Progress on three new projects at the Lee Richardson Zoo are "on schedule and on budget," says zoo director Kristi Newland.
The construction of new flamingo and primate exhibits, and the expansion of the animal health facility, are all being funded through a 15-year, .3 cent sales-tax increase that received voter approval in November 2017.
While the zoo's building constructions aren't the only sales tax projects, they are the only ones that have broken ground, said Matt Allen, city manager for Garden City.
"(The zoo projects) are not finished, but many aspects of those projects have been erected, and kind of getting closer and closer to doing the interior work," Allen said.
Newland said construction at the zoo began in September and is projected to be completed by the end of July, with the exhibits and hospital opening in August.
Construction so far includes concrete being poured, walls going up and electricity and plumbing being installed.
While the projects are being built, Newland said, the flamingos are housed in another barn and lemurs that inhabited the primate exhibit have found a temporary home at the Sedgwick County Zoo.
The projects bring necessary updates and new excitement to the zoo, Newland said.
"The two animal habitats, the flamingo habitat and the primate habitat will give our guests a deeper insight into both species, which is always cool," Newland said. "It gives staff a better working environment, and it gives the animals a better environment. For the primates, for one thing, they will not only have the indoor area where they can have privacy and an outdoor area, but there will be a temperature-controlled area so the animals can be there on in-climate days and guests can still see them. That will add a whole new aspect to the zoo."
The animal health facility will feature a surgery room and quarantine space for sick or injured animals, Newland said.
"We will have a bigger area to provide quality health care for all the animals and a new quarantine space, which will facilitate animal moves much easier," Newland said.
Other projects that are part of the sales tax increase include a new gun range facility, reconstruction of Jennie Barker Road and a third fire station.
Allen said the gun range from the beginning has been slated as the next project to start. Designs for the gun range facility are "significantly complete," Allen said.
"I would say we are working on bid documents at this point in time, and looking at construction beginning in the spring of 2020," Allen said.
The new indoor facility, which will replace a 70-year-old facility, will include a 25-yard shooting range, two 25-seat classrooms, an armory, offices, a communal space and a defensive training room.
Allen is unsure of where the progress stands on Jennie Barker Road, which runs north and south on the east side of Garden City, but he said 90% of the plans are complete and have been sent to the state for approval.
The fire station, which will be at the intersection of Jennie Barker Road and Schulman Avenue, doesn't have a starting date yet. Allen said design and planning should begin in the next 12 months.
Road construction will expand Jennie Barker Road to four lanes from Schulman Avenue to the intersection of Jennie Barker, Mary Street and K-156 highway.
The project will include widening the road from Fulton Street to Kansas Avenue, and updating the county road.
The new fire station will be a 15,000-square-foot building that will dispatch GCFD trucks and Finney County EMS ambulances. The third location will help decrease response times to the east side of Garden City from about eight minutes to four minutes.
The road to starting the sales tax projects hasn't been an easy one.
After voter approval of the increase in November 2017, a failure to adhere to state statute caused a delay. According to state law, the county should have received legislative authorization before the sales tax increase could be secured. Lawmakers passed a bill granting approval during the 2019 session.
Allen said the city began collecting sales tax receipts in June 2018. The total amount of sales tax received through December is $4,195,016, according to documents from the city.
Allen said the projects are an "eclectic mix" and touch on what local government does.
"You've got a county road project that is an arterial corridor for the way that the county's traffic flows in and around the urban area of the county," Allen said. "You've got the three at the zoo that really represent this quality of life aspect that's special to Garden City, and perhaps unique to our community in the way of what we choose to offer and how we choose to pay for it given our accredited zoo."
Allen said the gun range create a public safety component and improves upon quality of life. The fire station also is seen as a quality of life improvement, Allen said.
"It is also a reflection of how our community is growing, and the fact that we've had some pretty significant residential, commercial and industrial growth on the east side of town," Allen said.