The Manhattan City Commission took action on two items and discussed two others during Tuesday night’s meeting.
The Commission began by reviewing bids for a City Auditor. Of the four bids, Varney and Associates had the lowest at $39,500.
Varney and Associates has served as the City’s auditor for the past five years. Kansas law requires Manhattan to undergo an independent audit examination of City finances each fiscal year.
Manhattan’s Municipal Audit Committee has been pleased with the quality of work and customer service that Varney and Associates has provided; and after a brief discussion, the Commission unanimously approved a five-year contract with Varney and Associates.
The second action item included a request from Manhattan Running Company and HCI Hospitality to allow consumption of alcohol in a beer garden adjacent to Wefald Pavilion in City Park.
According to Deputy City Manager, Jason Hilgers, the beer garden will supplement the new, Rhythm and Brews event scheduled to take place on Friday and Saturday, August 1st and 2nd. Rhythm and Brews will combine two popular events, Brew to Shoe and Little Apple Music Festival, while adding a new, Home Brew Competition.
Commissioner, Usha Reddi did not support the idea of including alcohol with a family event, even if it is cordoned off.
“I think there should be some areas in the City that the normal assumption for families is there isn’t going to be alcohol there. Aggieville is just a few yards away, people can easily walk there. We’re not trying to shelter the kids, that’s not the point at all, but this has always been one of those sacred programs,” Usha said.
Commissioner, Wynn Butler believes the event will be very secure and clearly separated from minors.
“We have an ordinance on Blue Earth Park which allows that on a normal basis, and I think the distinction here is that these events are well controlled,” Butler said “I don’t see this as being something that will get out of hand.”
In 2012, the City of Manhattan applied for fiscal year 2015 Grant funding from KDOT for intersection improvements at K-18 and K-113, and was awarded the money shortly there after. Since then, the City and KDOT have conducted extensive research to determine the best design to accommodate the traffic needs of the intersection.
During Tuesday night’s Manhattan City Commission meeting, Civil Design and Traffic Engineer, Peter Clark, explained the benefits of a Diverging Diamond Interchange, first implemented by Springfield, Missouri in 2007.
“It would provide a simplistic signal that would only have two phases. It would reduce the number of vehicle conflicts, most the movements would be merging movements. Also it would reduce crashes,” Clark said.
Before choosing a design, City staff learned from KDOT that project funds must be used in Fiscal Year 2015 and cannot be postponed. City staff then proposed a smaller project that would lessen the financial burden on the City, but KDOT insisted that a Diverging Diamond Interchange would be the best option.
Director of Public Works, Rob Ott, said KDOT sent a letter to the City, explaining that it had decided to reverse the financial exposure to the City.
“The previous agreement basically capped KDOT at $900,000. What KDOT has written in that letter is reversing the exposure to themselves and only exposing the City to basically $1,000,000,” Ott said.
Blue Earth Plaza
Lastly, Commissioners reviewed design options for Blue Earth Plaza that were created by upper-level design students in the College of Architecture at K-State.
“With what we believe to be a fairly modest investment, the park would be a much more usable and vital place for the whole city,” said Gary Coates, professor of architecture at Kansas State University
Coates, hopes to encourage the City to take action.
“What I would envision eventually happening is that we would have some kind of design program, perhaps a budget framework and a call of RFP proposals for perhaps local architects to participate in developing this park.”