City council approves help for Black Jack Park
Baldwin City will support the Black Jack Battlefield Trust's next step toward turning the site east of town into a national tourist attraction.
Baldwin City Council approved giving the trust $1,000 to help provide matching funds for a $52,000 study which will provide the blueprints for how the park will be laid out and interpret the famed battle that occurred 150 years ago. The council voted 4-1, with Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr., voting against, to provide the funding.
The trust has to raise $31,200 for the project, which will use a well-known national consultant who studies historic sites and provides plans for preserving them. The Black Jack plan will also fit into other plans at other locations in eastern Kansas that has just recently received historical designation. The trust is seeking donations from the city, Douglas County and businesses for funding.
"It has gained recognition nationally," said Council Member Tony Brown of the battlefield. He also serves on the trust's board of directors. "In order to do this right, this is a necessary cost.
"I think it will be a major tourist attraction, not only for Douglas County, but Baldwin City," said Brown. "It's right at our doorstep. This is a project to study the interpretation of the battlefield. I know the price is steep. We don't want to do this half way."
Brown said that federal funding will be available to establish the site, but there has to be a plan provided before those funds are granted.
"You have to show them this is what we're going to do," he said. "I know this is the next step we have to take. It's part of a lot bigger plan. Sites throughout eastern Kansas will be tied together."
That's when the discussion started.
"Jeff, you say you can find the funds?" Mayor Gary Walbridge said to City Administrator Jeff Dingman, who answered "yes."
That's when Brecheisen started with his opposition.
"Seems like we give out a lot of money like this to people and it affects our taxpayers," said Brecheisen. "I'm willing to give them moral support. I know it may be a good thing, but I hate to see $2,500 go here and $5,000 go there. I'd rather give it to our chamber of commerce to promote our town."
"We have a public interest," said Brown. "This is something I see as an investment. It will bring tourists to town. "Perhaps it's not feasible to do $2,500, perhaps $500."
Council Member Doyle Jardon partially agreed with Brecheisen, but suggested donating $1,000.
"I am in agreement with Junior to an extent about keeping tax dollars in town," said Jardon. "I also feel like the Black Jack Park will be an important part of the community. I think the point about the chamber is a good one. I think it's one effort in promoting Baldwin City whether we give the money to the chamber of another project."
In other business, the council unanimously approved a contract with BG Consultants for design, construction, administration and inspection of the relief sewer system project with a total price tag of $1.8 million. The project will be done in two phases
Phase 1 stretches from the treatment plant to High Street and will allow elimination of a lift station at High Street. Phase II would construct a relief sewer along Eleventh Street from High Street to FireTree Estates and allow the FireTree lift station to be taken out of service.
The city has been planning for the projects for some time and staff recommended the proposed plan be accepted.
The council also discussed the lease with the golf association for the now city-owned Baldwin Municipal Golf Course. The question is only about the length of the lease, one or more years. After some discussion, it was decided to table the measure.
"I would want to talk more about this," said Brown. "This keeps it in front of us with an annual review."