By NICK GOSNELL
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Hutchinson City Council is continuing forward with the grant application to put roundabouts in place of bridges at the end of the Woodie Seat Freeway and to get rid of the bridge at Avenue B and close the road.
Residents of the Bricktown neighborhood didn't refute that getting the grant would cost the city less, but they see it differently. Brock Wells of 212 West Avenue B believed they hadn't been listened to.
"In my opinion, there are more important things than money," Wells said. "That is relationships, okay? This is an opportunity to instead of blocking off B Street, which nobody in the neighborhood wants, to build a bridge and listen to the neighborhood."
Council member Jon Daveline looked at the bottom line.
"Unless there's a pot of money I'm not aware of, on a discretionary basis, we would be required to bond this project over time," Daveline said. "The local share of the federal match dollars for the $11 million project, the average payment on our bond and interest, would be $160,000 a year for 20 years. Talking a little bit with staff and the finance department, they indicate that if we don't plan on bonding as much as normal, and I'll get into that in a minute for 2021, we could hopefully keep that mill levy at a flat level. If we are not successful, or we choose not to apply for the grant, based on Mr. Peterson's estimate of the bridges only replacement and or repair, a very conservative number is about $7 million of local tax dollars that would have to be invested in the upgrade of the bridges itself. Your average payments on that $7 million would be $450,000 a year, versus $160,000 a year. What does that equate to, as far as the mill levy? It equates to a 1.44 mill levy increase over and above the 10.88, or a 13% increase in the mill levy, if we bond $7 million."
Mayor Steve Garza is against the roundabout proposal.
"You get me riled up, I speak," Garza said. "I'm riled up. I know roundabouts cost less and they cost less to run, but my opinion, we're talking about people. That is in their neighborhood. This is their neighborhood. I hope from now on that we do projects, we do projects that we inform the citizens and we have meeting after meeting after meeting to let them know what's going on."
City manager Jeff Cantrell said, as far as the federal match is concerned, it's all about the roundabouts.
"If there's a thought on the governing body's part, that we're going to apply and we're going to resubmit for bridges, don't waste your time," Cantrell said. "It won't happen, but you will have options going forward, if you are awarded, you will have to make that formal decision to accept the grant."
Cantrell has been told through back channels that the city's chance of getting a grant is much better this year. Council member Jade Piros de Carvalho said she had heard that it looks like the city of Wichita is likely not going to apply in this cycle, though that remains to be seen.