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Comprehensive planning considered by Pratt council

Fran Brownell

Pratt City Commissioners broadened their focus at their regular meeting Monday, March 2, as they discussed the launch of comprehensive planning for the next 20 years and reflected on the benefits of regional planning.

Pratt Building Inspector Brad Blankenship said Kansas state law mandates that cities complete 20-year comprehensive plans which provide opportunity for citizen input.

“A lot of things that were asked by the public 20 years ago came to fruition,” Blankenship said. “The Green Sports Complex is one. The Blythe Center was another. The high school was another.”

Russ Ewy of Baughman Company, Wichita was introduced to the commission by Alan Luttrell of EBH Engineering in Pratt as the planning leader.

Ewy said the city-appointed Planning Commission, along with city staff, would be involved in the process of developing the plan with citizen input and that commissioners would be updated on progress at future meeting during the eight to nine months it takes to compile the document.

Ewy described the Comprehensive Plan as an anthology of all different city policies, regulations, and ideals for the future.

Ewy said he envisioned a town-hall style meeting where ideas for the city’s future could be expressed by community members.

The plan will include a section of Pratt history, including population trends, as well as population projections into the future.

Ewy said that population is an important factor in the planning process.

“So if we have a community that has a moderate to high growth rate, let's say, then we're going to have to take a look at the physical infrastructure of the community to see if we can deploy that infrastructure to support the population that we expect in the future,” Ewy said.

“Conversely, if the community’s population is shrinking, that, too, needs to be taken into account,” Ewy said.

“You, as the city commission, have the final authority on ratifying or adopting the comprehensive plans that Allen and I and your planning commission will put forward,” Ewy told commissioners.

The city has budgeted about $20,000 for the planning process.

The benefits of regional planning were highlighted for commissioners by Laura Rainwater, executive director of Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) headquartered in Wichita and by former Hesston Mayor John Waltmer.

Waltmer said that, in his role as mayor, he realized that not all issues facing his constituents could be resolved at the city level.

“A lot of things are influenced by things way beyond your city boundaries and some of those things are really important,” Waltmer said. “You really need to be able to engage with people outside of your parochial city.”

Rainwater outlined for commissioners the REAP membership benefits which include identifying and working on solutions to common regional problems or challenges, providing a common voice on legislative action for the protection and benefit of the region and its member communities and also maximizing the flow of federal and state grants and assistance into the region.

Bringing low cost air transportation to Wichita was one of the successes that REAP had a hand in that was mentioned by Rainwater.

“You recall Mid-Continent Airport before Eisenhower Airport was built. If you've been around here for quite some time, you know, at one point in time for you to fly from Mid-Continent to Denver and back, it would cost you over $850,” Rainwater said.

Broadband access is another issue that was mentioned in regard to REAP providing a stronger voice than individual communities.

On motion of Commissioner Meyer, with second by Commissioner Leslie, commissioners unanimously approved joining REAP.

City of Pratt annual membership fees for REAP is $2,080 based on the Pratt’s population of 6,748 in 2017, according to Meyer.

Commissioners also unanimously voted to adopt the Kansas Homeland Security Region E Hazard Mitigation Plan which makes Pratt continue to be eligible to receive disaster relief funds under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs.

As their last official item of meeting business, commissioners tabled amendments to six ordinances that pertain to the Global Fee Ordinance at the request of City Attorney Regina Probst who said they would be on the agenda for the next meeting. The tabled ordinances relate to city utilities.