The city council discusses the patrols in the parks, the economic development, the reopening of the town hall.

Hutchinson city council learned on Tuesday that the city manager had targeted April 1 as the date to reopen city hall and that patrols in city parks were stepping up.

The council also appeared to support the city by remaining a member of the Partnership for Regional Economic Zones for around $ 10,000 a year, but rejected the idea of ​​using idle economic development funds to create a revolving loan program at low interest rate to help move small businesses to vacant buildings. around the city.

The issues were part of a range of topics discussed on Tuesday and not on the council’s agenda, but arose after the council completed its few agenda items in less than 15 minutes.

City manager Jeff Cantrell proposed reopening City Hall on April 1 as a target in response to a question from City Councilor Jade Piros de Carvalho, who noted that the county has lifted its restriction on public gatherings.

The board agreed to meet with the Hutchinson Recreation Commission on March 23 to review its five-year ICP plan and program priorities.

As part of its consent program, council approved the appointment of former downtown development director and town planner Jim Seitnater, 5 Beechwood, to fulfill the unexpired term on the former Hutchinson Recreation Commission City Councilor Ron Sellers.

Park patrols and parties

In the parks, Hutchinson Police Chief Jeff Hooper said three police assistants, who are part-time staff and without uniform, began patrolling them on January 1, but the winter weather has since limited these activities.

Complaints from neighbors of Orchard Park about shopping, noise and property damage from visitors prompted dedicated patrols.

“In January, the parks’ only patrol units spent 56 hours in the parks, including 28 in Orchard Park,” Hooper said. “We only had one problem, that of a person driving recklessly, and we were able to get that person arrested.”

In February, public service announcements took 20 hours for the arctic cold to shut things down, Hooper said.

The plan is to put six more assistants on patrol, extending them to a minimum of four hours a night Sunday through Thursday and six to eight hours on Fridays and Saturdays, the chief said.

In addition to Orchard Park, they regularly patrol Carey Park and carry out security checks at the zoo.

As activity picks up in the summer, they will assess whether more people or hours are needed, Hooper said.

“It’s a good place for us,” he said of the schedule. “It doesn’t include the regular officers who patrol the parks, it’s just the park patrol.”

The board agreed in September that staff would take a phased approach to addressing concerns, starting with patrols, Parks Superintendent Justin Combs reminded them. If this proves insufficient, they will revisit the discussion of using cameras, installing barriers in the park, or putting in place park closures earlier.

Council was also reminded that all measures, including limited hours, should “be fair” and apply equally to all parks. Parks now close at midnight.

The city has a noise ordinance that could be used, Hooper said in response to City Councilor Sara Bagwell, but as long as people are responsible, there is no ban on large gatherings like those that took place. products in the park.

Cantrell informed council that he had received an application for a permit for a non-profit fundraising event in Orchard Park by Hospice and Home Care of Reno County.

It could involve a beer garden, live bands and up to 1,000 visitors, but he has yet to decide whether to grant the permit as it would require closing the park to the general public on that day.

“We usually limit them to 11pm, but this one may not be characterful for this park and the surrounding neighborhood,” Cantrell said, noting that the fairgrounds might be a better venue. He said he could visit neighbors around the park before making a decision.

Piros de Carvalho and Bagwell both noted that they didn’t want the city to be a “fun killer” if organizers could respect neighbors and adequately control traffic.

“I’m not asking for your help in deciding this,” Cantrell said. “But if you get a call after being turned down, here’s why. Then you will be able to get started with the candidate. These are the concerns. “

Economic opportunity fund

Regarding help for small businesses, Piros de Carvalho noted that his suggestion came “from left field”, but that with continued discussions on the number of vacant buildings in the city and faltering small businesses due pandemic, she was looking for ways to respond.

“It made me wonder if we should look at the Economic Opportunity Fund a little differently and consider using part of it as a revolving loan fund if a business wanted to move into a vacant building,” he said. she declared. “I think mainly in the city center.

The money is not being used, and it could serve as top-up funding to modernize a building and put it back on the tax roll, Piros de Carvalho said.

Bagwell suggested speaking with the Chamber of Commerce to see what interest there might be.

But city councilor Jon Daveline opposed the idea.

“I am sensitive to the needs of small businesses, but above all, I want to protect this fund for important and important economic development,” he said.

Piros de Carvalho noted that the fund amount, at $ 360,000, was relatively small compared to Salina and Manhattan, which had $ 1.5 million to $ 2 million, but would defer to it. Daveline’s expertise.

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