Archive for Friday, July 25, 2008

Progress aplenty this year

One of the most popular progress items is the fountain in downtown Baldwin City given to Baker University for its 150th anniversary. Here, Lucas Hopper, 5, peers into the fountain's water.

One of the most popular progress items is the fountain in downtown Baldwin City given to Baker University for its 150th anniversary. Here, Lucas Hopper, 5, peers into the fountain's water.

July 25, 2008

It's easy to look at the nearly $3 million in improvements along High Street and Eighth Street and consider that Baldwin City's progress this year.

But, there's been more than that - which may have not attracted as much attention - and there's more on the way.

The Downtown Streetscape Project brought $1.8 million worth of progress to the business area (see separate story, page ?). And people have already forgotten - mostly - about the Women's Bridge project between 10th and 11th streets on High. It restored the historic bridge and had a price tag of around $1 million. It was completed about this time a year ago, while the downtown project took longer and was just wrapped up in April.

In both instances, the Kansas Department of Transportation paid for 80 percent of the projects. But, they're finished and there's more progress that occurred and more in the future.

"The most obvious progress has been the completion of the downtown and Women's Bridge projects and it is certainly good to have those done," said Tony Brown, a Baldwin City Council member. "But, there has also been progress in other areas, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development group continuing to work hard to encourage business growth in town, Baker has made progress in constructing new student housing (see story, page ?) and securing funds for the expansion of the Mulvane Science building and the city has completed the process of updating the comprehensive development plan.

"These efforts may not be as obvious to Baldwin City residents, but they are nonetheless important," said Brown.

Most of the fanfare about Baker University this year has been its 150th anniversary. The university celebrated that event for a solid year with various activities. And, the sesquicentennial also provided a perfect example of the relationship between the community and the university.

A group of residents raised $20,000 to build a fountain downtown to honor Baker (see story, page ?). It wasn't initially a part of the downtown project, but was designed to blend in and has become popular.

After a year of work on the new comprehensive plan for the city, it was presented and adopted. It maps out plans for the future of the city. Still, that wasn't all the progress in the city.

"In the past year, the safety committee has made some progress in updating the comprehensive emergency plan, revising the animal ordinance and establishing a system for monitoring burning of yard waste within the city limits," said Brown. "I know there is more work to be done on these issues, but I think we are moving in the right direction."

City Administrator Jeff Dingman explained the comprehensive plan work.

"The comprehensive plan was adopted in February," said Dingman. "It was an 18-month process to update the document for the first time since 1996. It involved public meetings and input, and then the planning commission's recommendations to the city council regarding the focus on the city's growth and projections for future land use.

"It identified an area around the city that the city would like to have more formal input with the county on how it develops," he said. "Exactly what form that input might take has not been developed or coordinated with the county yet, although the county has indicated willingness to listen to a proposal."

As for more on the way, there are two separate projects involving sewer systems on the west side of town and along Sixth Street. The Sixth Street project, which runs south of High Street to the edge of town, also includes long-overdue improvements to the street.

"Just last week, the city council took action on two major infrastructure projects - the relief sewer improvement project and the reconstruction of Sixth Street on the south side of town," he said. "Both of these are very 'nuts and bolts' kinds of projects, but they are also critical for supporting future developments in Baldwin City."

The relief sewer improvement project was expected to cost more than $700,000, but bids came in lower and will cost roughly $600,000. The same thing occurred with the Sixth Street work that was expected to be well over $1 million, but was bid right at that figure. Because Sixth Street is also County Road 1055, Douglas County is paying for the lion's share of the roadwork, but the city is replacing the sewer.

"The upgrading of Sixth Street from Indiana to Orange streets has been the catalyst for several improvement," said Dingman. "The Sixth Street project itself will replace the roadway and correct the geometry of the roadway where possible. The road surface will be replaced and storm drainage - curb and guttering - will be added."

As for progress in the Baldwin School District, the biggest ticket item there has been a yearlong process to determine the needs for a bond issue in November. The school board settled on a figure of $22.9 million to put before voters.

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