The Capital Improvement Plan final review meeting for projects broached in 2017 was held between City of Garden City officials and community members on Wednesday night, and results from committee polling efforts demonstrated where enthusiasm lies for capital projects up for eventual consideration by the city commission.

Shannon Dick, lead strategic analyst for the Finney County Economic Development Corp., presented the overall results detailing community interest for different projects.

City Manager Matt Allen explained that the CIP committee process is a chance for the community to give input on the front end, before projects appear for consideration by the city commission for budgetary purposes.

One example of the importance of the CIP committee can be seen in the projects chosen for funding through the interlocal sales tax increase passed in November. Before the projects and the terms of the sales tax hike were set forth for approval by local governing bodies, the CIP committee was consulted to determine the priority of numerous projects.

From those projects, the six slated for funding by the interlocal sales tax increase were essentially chosen based on feedback by the CIP committee, Allen said.

The interlocal sales tax agreement between the City of Garden City and Finney County will pay for urbanized improvements to Jennie Barker Road; ongoing improvements to Lee Richardson Zoo; construction and operation of an 11,068-square-foot indoor shooting range intended for use by local law enforcement and the public; and construction, operation and maintenance of a 15,061-square-foot fire station on the city’s east side.

The tax will go into effect on April 1 and sunset in 2033, and receipts on the sales tax will start filtering into local coffers in June.

Allen explained that the CIP committee process is an important part of getting community feedback, and noted that the only common thread between the projects to be funded by the interlocal sales tax is their relevance to CIP committee input.

“We’re proud of the process. We’re proud of the document that you helped create,” Allen said. “It has now balanced that public input, financial information and technical information to give the commission confidence in the decisions they make.”

Allen noted that the city commission will be addressing department budgets for 2019 over the summer. Allen described the CIP public input process as a roadmap used to create budgetary drafts, but not a binding mandate to determine any final decisions on budgetary priorities.

“Those decisions still rest with the five elected officials, and I can almost assure you the capital improvement plan won’t be taken dollar for dollar, project for project, year by year with what comes out of this,” Allen said. “But it will be influential, and it will be important in their consideration.”

In terms of overall approval score, projects ranging from sewer interceptor rehabilitation, a FEMA study for drainage improvements, a zoo support generator and a new irrigation central control system all ranked high on the list, while other projects, such as a zero-entry area at the Big Pool and general maintenance area improvements all ranked low on the list.

Dick explained that some projects involving routine maintenance will have to be completed no matter what, but were regardless included to establish a generalized metric of community enthusiasm.

One community member in attendance noted that he ranked projects he perceived to be part of routine maintenance lower on the list, while ranking specialized capital projects higher as a way of creating some level of distinction.

Beyond overall scores, attendees also were asked to rank projects, and the averages of those rankings were compiled into a consolidated data table.

The new irrigation central control system, airport terminal renovations and a Kansas Department of Transportation road funding opportunity were all ranked highly, while oxidation ditch maintenance — an inevitable project — were ranked at the lower end of the spectrum.

When possible, Dick created a data table showing community support for various projects over a three-year period.

Through that table, a prospective new skate park showed declining public interest over time, with below average enthusiasm overall. Meanwhile, renovations to the historic Windsor Hotel have received increasing enthusiasm since 2015, but support remains below average overall.

“I hope you stay engaged through the budget adoption process each year and don’t simply check out in February and rejoin the conversation in November,” Allen said. “Your work here is important, but as much as anything, this is an accountability document. Nobody knows these projects, and nobody knows this plan better than you all. If you don’t track it through the budget process, then who will?”

Garden City Public Works Director Sam Curran actively works to manage the CIP committee meetings. He called on attendees to find other community members interested in joining as the city works to improve attendance. He said his goal is to enlist about 100 community members to participate in the process.

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.