City commission meeting focuses on flood damages and funding for the track and field project.

Damage reports of the flood as well as a proposal for the commission to support Pratt Community College’s funding goals for the new track and field topped the city commission’s agenda on September 4.

The historic rainfall that caused flooding at the Pratt County Lake, Lemon Park and all around the Pratt area also caused water damage to several houses and facilities.

Brad Blankenship, City Inspector, said the rain halted work on various projects, including construction for McDonalds but overall, the city faired well given the circumstances.

“For what rain we had, we actually did fairly good in the whole part of the city,” Blankenship said. “Lemon Park took a beating but a lot of what happened up there at May Dennis [Park], that’s exactly what May Dennis was built for.”

May Dennis Park was purchased by the City of Pratt in 1948 to serve as a kind of flood control project.

The project includes a retention pond designed to collect and disperse water in a way that prevents houses in the area from being damaged by flood water.

Blankenship said the retention pond was to complete capacity, however, so it took all that it could take, but for the most part, it did exactly what it was designed to do.

“May Dennis did its job,” Blankenship said. “We may have had a house or two that were badly flooded and mud damage but it did its job. The houses downflow of that were pretty much unscathed— we just are not built to take six inches plus of rain.”

Gary Meyers, chief of police, said he wanted to commend officers for the work they did in keeping the community safe during the rain by monitoring the rising water, setting up barricades to prevent people from driving into areas of high-water, and preventing people from swimming in the flooded waters of Lemon Park.

“What a lot of people fail to realize is that while we’re all tucked in our beds at night sleeping, we’ve got officers out there that are monitoring the city,” Meyers said. “They were the ones who kept a close watch on the rising water, made the proper notification to the proper authorities who take care of the situation so we can be very thankful that they were out there doing their job.”

Recreation Director, Bruce Pinkall, said he had the opportunity to speak with the City of Pratt Parks Department Head, Mark Eckhoff about the rain damage.

“He was optimistic about how Lemon Park looked,” Pinkall said. “We did lose probably half the fence around our baseball and softball facilities—Different pieces in different ways. I’m going to say we had a good four and a half feet of water in Angood press box.”

The rain created quite a bit of damage, Pinkall said, so soccer and flag football practice locations will most likely have to change until solutions can be determined.

“Overall, we had just done some major infield work and so we’ll have to redo some of that,” Pinkall said. “Some of the sod we just put down is still there—it just will maybe have to be repositioned.”

Another big topic on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting involved the continued discussion of IRB’s for the track and field facility project.

PCC President, Dr. Michael Calvert, led the discussion saying that he welcomed any questions that the commission might have.

“Our foundation board and our college board of trustees have approved and signed off in support of a resolution in support of this project,” Calvert said. “We would like to present those two resolutions to you [the commission] tonight.”

Calvert requested that the city consider adding the resolution to the next commission meeting agenda on September 17, to consider approving the resolution in support of the project.

Commissioner Don Peters asked Calvert about the $300,000 grant that PCC had applied for to add to the funds already raised for the track and field, and Calvert said they have not yet heard back regarding the grant but that he still feels optimistic about it.

“We have received an additional $250,000 from a foundation in the Overland Park, KS area all in support of this project,” Calvert said. “So, if that additional $300,000 were to come through—which, again, I’m fairly confident in—coupled with the original $300,000 and that $250,000, there’s $850,000 coming from the federal government or far away from Pratt.”

Calvert said they are very appreciative of the Sunderland Foundation for their support.

The commission said they determined that if they issue IRB’s, there can be no cost to the taxpayer, whatsoever.

“Going back a little bit, we received a million-dollar challenge grant toward this project earlier,” Calvert said. “With the challenge being, if the other taxing entities in the community of Pratt engage with some financial skin in the game.”

The city, the county and both school districts in Pratt have been approached regarding backing the project with financial support, but the discussions are still in the works.

“Each of those conversations talked about a certain amount of dollars we would request—that each entity would be engaged in,” Calvert said. “Once we had a [financial] commitment of some sort, we would get together as a group and form an inter-local agreement outlining the details of the agreement.”

Calvert said the challenge grant would rely on that type of support and ‘financial skin in the game.’

“This is a community project in my mind so we want financial skin in the game and we want a commitment from all the taxing entities,” Calvert said. “I’m all ears and all game for how best to put the inter-local agreement together and then we look forward to conversations with folks from both school districts, the county, and the city going forward.”

Suzan Patton, superintendent of Pratt USD 382 school district, said the school board is still interested in knowing how everything will work, what the conditions will be, how usage of the track and field will be determined, and how it will be developed before agreeing to financially back the project.

“That’s why I’m here tonight is to simply listen and be able to go back with them [the board],” Patton said. “But certainly the inter-local agreement is something that’s very important to our board members.”

Commissioner Gary Schmidt, said the inter-local agreement and listed-conditions are important to the city as well so as to not burden the contributing entities and leave anyone ‘stuck with the bill.’