GREG LOWER

Chanute city commissioners planned a downtown revitalization committee, authorized repairs from the special sales tax, and discussed how the two issues mesh together at Monday evening’s regular meeting.

The downtown revitalization committee is a reboot of a 2011 proposal to improve commercial properties, while the sales tax repairs are for city-owned buildings.

Commissioners received a red-covered booklet listing city properties and repair and maintenance needs. A quarter-cent sales tax approved in 2018 funds the Chanute Regional Development Authority and also repair and maintenance for city buildings.

The red book totals about $3.3 million in needs, including $1.6 million for the Memorial Building and $1.1 million for the public library and the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum in the historic depot building.

“This alone may take an hour or more for us to have a good discussion,” Commissioner Tim Fairchild said as he looked over the list. “If we’re going to start tonight, we won’t finish it.”

The city’s portion of the sales tax has accrued $350,000 so far. The tax is supposed to last five years at an anticipated $300,000 per year.

Mayor Jacob LaRue said his top priority is to repair the abbey mausoleum at the Elmwood Cemetery, which has roof and concrete damage.

Commissioner Phil Chaney said the sales tax was sold to voters as money for downtown revitalization projects such as the judicial center in the historic Carnegie Library. Although he agreed to the need for the abbey repairs, he said he wanted the project to be more visible.

“People could see where their tax dollars went,” he said.

Assistant City Manager Ryan Follmer, who prepared the list, said the cost estimates are approximate.

“These numbers are best guess,” he said, adding that he included the depot building on the list because he knew the issue would come up, but he did not include the recreation and aquatic center needs.

Since they had the list, commissioners tabled it to move to discussion on the downtown revitalization committee.

The discussion Monday evening was for a committee of seven at-large members from the community and ad hoc members from Main Street Chanute, CRDA, Chamber of Commerce, a city commissioner, Follmer and Interim City Manager Todd Newman.

Those interested in joining the committee have 30 days to apply so the commission can discuss it at their second August meeting.

Although the revitalization committee will provide some input on the sales tax-funded maintenance, it will be a separate entity and the maintenance projects will be determined by the commission.

To that end, the commission authorized up to $180,000 for repairs to several projects: the abbey, masonry tuck-pointing on multiple city buildings, and to begin replacing windows at the Memorial Building. Follmer said 111 Memorial Building windows are single-pane glass.

“Next to no maintenance, reactive maintenance is the worst,” Commissioner Kevin Berthot commented, and Follmer said the city is at that point.

In other business, Newman said despite rumors, there was no indication of a coronavirus (COVID-19) exposure at the municipal swimming pool. In his report, he said the information came because of an Arkansas City notice that was cut-and-pasted on social media.

The commission also approved payment of an invoice for engineering fees on the fiber optic broadband installation. The fees were not included in estimates when the commission set a spending cap on the project, and Newman said commissioners can expect two or three more invoices for up to $60,000.

The commission approved an application for a business at 1702 S. Santa Fe, LPT Retail Management Services, to sell cereal malt beverages.

It passed resolutions to declare properties at 1 W. Walnut, owned by Todd Kidwell, 1202 S. Forest, owned by Michelle and Sabbatha Kerby, and 329 W. 3rd, owned by J-W Real Estate, in violation of city code.

Commissioner Sam Budreau recognized city employees at the Stone Creek golf course who helped free a pinned golfer when a cart went off of a bridge and overturned.

Addressing responses from the previous budget work session, Chaney said mill levy increases and utility rate increases were only under discussion and nothing has been determined. He said commissioners are looking at all options.

“Everything’s on the table,” he said.

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