Author Archives: Fred Mann

Intrust Bank Arena has operating loss in March

WICHITA — Intrust Bank Arena had an operating loss in March and lower numbers of events, attendees and ticket sales through the first quarter compared with last year, the  county said today.

Ron Holt, assistant county manager, said this year’s numbers weren’t expected to look as good as last year, which he called “a phenomenal year by all measures.”

“We do expect for the arena to be much, much, much in the black for this year,” Holt said.

Bookings aren’t always predictable and rely on how many entertainment acts are on tour, he said.

For March, net building income was down $28,390, but the arena’s year-to-date net income still showed a positive bottom line at $111,108, he said.

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Sedgwick County approves higher funding for Project Access

WICHITA — Sedgwick County commissioners approved $250,000 in funding for Project Access by a 3-2 vote this morning.

Project Access helps connect the poor in Sedgwick County with access to health care.

Three weeks ago, the commissioners deadlocked 2-2 on an agreement with the Central Plains Regional Health Care Foundation and Wichita to cooperate on the project. They had voted last August to increase funding for the program from $182,000 to $250,000, a 37 percent increase.

This morning’s  agreement solidified the commitment.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau continued his objection to the increase voted in August. He said funds should come from the private sector at a time the county is trimming its budget.

Ranzau made a motion to fund the program at last year’s level of $182,000, but the motion failed. Karl Peterjohn  was the only other commissioner to support Ranzau’s motion.

Jim Skelton, who was absent for the first vote, supported the $250,000 in funds, as did Tim Norton and Dave Unruh.

Sedgwick County commissioners approve citizen advisory boards

Jim Skelton

Sedgwick County commissioners approved a resolution Wednesday allowing them to establish citizen advisory boards in their districts if they want them.

Commissioner Jim Skelton, who represents the southeastern part of the county, including Derby and Mulvane, is the only commissioner who has said he wants one so far.

Skelton served on the Wichita City Council, which uses such boards.

The boards would consist of 11 members appointed by each commissioner. Board  members would give commissioners advice and recommendations on public policy, citizen engagement, and problems in the districts.

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County medical society lobbies for Project Access funding

WICHITA — Dr. Jon Rosell, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, has asked Sedgwick County commissioners to approve the funding for Project Access that it denied last week.

“We’re experiencing a significant demand for our services,” he said at this morning’s weekly commission meeting.

Project Access helps connect the poor in Sedgwick County with access to health care.

Last week, four commissioners couldn’t reach a majority on an agreement with the Central Plains Regional Health Care Foundation and Wichita to cooperate on the project, depriving it of  $250,000 the commission had agreed last August to put in the county’s budget for the program. That money would have supplied slightly less than a third of the program’s budget.

Rosell said that this month alone, 80 patients were referred to Project Access for help getting health care. He expects up to 2,200 enrollees in the program this year.

The matter was not on the commission’s agenda, and commissioners took no action.

The issue is expected to be brought up again when all five commissioners are present. Only four were present this morning. Tim Norton, who voted to approve the agreement last week, was absent. Jim Skelton, who was absent last week, attended the meeting and said he wanted to see the matter on the agenda again “at the earliest opportunity.”

Sedgwick County commissioners vote to continue funding housing program for homeless

In the last two years, 96 chronically homeless people in Sedgwick County were housed in the Housing First program, according to a report presented to the county commission this morning.\

Of those, 21 left the program successfully, meaning they found steady income, entered an in-patient treatment facility, or moved to be near family.

Sixteen left unsuccessfully, either going to jail or being kicked out due to repeated lease violations.

The Housing First program is the responsibility of the oversight committee of the city-county Task Force to End Chronic Homelessness. The report was presented by Jack Focht, committee chairman.

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Global’s Sumner County casino would be the WinSpirit

Global Gaming Solutions said today it has named its proposed casino near Wellington the WinSpirit Casino.

The name and a new logo was created by the company and Armstrong-Shank Marketing of Haysville.

Global Gaming, of Oklahoma, and Iowa-based Peninsula Gaming Partners, which has a proposed the Kansas Star Casino for one of two alternate sites near Mulvane, are competing to build and manage a state-owned casino in Sumner County.

The companies will present their plans to the state’s casino review board at a public meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Raymond Frye Complex, 320 N. Jefferson in Wellington.

Attorney general seeks to stop Park City Indian casino

Attorney Gen. Steve Six is seeking to halt plans for a Park City casino by the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma.

Six has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to review a 1984 law that allowed the tribe to buy land for gambling in Kansas City and, based on that law, to deny its application to use its Park City land for a casino.

Congress passed the 1984 law after the Wyandotte claimed it never was properly reimbursed for land the government took from it in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1843.

Six contends that the law allowed the tribe to use $100,000 in land-claim settlement money to buy land that could be taken into trust for a casino. He says the tribe used all of that money to buy a former Shriner building in downtown  Kansas City for its 7th Street Casino.

The tribe contends that it used $25,000 of the $100,000 provided by the law to buy its land in Park City  in 1992, before it bought the Kansas City tract in 1996. That means its Park City land was bought with land-claim settlement money, and the Interior department must take the land into trust, the tribe says.

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Kansas officials seek more federal funding for transportation


WICHITA — State officials  called for increased awareness and more federal funding for rural  transportation in Kansas and the nation.

Speaking in Wichita this morning, Kansas transportation secretary Deb Miller and agriculture secretary Josh Svaty said growing agricultural, energy and military needs will require more than building more roads.

The challenges will have to be met through improved aviation, public transit and rail systems, as well, they said.

Miller and Svaty were responding to a national report, “Connecting Rural and Urban America,” prepared by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, which represents state transportation departments.

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County seeks to increase annual solid-waste fee

The annual solid-waste fee for residential property owners in Sedgwick County would go up $1.66 a year starting in July if county commissioners approve the hike on Wednesday.

The base fee for commercial property owners would rise $1.06.

The fees cover solid waste collection and disposal programs in the county.

The new fees would produce $1.26 million in 2011, and allow the county to maintain current solid-waste services and a storm debris contingency, as well as add a tire roundup event.

Residential property owners currently pay $4.04 a year on their property tax bill.  The new fee would be $5.70

The base fee for commercial property owners would rise from $4.40 to $5.46. Commercial property fees are structured in tiers depending on how much waste various business types generate.

The new fees would go into effect July 1 and appear on November property tax statements.

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Sedgwick County tax collections drop

moneyWICHITA — Sedgwick County revenues dropped more than expected in April, prompting officials to begin taking cost-saving steps.

County Manager William Buchanan said Monday he hasn’t frozen any positions yet, but is making departments justify new hires.

The county also is looking at not doing some capital improvement programs it had planned, and re-bidding long-term contracts that were bid a couple of years ago to try to get better prices.

Buchanan called these measures “preliminary baby steps of financial caution.”

Losses came in 13 major sources that account for 97 percent of the county’s revenue. They were heaviest in real estate taxes. Although assessed valuations were down slightly, the drop was due to people not paying their taxes, Buchanan said.

“There’s no harm that comes to folks not paying their taxes except you owe interest at some future date. And you’re not going to get foreclosed on your property until about 3½ years after the first time you miss,” he said. “This is a business strategy some people in this community use.”

The delinquency rate normally is 2½ to 3 percent, and is about 5 percent now, he said.

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