The City Commission of Arkansas City gave City Manager Nick Hernandez a verbal go-ahead July 17 to sign a non-binding memorandum of understanding concerning the future of the Etzanoa historic site.

This memo among the city, Cowley College, the Etzanoa Conservancy and Wichita State University outlines the responsibilities of each group.

Even though the memo is not binding and no formal vote was taken, one member of the Etzanoa Conservancy board of directors objected.

Vicki Jackson, who has served on the board for some time, said the way the information was provided made the memo sound like a done deal.

“We’ve been meeting with representatives of different groups for six months, trying to decide what role (each would play),” Hernandez said.

The memorandum details the roles of each entity. In this agreement, the City of Arkansas City commits to:

  • taking all steps necessary to protect the archaeological site;
  • providing assistance through its public relations office to generate public awareness;
  • providing meeting or office space, as needed, for those connected to the project;
  • tasking Hernandez or his designee with serving on an Etzanoa governing council, consisting of a member from all four parties.

Protecting the Etzanoa site

“This is not something that the (Etzanoa Conservancy) board of directors has agreed upon,” Jackson said of the governing council.

“What we’re voting on is our portion of the agreement,” Hernandez responded, clarifying that the city was only approving its portion of the work.

“So we’re saying we’re going to protect the archaeological site, as best we can,” added Commissioner Kanyon Gingher.

“Where is the site?” asked Mayor Dan Jurkovich. “It’s huge — how do we do that?”

“That’s going to have to be developed over the course (of time),” Hernandez said. “We don’t have anything yet.”

The city only would be legally allowed to protect the property it already owns and it cannot affect private property.

Jackson objects to process

“It’s not an approved deal,” Jackson interjected again. “A representative from each group was present?” Jurkovich asked Hernandez.

“Yes,” the city manager replied. “I don’t like the way it’s been presented,” Jackson said. “There is no agreement.”

Gingher asked if Jackson had any issue with any of the items the city had agreed to provide — and, in most cases, already is providing.

“Well, no,” Jackson admitted, but she mentioned once more that the governing council was not a “done deal.”

“I didn’t say it was a done deal,” Hernandez said. The memorandum only solidifies the city’s commitment to hold up its part of the agreement.

Jackson said she thought the city’s discussion of the matter was premature and that the memorandum was a product of a study the conservancy paid to have conducted, after receiving a $30,000 grant from the V.J. Wilkins Memorial Foundation.

“I am a member of the board that has not received (that) report,” she said. “I don’t see a controversy,” Jurkovich replied.

The commissioners ultimately decided the city would agree to the terms of the memorandum. However, Jurkovich told Jackson that if there is anything in the memorandum that the conservancy doesn’t agree with, they could come back to the commission at a future date to address it.

Budget process under way

The commissioners also voted 4-0 to schedule a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. July 24 to discuss the 2019 budget process further.

This follows a special study session they held July 13 to discuss the General Fund of the budget and other related matters.

The funding level for one external agency that has assisted with the Etzanoa project came into question during that study session.

Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum is set to receive $50,000 next year, according to the proposed budget, which has not been approved yet.

Hernandez said that if the commissioners wanted to preserve the history of the area, someone will have to provide the museum with funding.

“(It’s) the bare-bones minimum they could operate off of,” he said. “How is it bare bones? Isn’t their budget $80,000?” Jurkovich asked.

Hernandez said he spoke to the museum and was told that unless there is a drastic change in level of service, the bare minimum was $50,000.

“(Museum director) Sandy Randel is helping a ton with Etzanoa, mostly as a volunteer,” he said. “I’m very comfortable with $50,000.”

“We’ve been going down (every year),” Commissioner Jay Warren said of the funding the museum has received.

“Wasn’t it in our agreement … wouldn’t it be at zero by now?” Jurkovich asked.

Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum

A budget plan set prior to 2016 does not guarantee any money to the museum starting in 2019.

This plan was the second of its kind that had the funding for the entity stair-stepping down to an eventual level of zero.

In 2014, the museum received more than $179,000. The following year, it was reduced to around $115,000.

In order to provide full funding for the museum in 2016, the commissioners had to hold off on a new roof for the Agri-Business Building and a new telephone system for City Hall. Both projects are set to finally take place this summer.

The museum requested $75,000 for 2019, the same amount it received this year.

Hernandez said the goal remains for the museum eventually to become self-sufficient.

“So why isn’t that working out?” Jurkovich said. “Their goal is to go without city money,” Warren replied. “They’re just not there yet.”

Etzanoa eventually may help to fund the museum, but not likely for several years because the project still is in its infancy.

Final Friday funding discussion

“They’ve got to have at least $50,000,” Warren said of the museum.

“I’ll lodge my formal dissatisfaction,” Jurkovich said. “Once (a line item is in the budget), it sets a precedent and will keep on going.”

“I kind of agree, but as long as they’re still working on Etzanoa, I’m willing to give them that amount,” said Commissioner Duane Oestmann.

“I would rather give them zero operating (budget) and a $50,000 grant,” Jurkovich said. “I want it to go away some day.”

“I was hoping for the $50,000,” said Commissioner Karen Welch.

The final appropriation has not yet been approved and citizens still have a chance to ask questions regarding the 2019 budget.

The commission will set a date for the budget hearing during their the July 24 special meeting. The public hearing likely will be held Aug. 21.

In other business July 17, the commissioners:

  • heard a complaint from citizen Ken Harader regarding discarded furniture that is left curbside for long periods of time.
  • approved a pair of personnel policy updates.
  • approved a resolution authorizing the City of Ark City to enter into a contract with Andale Construction Inc., to apply HA-5 High-Density Mineral Bond and pavement markings on Radio Lane from Summit Street to 15th Street, for an amount not to exceed $89,449.52.
  • discussed adopting fees for rolloff dumpster service from private trash companies or the possibility of taking over the service.
  • approved the purchase of a table at an upcoming Miss Kansas event to be held at the Burford Theatre.
  • viewed the viral Arkansas City Police Department lip sync video.
  • voted to transfer board responsibility from Jurkovich to other commissioners. Oestmann will be serve on the Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors and Welch will be serving on the Cowley First board.

Commissioner Jay Warren was absent from the meeting because he is on vacation.

In other business July 13, the commissioners:

  • discussed a possible new Direct Primary Care benefit for City of Arkansas City employees.
  • discussed other budgetary items for 2019.