The City Commission of Arkansas City passed a resolution Feb. 7 that will allow the city to seek a Historic Preservation Fund grant for a new survey of the downtown historic district.

The application proposal failed in 2016 on a 2-2 vote, but two new commissioners have been appointed since then and the proposal was approved 4-1 on Tuesday. Commissioner Dan Jurkovich voted against the survey grant proposal both times.

The grant will reimburse the cost of hiring a consultant, who will conduct the survey. The survey itself will not add or remove any structures from the current historic district. However, it will update all of the information regarding buildings in and around the district.

It could be used later to suggest the addition of certain structures to the district, should they be found eligible. But owners would have to apply.

In some cases, structures that have been demolished since the district was created in 1983 might need to be removed from the district.

The grant does require a 40-percent match, but the match can be composed of staff salaries and volunteer labor.

In this case, the salary to count toward the grant would be that of City Planner Josh White. In-kind labor would be provided by members of the Historic Preservation Board. Two board members, Kevin Cox and Jean Snell, were present Feb. 7, with Snell voicing his support of the grant.

“It is possible that this could have a dramatic impact on further development downtown,” Snell said.

“One of the things that I had talked to (the board) about is that once the consultant is in place, to talk to them about the possibility of doing a survey that would actually tell us what is available in these buildings for living space.”

Snell said the Burford building has between 11,000 and 12,000 square feet of potential living space on its upper floors, and he estimated the entire downtown could have upwards of 200,000 square feet available. Many of the original apartment configurations still are in place, as well.

“It doesn’t mean you could rehab them, live in them as they are,” Snell said, “but we have a lot of people that have two or three stories of a building that is simply vacant. (This study) just might very well bring up an opportunity for them to make use of it.”

“One of the things we have to make sure that we protect is our (Certified Local Government) status,” City Manager Nick Hernandez added regarding the survey, which the Historic Preservation Board is mandated to pursue in the CLG ordinance.

“We’re able to make those exceptions for windows at the local level. If you just had a blanket ‘everything just goes to the State (of Kansas) again’ (approach), then they’re just going to say, ‘No. No. No.’”

CIP Committee formed

The commissioners voted unanimously to create the 2017 Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) Committee.

This committee will function to gather direct citizen input on possible future projects. However, the CIP Committee will not make decisions on which projects ultimately will or will not be funded. Only the city commissioners and city manager, working together, can make those choices.

The resolution authorizes the committee to exist until Dec. 31, but does not specify its composition or membership. That open-ended quality left commissioners unsure how many volunteers to appoint, with some saying six or seven and one commissioner contemplating selecting all 14.

After some discussion, it was decided that Mayor Duane Oestmann should talk to the candidates over the next two weeks and bring his recommendations for committee members to the next commission meeting on Feb. 21.

In other business, the commission:

  • heard an update from South Central Kansas Medical Center chief financial officer Holly Harper.
  • heard a complaint from Mylissa Call, owner of Mylissa’s Garden Antiques, regarding her recent interaction with the Arkansas City Police Department concerning disabled vehicles. After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners determined that no citation would be issued as long as Call followed through on moving the vehicles or restoring them to working order.
  • heard an update from Brett Martin, owner of a dangerous structure at 617 S. Fourth St. He was instructed to have his general contractor, Kent Hinson, pull a construction permit by the end of the week.
  • unanimously approved the consent agenda, including filling the final three vacancies on the Outstanding Young Student Award Committee and authorizing new terms for the six appointed members of the newly renamed Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors.
  • heard a first reading of an ordinance modifying Arkansas City Municipal Code to allow for easier citation and prosecution of illegal registration and illegal out-of-state tags, especially those from Oklahoma. Action was delayed until a second reading Feb. 21.
  • unanimously authorized the purchase of two new sanitation trucks from Downing Sales & Service, Inc., of Phillipsburg, Missouri, for an amount not to exceed $347,205.
  • unanimously approved the purchase of two 2017 Ford Police Pursuit-rated Utility Interceptors from Reedy Ford, for an amount not to exceed $58,452.
  • heard updates from Hernandez on unsafe and poor housing, an upcoming tour of the new Water Treatment Facility, and a visit Feb. 7 from Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments to gather information on the Arkansas City Fire-EMS Department’s 1932 Buick fire truck.
  • held a 15-minute executive session to discuss non-elected personnel, with no action following.

Spring Hill Golf Course was on the agenda to update the commission on its financial standing, but no representatives attended the meeting.