City heated over hotel materials, happy with discovery center

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Commissioners began Tuesday night’s meeting optimistically. ‘

Commissioner Jayme Morris-Hardeman announced a transit plan is being updated and a public input meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Wednesday at City Hall. Mayor Bob Strawn invited citizens to attend the annual Mayor’s Spirit of the Holiday Lighted Parade beginning at 6 p.m., Friday downtown. Commissioner James Sherew said he visited the new ice skating rink this past weekend and there were not enough skates for everyone wanting to skate, demonstrating the success of the rink.

The meeting quickly changed tone as the consent agenda passed with Strawn and Commissioner Loren Pepperd voting against the city employees receiving raises. All other consent agenda items passed unanimously.

The first reading of the ordinance to rezone the south-end redevelopment, also known as the entertainment district, upset the majority of the commission.

“I cannot believe what we are building,” Strawn said as he slammed his fist down on the table top. “It has no tie what-so-ever to the pavilion or downtown.”

Commissioners asked the designers of the hotel to use the savings they should receive during the current recession to incorporate better building materials into the facing of the hotel.

Strawn said the city spent 42 percent less than projected in the sewer system project and saved enough money to put in a slide and a lazy river in the rebuilt city park pool during the past several months and foresaw no reason for the construction of the hotel to produce similar savings.

The hotel designers said the limestone facing envisioned for the hotel is “adhere limestone.”

Strawn said the “adhere limestone” was not the six-inch thick limestone facing like what the city used on the Wefald Pavilion or in the downtown business district, but said it was more like chicken wire with two-inch thick limestone glued to it and grout slapped over it in an attempt to cover the exposed wire.

The commissioners tension eased slightly when Jason Hilgers, assistant city manager, said the ordinance was to allow basic plotting of lots and dividing of the land into private owned and city owned portions that would allow basic building to move forward.

The commission passed the first reading 5-0.

The Manhattan Surgery Hospital request on the agenda for economic development funds to expand their facility failed before the commission 4-1.

“I support the mayor in this in that economic development funds should be invested in creating jobs that would not have otherwise been created in the community,” Morris-Hardeman said.

Commissioner Bruce Snead defended the request by saying the previous commission gave Mercy Regional Health Center $1 million without any guarantees for job creation.

Bernie Hayen, director of finance, presented two new parking zone requests and the commission voted unanimously to allow the zones to be implemented.

The final agenda item, did not require a vote, was a work session to allow public input on the schematic plans of the Flint Hills Discovery Center. After Fred Goode and Gerry Hilferty of Hilferty and Assoc. presented their concept design of the building and exhibits, the commission gave two K-State professors a chance to speak.

Lauren Ritterbush, associate professor of archaeology and Brad Logan, research associate professor of archaeology, read formal statements to the commission concerning the organization of the proposed exhibits.

Ritterbush said the commission was missing the opportunity to represent the Native Americans that lived in the Flint Hills accurately and as a part of the region, not as static bystanders, which is how they have been represented by other historical museums in the past.

Snead thanked the professors for their comments and agreed with the rest of the commission that the progress made thus far on the discovery center was acceptable and wanted to move forward with design plans and development.

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