No county cash coming soon, if ever, for Fieldhouse Project

By Maura Wery

The Riley County Commission decided not to give the Manhattan Fieldhouse Project $10,000 that group requested to help fund a feasibility study here Thursday.

Fieldhouse Advisory Group Chair Gail Urban requested the funds, saying her group needs $100,000 to conduct a study of the feasibility of the project itself. That study would encompass a market study, construction and operation costs, site analysis and capital acquisition plan. She said the group has raised about $10,000 to date.

Commissioner Dave Lewis said he was fine with giving the project the $10,000 start up, but both commissioners Ron Wells and Bob Boyd said they wanted to see evidence of stronger support from businesses and other private sources before the county commission committed itself. They suggested the project would need to raise at least $60,000 before they would be willing to commit the commission. Both also cited potential future budgeting concerns as making the project problematic.

The Fieldhouse Project is an effort by an ad hoc group of citizens to develop a 180,600-square-foot complex here that would include five basketball courts, eight volleyball courts, four batting cages, indoor and outdoor football, soccer and baseball fields, outdoor tennis courts and numerous other facilities in the Manhattan and Wamego areas. Proponents contend existing facilities are insufficient for young athletes at upper skill levels, and they also believe that such a facility could attract competitions to the area, generating economic benefits.

Workers comp cases

Commissioners took under advisement a request from Community Corrections director Shelly Williams for funds in her department’s 2014 budget to cover $18,000 in workers comp cases that have not been paid.

Williams first brought the cases to the commission’s attention a few months ago, and the matter was referred to county counselor Clancy Holeman.

She returned Thursday after Holeman advised her that her options were limited to either getting the funds from the county or finding another way to fund it within her own budget. Community Corrections is funded via a combination of county and state money.

Williams said her office had never asked for funding outside of its budget in the 31 years it have existed and said the commission should “consider the entire picture” about how the funds will be covered. Williams said that she would need an answer before she submitted her budget to the state on May 1. Commissioners said they would discuss the matter and meet with Williams before May 1.


Urban Area land study

Planning and special project director Monty Wedel asked commissioners whether they wanted to be involved in discussions about expansion of the Urban Area Planning Board’s authority that could include land adjacent to Tuttle Creek Lake and the county shops. Such an expansion of the board’s scope is under discussion by the board.

The county, along with the city, will have a consultant look at the area with an eye toward determining how much cost would be involved in potential development. All three commissioners agreed to add the area to the land use plan, Boyd calling it “a logical extension.”

The only commissioner who had concerns was Ron Wells, who wanted the Urban Area Planning Board to explain to those living in rural areas just outside the city limits that they may not always be outside.

“Don’t just say no [to development],” Wells said. “We can’t stop growing and someone needs to explain that to them.”

Wedel will bring the consensus from the Commission back to the city for further review.

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