Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Council hears pitch from Main St. Program

January 30, 2008

For the third time in just as many months, members of the Tonganoxie City Council, Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce and the Tonganoxie Planning Commission gathered in the council chambers to continue their search for a suitable way to revitalize downtown.

In November they listened to a proposal from Buxton, a Texas-based data mining firm that promised it could find out what Tonganoxie consumers were hungry for and pair them with a big box retailer.

In a special meeting in early December, the group decided it needed outside help and wanted to ask representatives from the Kansas State University's Center for Engagement and Community Development, BWR, which already provides the city with planning services, and the Kansas Main Street Program, run by the Kansas Department of Commerce, to offer their ideas for downtown.

During Monday night's council meeting, it was the Kansas Main Street Program's turn to convince the bloc to go in their direction.

"In order to have long term downtown revitalization success, there needs to be a partnership between public sector and the private sector," said Mary Helmer, assistant state coordinator for the Kansas Main Street Program. "It's a community effort. If the community buys into it and the city supports it you can do amazing things."

The 42-minute presentation covered the requirements needed to be eligible for the program and what realistic expectations the city should have.

To be eligible for the program, a city must have fewer than 50,000 residents and must be able to provide for a staff person to run the program.

Because Tonganoxie's population is less than 5,000, it could qualify for the small city program and only require a part-time director for the program.

Helmer said some cities have used a chamber of commerce director to also head the Main Street Program, but it was really up to the city on how it wanted to handle the position.

She said the program would help a city choose the right person and then train that person.

As for when Tonganoxie could see changes if it became a part of the program, Helmer said it could take several years and that is why the state would ask a city to join the program for at least five years.

"It's incremental : one step at a time, and you have to learn before you walk," Helmer said. "The first three years of the program are probably going to be learning years, building years. Don't be looking for huge physical change in the first year. You really need to build things up and focus on what's gotten you to the point you are now."

A question raised by Council Member Jason Ward was how successful the program could be in a community like Tonganoxie, which is so close to major cities and major retailers.

"The first thing you need to do is figure out what your regional pull is and realize what your assets are," Helmer said. "A lot of time, a community doesn't realize what kind of assets it has."

She elaborated by saying that many times once those pulls and market niches are identified, local business owners would then have the opportunity to find a way to satisfy those consumer needs.

Helmer said she was only able to touch on some of the highlights in the program and said she would be able to have a full presentation ready if the council wanted her back.

In other business the council:

¢ Asked Kathy Bard, assistant city administrator, to prepare a request for proposal for liability insurance coverage. The city's insurance coverage provided by Evans Insurance Agency expires at the beginning of April.

¢ Unanimously voted to approve pay request for Prosser Wilbert Construction for work on the new pool. The pay request was for $224,991.

¢ Unanimously voted to approve a 2.5 percent merit pay raises for 22 city employees.

¢ Unanimously approved to enter into a contract with I-Con Underground LLC of Lawrence in the amount of $39,750 for rehabilitation of a 1,500-foot sewer main between Fourth and Fifth streets and Main and Green streets.

¢ Unanimously voted to adopt a resolution that will restrict any future development that intends to use Eighth Street as an access to U.S. Highway 24-40.

¢ Unanimously voted to annex land west of U.S. 24-40 at Eight Street and north of Vintage Park for the future development of Eighth Street.

¢ Unanimously voted to annex land in the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds for the future development of baseball fields for the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission. Council member Tom Putthoff, who works for the Rec Commission, abstained from voting.

¢ Voted 3 to 2 to table increasing water connection fees for developers from $1,000 to $1,750.

¢ Heard from Yanez about a letter written by the Tonganoxie Board of Education verifying the approval to transfer school property to the city for a new skate park.

Mike Kelly, city attorney, advised that the city look into clarifying a school board condition because it was not the city's intention to hire any supervisor for the park.

¢ Unanimously voted to spend $6,270 from the economic development line item in the general fund for advertisements in Ingram's Magazine. The money would buy a full-page advertisement in Ingram's Destination Kansas City issue, Corporate Kansas City yearbook and the Destination Leavenworth County issue.

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