City Commission focuses on managing park property


There were several hot button topics at the city commission meeting Tuesday evening. The commissioners reviewed two requests involving local park land. Both requests caused differing opinions between the commissioners and the public.

The first topic was a concessionaire request to sell cereal malt beverages, or beer, at the Twin Oaks Complex in Frank Anneberg Park.

Eddie Eastes, director of Parks and Recreation, and Brad Streeter, contracted concessionaire for city concession stands, presented the proposal. Streeter proposed that beer be sold at adult-only tournaments and league games during the 2015 season as a trial run and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended that this request be approved.

The City Administration was less supportive about the idea, and did not recommend that the commissioners should approve it. Commissioner Usha Reddi was concerned that alcohol consumption would be difficult to control in a wide open area like the Twin Oaks Complex, and said that more alcohol related events sponsored by the city was a bad idea.

“This proposal comes close after Fake Paddy’s Day and we’re having more and more alcohol related events,” Reddi said. “I’m afraid this is just going to be the beginning. I’d like to see more awards or more competition be the motivation be what gets people involved, not just more beer sales. Philosophically, I’m not in agreement.”

Commissioner Rich Jankovich disagreed with Reddi and said beer wouldn’t encourage more people to come and play. To Jankovich, people who want to play already do, and drinking already happens before, between and after games. Although Jankovich said he didn’t think that beer sales would drastically change participation, he also didn’t support the proposal.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh said that she didn’t think they had enough information to decide and proposed that they talk with the Riley County Police Department for their opinion before deciding. Mayor Wynn Butler said he agreed, and the motion was tabled to further investigate the proposal’s potential and decide it at the next session.

The commissioners were then asked to decide on the fate of a privately built tree house-type structure that had been constructed on city property in Jorgenson Park. Diane Meredith and David Sauter, adjoining property owners, constructed the tree house, and requested an audience with Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to explore possible options that would allow the structure to remain. It was decided that if the tree house was to remain, then it would require the city to sell them the dedicated park land.

The Parks and Recreation Department was not supportive of selling the property.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended Meredith and Sauter be notified to remove the structure by April 1. The request was approved by the commissioners unanimously, but Reddi said that she was sure the builders did it with good intentions and likely didn’t know they were violating codes. She also said that she was sad this was how the situation had to be resolved.

The commissioners also were asked to consider the adoption of the Manhattan Urban Area Comprehensive Plan and the Manhattan Area Transportation Strategy. Both plans look to update the Manhattan community as a whole. The key objectives of the plan include an expanded emphasis on conservation, a more efficient use and expansion of public facilities and services, having active community involvement and balancing a multi-modal transportation system in healthy, livable neighborhoods across the city.

Manhattan is projected to grow by 20,000 people in the next 10-20 years and will need over 11,000 new homes to accommodate for the future. The proposals included very thorough outlines and plans, and the commissioners passed them unanimously.

Other items on the agenda included the approval of funding for the rehabilitation of a portion of Juliette Street that will save the brick street and uphold its character, as well as buying a road striping unit to improve the visibility of street lines. Mayor Butler also declared the month of March will be “March for Meals Month.”

McCulloh voiced her concern over a bill that was put through the House in Topeka that would move local elections to November of even years instead of odd. She said that this would cause confusion and prevent local politics from staying local and nonpartisan. The commissioners then moved into executive session until 9:45 p.m.