

Mayor Wynn Butler said he would be more inclined to make a full-time position at the zoo because it can cover the cost, and keep the position part-time at the Discovery Center.

“The Discovery Center is in the red,” he said. “Why reinforce in the red by making it further in the red?”

Commissioner John Matta agreed with Butler, who also said he wanted to see the center’s upcoming business plan presentation first.

“If you’re running a business and you’re in the red, you wouldn’t be adding staff to it unless you had a business plan that showed how it was going to cover the cost,” he said.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh said the center would need a full-time professional because a half-time person wouldn’t stay long.

“We need to give them one year of chance to see what they can do, to see if they can build up all of those programs and get the public in there,” she said.

City administrators gave other funding options for consideration: using savings from other areas, increasing admission to the center, cutting the center’s expenses and increasing property taxes.

City Manager Ron Fehr said these options also have been presented to the Discovery Center advisory board.

“I don’t believe they’re excited about that particular aspect of it,” he said of a potential admission increase.

Commissioner Rich Jankovich said it’s an economic development issue, which has a fund that could be used for a year of the position.

“It pulls the property tax burden away, and it’s a little less of an issue,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to have a year of that person to do what they’re supposed to do.”

McCulloh said there’s potential for growth with a better job of marketing.

She said she has talked with people who are enthusiastic about the center but want to see more.

“They’re surprised they haven’t seen the level of civic support that we usually see,” she said. “Sponsorships from banks and grants.”

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