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Pavilion draws concerns, questions from city commission





The city of Hays' role in developing a downtown pavilion was a significant focus of Hays city commissioners at Thursday night's work session, generating a slew of questions and concerns from commissioners.

Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno, responding to commissioners' requests during a Sept. 20 work session, brought forward estimates of ongoing operational costs associated with a downtown pavilion, proposed to be located in the area of 10th and Main streets near Union Park.

The proposed 3,168-square-foot pavilion project, initiated by the Downtown Hays Development Corp., is estimated to cost $576,534, which includes facility construction and site improvements. The DHDC's request for funding from the city of Hays is $100,000 cash and $176,534 in non-cash site improvements.

Annual operational costs estimated by city staff total $6,000, which includes electricity for the pavilion and a restroom, cleaning, cleaning supplies, mowing, fuel and trimming.

The facility's restroom likely would be an enhanced version of existing city park restrooms, which are not designed to include electrical systems.

"We have to design something to withstand some of the temperatures, because it's their anticipation to have the restroom open year-round," Briseno said. "Specifically because they have so many events going on year round, including FrostFest and things of that nature."

Creation of the pavilion, Commissioner Kent Steward said, prompted a considerable amount of questions from his constituents.

"I don't know about the rest of you, but I've gotten more blowback on this than anything I can remember in awhile," he said. "Somebody made the comment that if we're really believing people want to use this for wedding receptions, then these bathrooms have to be fairly decent.

"They've got to be something a lot more than a Porta Potty if they're going in there in a wedding dress or good clothes."

Although he raised several questions about the facility, Steward said he is "strongly in favor" of it.

The bottom line for him, he said, was the city would be able to acquire a $600,000 facility for a $276,000 investment.

"To me that's an awful good deal, and I think we'll end up with an amenity for our community that's a really good one," Steward said.

Commissioner Barbara Wasinger suggested to DHDC members in the audience they set aside a certain portion of fundraising projects for maintenance of the pavilion.

Michelle Flax, past president of the DHDC board, appeared amenable to the idea and said she didn't anticipate DHDC walking away from the project

"We do feel very passionate about it," Flax said. "But only if it's needed, wanted and a good thing for Hays.

"We believe all of those things."

Additionally, Flax pointed out the pavilion concept was a component of Hays' comprehensive plan.

Opposition to the project was raised by Commissioner Ron Mellick, who said the comprehensive plan concept simply was to create a downtown farmer's market, not a pavilion.

"When did it change?" he asked. "It says on the comprehensive plan, 'farmer's market.' "

"All of a sudden, we've got this. I've had people that are upset about this because it was supposed to be a farmer's market, not a pavilion project for hundreds of thousands of dollars."

When originally presented to the city, the DHDC primarily was seeking financial support of the project. During Thursday's work session, Briseno told commissioners the DHDC had asked the city to take over management of the project.

In order for the city to take over the project, City Manager Toby Dougherty said, city staff would need an accounting of the funds dedicated to the pavilion and details would have to be worked out with the Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the property.

The issue will come before commissioners for action at next week's regular session.

In other business, commissioners:

* Were presented an update on Larks Park turf replacement by Curtis Hammeke, Fort Hays State University director of athletics. Commissioners will vote next Thursday on whether to authorize an additional $20,000 in addition to the $150,000 they have authorized for the project, due to bids coming in higher than anticipated.

* Reviewed information regarding Golden Belt 8th Addition replat; pre-annexation agreement for sanitary sewer service at 2807 U.S. Highway 183 Alternate; and vacate of alley in Reservation Addition. Commissioners will vote on all three measures at next Thursday's regular meeting.