Several mayors, city managers and representatives from throughout the county gathered to talk, share ideas and learn about what is going on in each others communities during the 66th Annual Butler County Mayor’s Dinner Thursday evening.
This year’s event was held at the BG Products Veterans Sports Complex in the skybox.
“I’m a real believer in communities and small communities,” said El Dorado Mayor Tom McKibban. “They’re all really important.”
He commended all of the mayors and city managers on the good work they are doing.
Following the meal, a representative from each town talked about what had been going on in their communities in 2012.
Mayor Kristey Williams of Augusta talked about what they have been doing.
“We have a lot of activity in Augusta,” she said.
Among that is a new Walmart and work on replacing their 100-year levee with a 500-year levee.
She also said they drained their lake last year to do some work on it, but it didn’t fill back up. They are continuing to get their water from El Dorado.
“There are good things happening in Augusta,” she said.
Among those is looking at the possibility of expanding their airport. They also just passed a new one-cent sales tax, of which 90 percent will go toward water infrastructure to build a new line to El Dorado.
They also heard about growth in Andover.
Andover City Manager Sasha Stiles said they had 60 new building starts in 2012, which was right in line with the average for the last three years. The council also approved a new Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which Stiles said although did not have much impact on new starts, it did have a positive impact on remodels.
Andover also is getting a new Dollar General store.
They recently completed signalization at the intersection of 159th Street and Highway 54, and undertook a 21st Street improvement from Andover Road to 159th.
“We are also going to be improving the intersection of 13th and Andover Road,” Stiles said.
This will include dedicated turn lanes and a new design for the intersection.
Other projects include an economic development visioning process for their industrial park for which they are having a land auction, a BNSF rail corridor project for a path if they receive a TE grant and adoption of a U.S. 54 corridor plan. They also are working on a comprehensive plan update.
The mayor of Benton, Ken Gile, said they did not have new much going on last year.
Page 2 of 3 - In Douglass, KaLyn Nethercot, city administrator, said they have had some positive and some negative things happening.
While they passed a sales tax for their community, a few weeks later their grocery store closed. They also have had several other businesses close in the past year.
One that was reopened was the lumber store, which was opened by former residents who moved back to the community and want to help revitalize it.
“We’re trying to stabilize things a little bit,” Nethercot said.
In Potwin, Mayor Dean Schmidt said they passed a sales tax and have been amazed at how much it has generated over the year.
They also are seeing a hardship on their water fund with so many pipes breaking because of the drought and the ground shifting. He said in 2015 he will have served as mayor of Potwin for 30 years.
In Leon, Gerald Schuetz said they received a grant for their sewer, and started that work. They had been working on the grant for the last two years.
In Towanda, Administrator Matt Engels said they have received a couple of good grants, including a KC Royals grant to re-do their baseball fields.
They also have been holding more fairs and events the last couple of years.
Looking at the county as a whole, County Commissioner Dan Woydziak said they are in the process of looking at their budget and seeing where they are at on it.
One big project for the county last year was the communications plan, which he said has gone well and is being paid for by sales tax.
He said they are working to provide the needed services with the available resources.
McKibban thanked everyone for attending this year’s dinner.
“It’s been a great six years,” he said, announcing he won’t be running for re-election.
Among the highlights in El Dorado include the new stadium opening, BG Products finishing their facility, Barton Solvents and two new schools. They also have the city sales tax up for a vote again in the next election.
“It’s a real good program,” McKibban said.
He went on to say he is from Douglass and at that time there was three grocery stores and two hardware stores there.
“If we don’t support our communities they get sucked in and people go to bigger communities to shop,” he said, adding that he always tries to shop at small communities when he is in them. “It is important to shop in the small communities.”
Page 3 of 3 - McKibban also announced he is running for Butler Community College Trustee.
One big concern for him regarding the college is to get the funding changed so the mill levy does not fall just on the county in which the college is located but the entire state.
“I really think we need to address how community colleges are funded at the state level,” he said.
He again thanked everyone for attending.