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Council to discuss jobs fund

By Bill Wilson

The Wichita Eagle


City Council members will get the first of eight white papers Tuesday on long-term Wichita projects.

The projects are the subject of a post-meeting workshop, to follow the regular 9 a.m. meeting at City Hall. Key topics include a $90 million jobs fund, transit and quality of life facilities.

The white papers are the first of several requested by the council as they weigh financing for an extensive list of community needs compiled during planning sessions this winter.

-- Economic development: City officials rolled out the $90 million jobs fund on Thursday, saying the city and county need an economic development war chest to compete for new jobs and retain current Wichita jobs.

The city and county have a combined $1.6 million in that closing fund today, far below the millions available to Kansas cities like Topeka and Emporia, not to mention surrounding states like Oklahoma.

One method of potential financing cited by proponents last week is a quarter-cent sales tax, from a broader one-cent sales tax initiative that could go to voters as early as this fall. Mayor Carl Brewer said last week he thinks the council would approve sending the initiative to voters.

-- Transit: City officials need to find a dedicated funding source for Wichita Transit, which essentially runs out of money to operate at the end of the year. Like economic development, a quarter-cent of a sales tax hike has been suggested by transit advisory board members.

Meanwhile, transit officials are busy fine-tuning routes and upgrading the city's aging bus fleet. Ten new buses were unveiled on Friday, and last month two new routes along West Maple and West Central were put in place.

The two new routes are joined by a neighborhood feeder service on the west side, available by appointment.

-- Quality of life facilities: The council has also targeted improvements to several city facilities that augment quality of life, including sports, conventions and the performing arts. At the most recent planning session late this winter, council members suggested that some of these projects could be incorporated into the city's 10-year capital improvements plan, which is reviewed annually.

Some of the projects targeted include Century II, a performing arts center and improvements to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium that would draw affiliated minor league baseball back to Wichita.

(c)2014 The Wichita Eagle