Concordia City Commission Receives Project Update from Community Activities Center Strategic Doing Committee

Concordia City Hall
Concordia City Hall

The Concordia City Commission met for its latest regular meeting on Wednesday, April 17th.

During their action agenda, the commission approved a temporary access agreement with North Central Kansas Medical Center in Concordia through September 1st to perform remediation work to a sloped retaining wall at their property at 155 College Drive.  The city previously granted a license agreement for a private sloped retaining wall in a public utility easement in April 2022 to assist in the support of the perimeter access road around the new hospital facility.  As part of this permanent agreement, the hospital is to maintain the sloped retaining wall to ensure its structural integrity, to control erosion, and to ensure no nuisance is created with respect to tall grass and weeds.

To date, the hospital has complied.

Remediation work needed will include installation of erosion control and a temporary road, stripping and stockpiling rock/topsoil, grading of the sloped retaining wall, reseeding disturbed areas, and removal of temporary road, and removal of erosion control after vegetation is established.

In order for McCownGordon Construction to perform the remediation work, additional space for access is needed.

Commissioner Ashley Hutchinson, the Director of Governmental Relations/Affiliate Marketing and PR for Salina Regional Health Center and North Central Kansas Medical Center, abstained from the vote.

The commission voted to approve an ordinance providing for temporary camping in Concordia City Park from 10 am on June 12th to 10 am on June 13th to support the 50th Anniversary of the Biking Across Kansas tour.

Biking Across Kansas is an annual eight-day bicycle tour across the state.  Biking Across Kansas promotes health and wellness through bicycling, the history and beauty of Kansas, and the warm hospitality of the Kansas towns and people.

Each year, hundreds of cyclists gather on the state's border with Colorado to begin a weeklong journey across the state.  The route changes from year to year.  This year, Biking Across Kansas will be staying overnight in Tribune, Scott City, Ness City, Hoisington, Lincoln, Concordia, Frankfort, Holton and ending on the Missouri River in Atchison.

Biking Across Kansas cyclists will be staying at Concordia High School and camping in the Concordia City Park.  About half of the participants bring tents and camp out while the other half prefer to spread out their sleeping bags and inside the gymnasiums.

An estimated 750 riders and 50 support staff are expected to participate in this 50th anniversary event.

An ordinance was approved for a Conditional Use Permit for a mini storage/self-storage at 233 East 16th Street in Concordia.  Shane Haug requested a Conditional Use Permit at this location to rent storage units as well as storage for his own business at that location.

The Concordia Planning Commission previously approved Haug's application for a Conditional Use Permit on March 26th.

CloudCorp Executive Director Nicole Reed presented the commission her 2024 first quarter report.  Reed highlighted work at the St. Joseph Subdivision, formerly home to the Cloud County Health Center in Concordia, to address a demonstrated housing shortage in the community, along with workforce recruitment efforts, e-community loans, the Get in the Cloud small business grant program, and the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Grant program.

Under their discussion agenda, the commission heard an update on efforts to bring about a Community Activities Center in Concordia, including a walking track, pickleball courts, basketball and volleyball courts with spectator seating, a multipurpose meeting room, kitchen/concessions area, and the ancillary spaces that normally accompany a space of this type.  The facility could also include activity areas for young children and pre-teens.

Originally, a grassroots group targeting a facility for seniors in the community participated in Strategic Doing meetings, an initiative through the Community Foundation for Cloud County and the Dane G. Hansen Foundation that teaches people how to form collaborations quickly, move them toward measurable outcomes and make adjustments along the way.  In October 2022, that group presented their project research to the Concordia City Commission to gauge whether city support exists for the project.

At the time, the group had identified Rasure Field, a city-owned property on the southeast corner of East 7th Street and Cloud Street near the Concordia Sports Complex, as a possible site for the proposed facility.  While no formal cost estimate had been obtained for the facility, the Concordia City Commission was asked to consider a special sales tax to assist with fundraising for this project.

Six months later, the members of the Concordia City Commission and USD 333 Concordia Board of Education held a two-hour study session to explore a potential city-school partnership on a new gymnasium space intended to serve the needs of the school district and the community, as well as explore the possibility of attaching a corresponding citywide sales tax issue to a prospective bond issue to fund various improvements to Concordia Junior/Senior High School.  Previously, Concordia voters rejected a proposed one-percent citywide general purpose sales tax that would have helped fund identified school improvements, part of a $48.5 million bond issue presented by the school district in the fall of 2021.

The school district had suggested constructing a new auxiliary gymnasium, to be built on 10th Street with a connecting link added from the existing Concordia Junior/Senior High School building to the new gymnasium.  With growing concerns over the playing conditions of the current Concordia High School Junior Varsity gymnasium, the new auxiliary gym was an idea presented to replace the existing JV gym, providing Concordia Junior/Senior High School with two playable facilities.  The school also wanted to use the space for physical education classes and recess.  And the facility, as proposed, would have also been made available for public use for such things as walking, pickleball, and organized sports games/practice.

In the weeks following that study session, USD 333 Concordia Superintendent Quentin Breese told the members of the board of education that he left that meeting with the city feeling like there was no appetite for utilizing sales tax dollars for athletic facilities, and there's no appetite for a sales tax initiative extending for more than ten years.  In May 2023, Superintendent Breese suggested to his board that they place two questions on a future ballot.  The first question would be a $15 million bond issue to improve academic spaces in the district only.  The second question would ask for additional funds to construct a basic gymnasium space on school district property.

No action was ever taken by the school board to move forward on a new ballot initiative.

Meanwhile, Concordia City Manager Amy Lange says discussions related to a Community Activities Center have continued, including various informal small group discussions involving members of the original Strategic Doing committee.  The desired program of spaces or scope of the proposed intergenerational facility has not changed, Lange said.

In order to obtain an accurate cost estimate for construction of such a facility, Lange told the commission a preliminary floor plan with preliminary mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering, as well as basic exterior renderings are necessary.  A comparative evaluation of potential sites is also necessary to make an informed decision on location.  The resultant information will be used to help determine operational cost estimates, as well as for marketing and fundraising purposes.

Preparation of this information requires consultation with a licensed design professional.

Chris Atkins, Parks & Recreation Director for the City of Concordia, and Brenda Gilliland, Executive Director of the Community Foundation for Cloud County, representing the Community Activities Center Strategic Doing committee, approached the city about wanting to engage with a design professional to carefully determine the viability of the project.  The commission gave the group its permission to apply for grant funding through the Community Foundation for Cloud County to pay for design services to obtain a formal accurate cost estimate to construct the facility, a comparative analysis of two proposed sites, and a floor plan and renderings to be used for future marketing materials.

If grant funding is obtained, Commissioner Hutchinson said she'd like to see the design professional engage the local community and gather as much as input as possible to ensure that the project meets the local expectations and wants in a community center.