Manhattan city manager Ron Fehr told Riley County commissioners Thursday that he is “certainly excited about the opportunity” for the proposed Museum of Art and Light.

“It would be a world-class facility,” Fehr said.

On Tuesday, Manhattan city commissioners approved the use of sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds for the creation of the museum next to the Flint Hills Discovery Center. Officials expect the Kansas secretary of commerce to decide in the next few weeks whether the project is an appropriate use of STAR bonds. Officials estimate the total project cost at $43.6 million plus the cost of the land. Half of that would be generated by state sales tax revenue and the other half would come from private donations.

Fehr said this museum would put Manhattan “on another level with amenities” and draw a global audience to the facility, and the city.

“It’s exciting to have something like (the museum) and for folks in the community to step forward with the idea,” Fehr said.

Organizers want to acquire about $21 million in private donations and use $23 million in STAR Bond funds to create the three-story, 50,000 square-foot museum with enveloping exhibits and displays.

Fehr said there are “a lot of actions yet to come” on planning and preparing for the potential museum, including zoning and utility relocations. He said the Museum of Art and Light would not be competing with other museums locally, as it would be “a whole other level of attraction.”

Commission chair John Ford said he would think the potential location of the museum would be an enhancement for the Discovery Center and Manhattan Town Center.

“On a nice day people could walk from one (attraction) to another,” Ford said.

In other business, the commission:

  • Approved the lowest bid on a project to replace a bridge on Rose Hill Road in Riley County. Ebert Construction of Wamego was the lowest bidder at $385,903; there were five bidders in total. The public works department federal funds for this project, with an 80/20 cost share split. Sales tax revenue will fund the county’s 20% share, with the local match of $78,000 paid to the Kansas Department of Transportation by July 8.
  • Approved a request from county attorney Barry Wilkerson to fill a vacant office manager position. Wilkerson also said a new attorney will join the county at the end of June, and he said another attorney position is being developed.
  • Listened to a report from county appraiser Greg McHenry. He said personal property valuations are up about 11% from a year ago. He said increases are happening on a national basis. McHenry said outdoor recreation valuations are also higher, with watercraft totals 21% higher than last year.