The Geary County Commission was asked in December, by the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce, to add a combined total of $28,000 to the budgets of the Economic Development Commission and the Military Affairs Council.
Mark Powers, then the chair of the Chamber board, said he believed money could be reallocated from a fund held by the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The fund in question was originally intended as a sports complex fund, but the project failed to pan out, according to Geary County Commission Chair Keith Ascher.
The money for the project was generated by a one percent increase on transient guest tax, he said.
Though commissioners said they hadn’t officially discussed the matter yet, two members voiced concern at a Monday press conference that state statute would prevent them from reallocating the funds.
Commissioner Brad Scholz cited minutes from a meeting that took place May 28, 2019.
"Commissioner (Ben) Bennett moved that the sports complex concept is an impasse and that the remaining funds within that account and which will continue to be collected pursuant to resolution 04-14-14A — be directed to any other convention tourism objective allowed by the statute KSA-12-1692,” he said. "That was seconded by Commissioner Ascher. The thing is that those monies — which are placed in a different fund, now that's not titled sports complex — were CVB — or are CVB — funds.”
CVB funds, Scholz said, can only be used to promote tourism, as determined by the county commission, again according to state statute.
“What (the EDC and MAC) were wanting to utilize it for may not fall within the precepts of the statute,” he said.
Scholz said he wasn’t certain the county could turn the money over to another agency such as the MAC or EDC.
According to Ascher, the money in that fund has already been earmarked for the cleaning and restoration of Freedom Park, the park overlooking Fort Riley on I-70 where an atomic cannon known as Atomic Annie can be viewed.
According to Ascher, Atomic Annie is on permanent loan to Geary County from the Smithsonian. The park itself belongs to the county, he said, and is in dire need of care.
Ascher said the cleanup had already begun at the park.
“We’ve got a partnership going on with the Kansas National Guard and Fort Riley to work on that,” he said.
So it’s possible, according to Ascher, that the funds may not even be available.
However, the county has not yet taken final action on the Chamber’s request.
According to Ascher, the commission hasn’t come to a consensus on the matter yet. He said he believed the county would know more within the next two weeks.