Goddard officials review STAR Bond Project funding

By Paul Rhodes

GODDARD – Prompted by information on social media that was incorrect, Goddard city officials were provided with an update last week on the city’s STAR Bond Project.

That project, which has centered on a proposed development of a sports destination complex, a hotel and other amenities on a large tract of land on the south side of Kellogg between 183rd and 199th streets, was back in the news recently when plans for the project fell through. It was the second time in the past six months that project plans had suffered a major setback.

At last week’s meeting of the Goddard City Council, city administrator Brian Silcott walked through the history of the STAR Bond Project, how its funding elements work, and where the project is at now with the recent announcement that a second round of plans for the site had fallen through.

“We know this is going to work,” Silcott told council members during the update last week. “We know we have a good project.”

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Now, Silcott said, the city is working with Goddard Destination Development  on a new proposal for the site. He said the city hopes to have a new announcement “as soon as possible, maybe later this spring.”

As a part of the update, the city answered questions from local residents who were on hand for the discussion.

“We’re looking for this project to get off the ground, and it’s frustrating,” said Goddard resident Jeffery Jones. “People are looking for news from the city, and we’ve gotten more of that in the last two weeks.”

In his review of the project, Silcott noted that the main part of funding for the project is being funded through a STAR Bond District, which includes the Goddard Galleria – where Walmart and Murphy’s Oil are located. So far, Silcott said, sales taxes from those businesses have gone toward repayment of the STAR bonds.

The STAR Bond District was approved in 2013, and a development agreement was adopted in April of 2014. The original plans were for a 50-meter competition pool, seating, ball fields and a hotel.

To satisfy requirements by the state of Kansas, a Community Improvement District was created in 2014 specific to the development site, Silcott said. The city put in $3 million for infrastructure and other costs in that district. Those costs are to be paid off later with taxes from within the CID.

When funding for the original hotel fell through, a new plan for a smaller hotel and a smaller aquatic center was announced. Those are the plans that fell through recently.

So far, of the $29.436 million in STAR bonds that were issued, only about $3 million has been spent for land acquisition, engineering and design.

“A lot of businesses are just waiting for someone to take the first step,” long-time council member Larry Zimmerman said during last week’s update. “If we can keep on plugging away, it will fall into place.”

On a directly related note, a representative for a development group out of Wichita who was on hand for last week’s meeting noted that his group wanted to talk with the city about the project. Silcott said the city has made contact with that development group, as well as others.

In other business at last week’s meeting, the city council:

• Approved an upgrade to the Goddard Police Department’s video recording equipment and storage system. The council approved spending $55,105 on in-car video equipment and additional body cams, along with a central video storage system. The new system can be added onto as needed.

• Received a report on the city’s 2018 work plan. The work plan lays out how city projects and funding tie into budget planning. Silcott described the plan as a “constant feedback loop.”