Editor’s note: The following is the last of three stories looking at what’s coming in 2020. This one covers local government. Sunday’s installment handled police and courts, and another handling education is on A8.
The Manhattan City Commission as it moves into 2020 will grapple with how to pay for six key community projects.
In November, voters rejected the 0.3% sales tax measure meant to provide funding for the Manhattan flood levee improvements, Aggieville reconstruction, North Campus Corridor enhancements, a new Douglass Recreation Center facility, Manhattan Regional Airport runway improvements and a new maintenance facility for the city.
In response to this, the commission will discuss how to fund and will also prioritize these projects at its first work session of the year Jan. 14. The commission will work on solidifying timelines for these projects during that meeting, said Ron Fehr, city manager.
The commission will explore other avenues to pay for these projects, such as looking at the property tax or through revenue accumulated from stormwater fees and utilities, among other possibilities, officials have previously said.
Some projects’ timelines are more solidified than others. Fehr did indicate improvements to the flood levee are not expected to commence until spring 2021.
The commission will continue to shape and make decisions surrounding parking and reconstruction of the look of Aggieville in the new year. Business owners in Aggieville have stressed the importance of free parking in the area.
Plans are in the works for a parking garage in Aggieville that will also house a substation for the Riley County Police Department as well as other retail spaces. Other improvements include enhanced streetscaping and a potential “Rally Alley,” a destination alley aimed to draw in visitors and tourists to the district.
Plans are still moving forward with North Campus Corridor improvements as well as a new Douglass Recreation Center.
The commission approved a $7.5 million contract with Wildcat Construction Company Inc. of Manhattan for construction services earlier this month for improvements at the North Campus Corridor, an area that includes part of Kansas State University as well as North Manhattan, Kimball, Denison and College avenues.
The commission decided earlier this month to enter into a contract with Trinium Inc. of Manhattan in the amount of $3.83 million for the new Douglass Recreation Center. It will house pickleball, volleyball and basketball courts as well as a walking track, among other amentities. Fehr expects construction to begin in 2020.
The commission is also working to further plans for a new 150-foot-wide runway at the Manhattan Regional Airport.
The commission hopes to reach this goal despite the Federal Aviation Administration only offering funding for a 100-foot-wide runway. The FAA originally told the airport they could proceed with the larger runway earlier this year, but retracted that statement later.
Commissioners in 2020 will also look at the possibility of constructing a new city maintenance facility that would house forestry, fleet, water and wastewater departments, among others.
Fehr also said people can expect to see construction start on the new recreation centers at Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools in 2020 as well.
Additionally, there are also a couple of new and old faces joining the commission in January.
Joining commissioners Usha Reddi and Wynn Butler are incumbent Linda Morse, Mark Hatesohl, a former city commissioner, and newcomer Aaron Estabrook, who has served as a board member on the USD 383 Board of Education.
Mayor Mike Dodson and commissioner Jerred McKee depart from the commission when the three commissioners are sworn in Jan. 7, the first legislative session of 2020.
The Riley County Commission in 2020 looks to continue to restore money from the state back to Kansas counties.
State law requires the legislature to send a portion of its sales tax revenue back to cities and counties to help keep property taxes lower. But state legislators have waived that requirement for the past 15 years, costing cities and counties across the state more than $1.3 billion.
Chairman Ron Wells is pushing to restore the “local ad valorem tax reduction funds” to these communities. In addition, the commission will focus on topics such as the “dark store theory” and constitutional home rule.
The store theory relates to when large retail businesses challenge commercial property values.
Home rule allows counties to determine enactments in their own specific county.
Those three topics were discussed at legislative sessions hosted by the county in 2019, and the commission plans to have more discussions in 2020.
The commission also wants to assess damage to roads and get roads repaired that have water on them ahead of the flood season as Tuttle Creek Lake is down, Wells said. Another goal is finishing improvements to the Anderson Avenue bridge in Keats.
Another goal for the county is to get Riley County Police Department’s firing range operational by summer time before the current lease is up on July 1.
The county also hopes to complete upgrades to the county-wide emergency radio communication system in 2020.
The commission will also further plans in establishing the new sewer system in Keats. Wells said the commission will look at construction and funding costs.
Wells also said he hopes the county makes headway in moving the emergency management services headquarters to a new facility.