010721-du-city

Jason Lankas' daughter Ally pins his badge onto his collar after he was promoted to JCFD Operations Chief Tuesday night. He replaces Dennis "Scotty" Wetklow.

The Junction City Commission heard Tuesday night from members of the Downtown Revitalization Group about a program it wishes to join called the Kansas Main Street Program. There were recently three new openings in the statewide program and the local revitalization group wants to take part.

The program provides aid and support to communities through small business loans and other programs, but does not compete with Chambers of Commerce, according to Chairperson Theresa Bramlage.

“It provides assistance and support,” she said. “It’s not that they suddenly hand over a bunch of cash to us. We have to work the program. But it provides us with focus that we need and the recommendation also is that we have a full time staff that oversees the program."

Bramlage said the deadline to apply to fill one of those vacancies is Jan. 29.

“The program was started to revitalize downtown corridors and strengthen economic development,” she said.

Bramlage said she believed the program would help strengthen the local downtown area.

“We have an incredible downtown and I know that this program would take us to another level,” she said.

Treasurer of the Downtown Revitalization Group Brad Johnson addressed some of the financial aspects of taking part in the program. He said the group had met with people from another Kansas community that takes part in the program, Emporia Main Street. Johnson said Emporia Main Street had provided the Junction City group with financial statements.

“To give you an idea, right now their assets are over $1.6 million just for the downtown group that we’re talking about,” he said.

The group takes advantage of grants and offers the funding to downtown businesses in the form of loans and grants of its own. It helps to put on programs in the community in conjunction with other groups, including Halloween events for the community, a Day of the Dead celebration honoring the community’s hispanic population and a First Friday Art Walk that takes place each month. The group takes active part in the internationally-known Dirty Kanza gravel bike race that takes place in Emporia each year and has actively pushed disc golf — a game that originated in Emporia and which has resulted in tournaments there — in its community.

The Emporia program has been in place in its community since around 1991, as indicated on its website.

“Through all these programs and support from downtown businesses, they’ve been able to generate a considerable amount of income on behalf of the downtown activity group,” Johnson said.

The City of Emporia provides Emporia Main Street with $100,000 per year in funds to Emporia Main Street and Lyon County provides it $25,000 per year.

Bramlage said the local group would not ask that much of the city. She said the range she hoped to start with was between $50,000 and $75,000.

“Once we get this going, I think there’s going to be momentum,” she said, adding that she does not foresee any huge funding asks from the group to the city in the future.

Bramlage said she believes having a similar program in Junction City could help build and strengthen relationships between community organizations such as the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Commission and others.

Commissioner Pat Landes expressed concern over the amount of money the program might need.

“We’ve still got another nine or 10 years before we’re in better shape,” he said.

For the local group to apply, Mayor Jeff Underhill will need to sign off on the application, something he has plans to do during the Jan. 19 city meeting.

Tuesday, the city also proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Junction City Fire Department Firefighter Jason Lankas was officially promoted to Operation Chief of the JCFD. He will take the place of Dennis “Scotty” Wetklow. His family was there to take part in the promotion. According to Fire Chief Terry Johnson, Lankas has been with the JCFD for 16 years and serves as a fire investigator and an ice and water rescue instructor. Lankas also serves on the joint Geary County Sheriff’s Office dive team, has helped with EMS training. Lankas has been deployed to help with large natural disasters in and out of Kansas.

During the meeting, Jeff Underhill was reelected as Mayor and Nate Butler was chosen as Vice Mayor.

Geary Community Hospital CEO Frank Corcoran spoke to the commission about COVID-19, including GCH virus statistics and about the vaccine. GCH’s second doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine arrived Monday. They will be used to inoculate the staff members who recently received their first doses of the vaccine. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need to be given as two shots with a certain amount of time in between the doses in order to work properly.

The city accepted a bid for the Blue Jay Way North water line extension to Nowak Construction Company, Inc. in an amount totaling $305,678.70, coming in below the engineer’s estimate.

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