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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • City council talks rec center, water rates, economic development

  • There is a lot going on in Wellington, in addition to various street projects currently underway. Several big-ticket items came up at the Wellington City Council work session meeting Tuesday held at the public works building.
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  • There is a lot going on in Wellington, in addition to various street projects currently underway. Several big-ticket items came up at the Wellington City Council work session meeting Tuesday held at the public works building.
    Expansion of the recreation center, restructuring water rates and economic development toward the turnpike were the major issues.
    Recreation Center
    The Wellington Recreation Center could get a major facelift as a project is being proposed for a major overhaul. Director Cody White gave council members his plans for an expansion of the current facility, that would put just about everything under one roof. Currently programs are held at various locations around town.
    They would also be able to offer more programs with a new facility, and would be closer to being ADA compliant as an elevator is in the plans.
    The recreation commission has had a building fund for a number of years, and is in a position to pay half the cost, which is estimated at $1.8 million. The other half would be financed by city bonds, or General Obligation bonds.
    City Manager Gus Collins said the project would go through the Public Building Commission, and no additional tax dollars would be needed.
    White said there would be additional operating costs with a bigger facility, but the recreation commission would be able to handle those costs.
    Council members seemed to generally favor the project. It could get approval as early as the first November meeting.
    Water Rates
    Collins also addressed the issue of restructuring water rates to help with conservation.
    He would like to change the system to where those that use more water would pay a higher rate, instead of a lower rate like they do now.
    The biggest increase then would be on the biggest users, perhaps as much as 15-20 percent. Those that use little water would get a very small increase.
    Collins said the city is making strides with water quality in the downtown area by replacing water lines.
    But water usage is a major concern. Last summer the lake got very low and the city was close to having to start rationing water.
    “Mother nature bailed us out,” Collins said.
    The city is involved in water, sewer and electricity, and overall the utilities are breaking even or making a profit. Collins said that would not continue with the current structure.
    Some council members voiced concern about lower-end users, those that don’t use much and often don’t have a lot of money. Collins said it could be structured to not affect them at all, but the current plan is for minimal impact.
    Collins plans to get more information and specifics to the council in the coming months.
    Page 2 of 2 - Economic Development
    The council also talked about extending sewer lines along U.S. 160 to the turnpike with the hopes of attracting a hotel to that area. The city is currently in negotiations for a hotel in that area and are considering some incentives.
    Council members and city staff agree there is a need for a hotel in Wellington. It was pointed out that there were no rooms available for people coming to town for the regional tennis tournament this weekend.
    The development of the casino has also increased the need for hotel rooms in the area.
    Collins is negotiating on expanding the sewer and hoping the hotel group will pay for some of that. He said the deal could be done without any rate increases. He also wants to make it possible to have other businesses tap into the line, hoping more development happens in that area.
    Councilman Vince Wetta wondered whether the city is trying to do too much at one time, but then said maybe the city is doing about right  as far as making progress.
    There may be another possibility for a hotel as well as the city continues negotiating with another group.
    Also on the economic development front, Collins told the council the company that does crop dusting out of the airport wants to build a building have its headquarters there.
    The city would build the building for about $120,000 and the company would lease it and pay it off over 15 years with those lease payments.
    The worst case scenario would be the city would be left with a new building.
    Council members were not decided on that issue.
    Collins also told the council about other developments along U.S. 160 closer to town that could work out at some point.
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