GREG LOWER

Chanute city commissioners discussed their desires to advance improvements to downtown during a work session meeting Monday evening.

The commission met to discuss goals before adjourning to the commission room for the regular meeting. Commissioners did not set any concrete plans, but agreed they are anxious to move forward.

“I’m just ready to go,” Commissioner Phil Chaney said. “I hate sitting around.”

The work session followed a $100,000 grant to Main Street Chanute from the Neosho County Commission from payments the Neosho Ridge Wind project is making in lieu of property taxes. The county commission also made a $100,000 grant to Thayer and $93,000 to Galesburg.

“The county was giving out cash like it was candy,” Chaney said.

Main Street Chanute Director Ruthann Boatwright said the grant will not be used for operations expenses, but will be similar to the Incentives Without Walls fund for improvement and other loans and for awnings. She said a Bartlesville, Okla., awning company is coming to Chanute today to look at downtown projects.

Mayor Jacob LaRue said the Chanute Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Committee is funded by the Transient Guest Tax, but Main Street Chanute does not have a similar revenue source.

“It always boils down to funding,” City Manager Todd Newman said.

Chaney said Commissioner Tim Fairchild calculated the amount the city government funds to the Main Street organization works out to $7.66 per household annually, or 64 cents per month.

Fairchild began by saying the city has not had a comprehensive plan since one passed in July 2000, but he does not want to hire someone to prepare one.

Newman said he has reached out to two engineering firms about a comprehensive plan.

Fairchild said the downtown effort has lost momentum due to COVID-19 that it gained early in 2020 after concerns about the historic 1899 Masonic Temple in the 100 block of west Main.

“Main Street started it and then we bowed down to COVID,” Fairchild said, adding that the city has property and should be able to have meetings with social distancing.

Officials are also trying to determine the role of the Downtown Revitalization Committee. Commissioner Sam Budreau, speaking by teleconference call, said the issue has grown beyond one organization.

“It’s not attainable by any one entity,” he said. “It’s not a one-step deal.”

He said he was tired of talking about the issue and that communication was the key.

Chaney said if the Main Street organization and the revitalization committee both attacked the problem, things would be done more quickly.

Newman said he is willing to make the city’s grant writer available to the Main Street Chanute organization to add funds to those the county provided. He said officials needed to have a rendering of what they want Main Street to look like.

Boatwright said the Main Street organization has meetings scheduled to follow-up the pre-COVID efforts and the loose goals that were established at the community meeting last February. She said she could check with Kansas Main Street about finding someone to do a streetscape.

LaRue urged putting a call out to the Chanute Regional Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a lot of different puzzle pieces,” he said.

In his report at the commission meeting, Newman said a revitalization committee meeting is set for Jan. 19. He also reported a meeting is scheduled to discuss the railroad crossing on Main Street.

In other business, the commission voted to find properties at 520 N. Lafayette, owned by Charles Jay, and 1618 S. Evergreen, owned by Christopher Heilig, in violation of city code. The owners of 520 N. Lafayette attempted to demolish the property themselves after a structure fire.

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