El Dorado Mayor Vince Haines and Interim City Manager Scott Rickard updated the community on the progress made in 2016 and a look at 2017 during the second annual State of the City address Tuesday.
Haines began the presentation, talking about the “big picture” for the city.
“It’s been great working with this group,” he said of the commission. “We do have great conversations.”
The theme for the city continues to be partnerships. That has been an emphasis in what they have been looking for in a new city manager and something the commission continues to value across the board, Haines said.
He went on to review the items on their strategic plan. The first was water.
“We are continuing to look for partnerships and ways to market that,” he said.
The city received the state’s “Best Tasting Water” award last year and is now competing for the national award.
“That is a big deal,” Haines said. “We don’t tell that story very well, I think, so we are looking at that.”
He said there was some demand for the city’s bottled water, and they also are looking at ways to partner with businesses to distribute water.
“I want to make sure our water is available to visitors who come to town,” Haines said, adding his goal is to have it in every conference room.
Next, Haines talked about the parks and rec master plan that was approved, saying they have “low hanging” fruit they are looking at completing.
“There are several we hope to address with the excess sales tax,” Haines continued.
He told the group they have a task force established to look into a sales tax to fund the items in the parks and rec plan, but they have not met yet.
Some of the projects they are considering include to expand the activity center, new tennis courts, an aquatic center, realignment/enhancements to ball fields and disk golf.
Haines said the ball fields have seen some work with last year’s sales tax and they have opened bids for the throwing pads for disk golf.
The disk golf will be a 36-hole course located in the wetlands and floodplain area adjacent to the stadium.
“I’m happy to be able to use that [land],” he said.
The disc golf course is planned to be completed before the Shrine Bowl at the end of July.
Another item on the strategic plan is the core area development plan, which Haines said they continue to work on with downtown partners although they have paused on the work at the moment.
In addition, Haines said they continue to pay attention to their streets, with that program ongoing and receiving compliments from those who come to town.
Another item on the strategic plan was to maintain and enhance the partnerships with the chamber, Main Street, El Dorado Inc., USD 490 and Butler Community College.
Other goals include to maintain a safe environment for staff; community image; telling the city’s story better; and housing.
For housing, Haines said he was pleased to tell them the NRP was successfully renewed this year.
“Since the NRP has been in place 15-plus years, these are the projects I know of, we’ve had about $10 million in investment in capital improvement,” he said. “That’s a significant investment. Thank you for everyone who supports that.”
In addition, they are about to complete a Moderate Income Housing grant project to submit this year and the city was awarded a $120,000 MIH grant last year for eight duplexes.
Other items on the strategic plan include dining options, airport development and educational facilities.
Haines congratulated the community on making an investment for two new elementary schools.
Some of the challenges coming up, include the budget. He said currently staff are working on bringing their capital improvement projects.
Last year’s budget increased 1 mill, but he said that was not without discussion and it was primarily dedicated to the transition and partnership with the senior center, where the city will be more involved.
“In my opinion I see the senior center very much like I see the ball diamonds,” Haines said. “If we’re going to take care of our younger generations, we take care of our older generation.”
Haines went on to say another challenge with the budget is the mill levy cap set by the state, where the city can’t raise the mill levy without taking it to a vote of the people.
He said he wasn’t opposed to that, but it created some logistical challenges because they budget on estimates until the very end, then it is too late for a vote if they need to increase the mill levy.
Haines said economic development incentive and public safety are exempt from this limit.
“We’ve been mill levy flat for several years,” Haines said.
He also said the were seeing valuations go back up a little.
Looking at outside sources, Haines said in Topeka they are having conversations about abandoned and blighted properties to let cities be able to acquire those.
Other issues involve the state water fund and long-range plans without funding; where campaign signs can be placed; vendor service licensing; and handgun laws.
Haines concluded by talking about upcoming events in 2017.
“2017 is going to be a pretty exciting year,” he said.
He listed Drums Across Kansas, the Shrine Bowl, Dam Music Festival and the Lantern Fest, in addition to the regular events of Walnut River Festival, Frontier Western Celebration and more.
A final thing Haines mentioned was the city manager search, saying they are now are in conversations with one of the candidates.
Next, Rickard talked about more of the details of what the city is doing.
He said one big project they are working on is with the downtown drainage structure, which is 100 years old. Staff has been studying and collecting information on the drainage and that has been submitted to send to a consultant.
Looking at parks and rec, he said they were going to be making a request to the sales task advisory committee for upcoming projects. They want to do one project in each park.
They also will be looking toward the larger projects and how they will fund those.
Another topic he touched on was the industrial park, saying it is nearly full, with only two parcels left and those parcels are really desirable.
“We are going to give some thought on our future,” he continued.
He said the city and Inc. has 200 acre parcels across the Turnpike and they are going to be looking at the cost to extend the infrastructure and future traffic and how that would cross the Turnpike.
They also are looking at extending infrastructure to the new schools.
And his final topic was community policing, with Rickard saying Police Chief Curt Zieman has a new community policing officer, who will have a presence in town and be in contact with businesses.
Taking a few questions to conclude the presentation, they were asked about Ninth Avenue and improving that.
Rickard said the biggest hurdle there is the railroad and the cost to redo those crossings.
The last question was on the wind turbine, which they said the city is working with the engineer to make whole.