In July, the Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce approved a budget projecting $106,666 in revenue. On Oct. 7, directors learned their income would be cut by more than a third, with the shift of the Pratt Area Economic Development Corporation to the City of Pratt.
At the city commission meeting on Oct. 21, Chamber President Jeremy Doggett asked that the city's contribution to travel and tourism, budgeted at $12,400, be increased to $16,000. Chamber memberships bring in about $48,000.
The board of directors is still working on a job description and deciding how many hours their new executive director will work, and if they can continue in the same location at 114 N. Main.
Doggett remains positive about the change that was set in motion when Jan Scarbrough submitted her resignation as head of the Chamber, PAEDC and travel and tourism earlier this summer.
"I think everyone will benefit from the change," he said. "Based on all the things we've talked about, we think if we tighten our belts, we can continue to operate."
The Chamber board is looking for someone with a strong marketing background who will be able to focus more directly on travel and tourism and city promotion. Doggett mentioned updating the Chamber website and stepping up promotional ads, including advertising on TV, as possible projects.
City commissioners gave unanimous approval to increasing support through travel and tourism dollars. Diana Garten, director of finance, reported that a transient guest tax generates $400,000 per year; however, City Manager Dave Howard noted that a lot of that money is committed to city projects, including the Main Street beautification program that is on hold until 2014 and 2015.
In other business, commissioners:
• approved a resolution declaring a property at 904 Garfield as unsafe, dangerous and unfit. The mobile home has stood open for some time and has trees growing up through it, City Attorney Ken Van Blaricum said. The owner cannot be located, so did not appear at the hearing to show cause why it should not be demolished. The cost of demolition will be placed on the property tax.
• approved an ordinance annexing city-owned land north of the Green Sports Complex.
• awarded a bid for $10,431.20 to Home Lumber for treated lumber to replace railroad ties for the Pilot Express in Sixth Street Park. Mead Lumber also submitted a bid, for $10,452.
• accepted a bid from Nusser Oil Co., Jetmore, to purchase 20,000 gallons of red dyed fuel oil that has been in storage for 20 years for $25,400. Sandstone Trading LLC submitted a bid for $16,297.50. The fuel is of unknown quality, Kelly Hemphill, director of electric utilities, said, and the city has no way to use it in boilers.
• heard a report of plans to overhaul a steam generator that is the city's only source of power during transmission outages and scheduled substation work. In the past, the city has run the generator for three to four months of the year, but it is currently more economical to buy power. The city is able to make better purchasing deals because it has a generator, Howard said, and if the market changes, could return to producing more of its own power.
Hemphill estimated the cost for overhaul at $950,000, a figure which also includes some unknown repair costs. The generator could potentially run another 30 years — they don't wear out and small parts can be replaced, he said. His department has been putting capital equipment money aside for the last 10 years.
The cost of a new comparable generator is around $15 million.
• Howard said that he, Police Chief Gary Myers and Russ Rambat, director of public works, have worked with officials at Southwest Elementary School to resolve parking problems on the north side of Eighth Street. The parallel parking spaces, which result in double- and sometimes triple-parking, will be converted to angle parking in the near future. Howard estimated that 46 to 48 parking spaces would be available.
• City inspector Brad Blankenship said that the building just north of Woody's has been sold to someone in Medicine Lodge, who expects to begin cleanup within 30 days and announce plans for the property "when appropriate."
• Van Blaricum said a loitering ordinance approved by the commission would be placed in the city's traffic code book when it is reprinted in two to three months. Commissioners asked him to go ahead and have the ordinance published in the Tribune so police officers could begin enforcing it.
• Blankenship reported that cedar trees seemed a better option for screening between Southwest Truck and the Sandy Creek Addition than fence slats, which are likely to blow out when winds are strong. He said the city could get 60 to 70 trees, 12 to 15 feet in height, for about the same price as slats. A drip irrigation system could be installed for about $400 if city crews did the work.
• Hemphill said new electric conduit was being installed on both sides of North Main Street.