City Commission discusses traffic traffic survey, emergency shelter funding

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City commissioners met Tuesday night to discuss various issues of funding, city employee pay and loan adjustment.

The meeting began with a presentation by Stephanie Watts, transportation planner for the Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization, about the work FHMPO has done so far to gather information about community involvement outreach programs. FHMPO was founded after the recent census required the formation of an MPO due to Manhattan’s population topping 50,000, which makes it a metropolis.

FHMPO is striving to increase public engagement and outreach activities. Their main objectives are to educate, engage, encourage, incorporate and evaluate.

They recently conducted a 10 question transportation survey, which was provided at local businesses and online, asking ways that were effective and ineffective at reaching people to educate them and the issues that were most important to them.

Over 100 people completed the survey, ranging from college students to working professionals to retirees. FHMPO members aim to eliminate ineffective methods of reaching the public and emphasize the issues that were most important to people.

Citizens were greatly concerned with traffic safety and public transportation, and they deemed regular mail an ineffective means of communication.

Also discussed was the upcoming temporary exhibit at the Flint Hills Discovery Center, which will focus on the Ice Age. This $25,000 exhibit will be at the center for approximately a quarter of a year.

New housing development changes along Scenic Drive were then approved upon first reading.

Manhattan Emergency Shelter, Inc, which serves as a resource for the homeless population of Manhattan, also requested a forgiveness of their loan from the city, on which they would have payments of $27,000 for the next two years.

“The loan goes back to gap financing that the city helped provide to the shelter for the construction of their facility,” Adam Bentley, assistant city manager, said. “As a part of that gap financing, $135,000 was a no interest loan to pay over a course of five years.”

MESI had requested forgiveness of the same loan in 2010 and the Commission chose to restructure the loan instead. Due to unforeseen management and maintenance costs, MESI found that it would be unable to pay back the loan in the original time allotted.

The commissioners decided to restructure the loan again, giving MESI seven years to pay back the loan, with annual payments of $7,714.29.

Finally, changes to wages for Manhattan fire fighters and city workers were approved. Wages were increased 1.7 percent to keep up with cost of living.

“We just request that it be equitable across the board for city employees,” Jason Hilgers, deputy city manager, said.

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