Shawnee County Parks and Recreation director Tim Laurent on Monday sought and received the Shawnee County Commission’s approval to solicit bids for the replacement of the train.
The request did appear to surprise commissioner Kevin Cook.
“When we had the discussion, we had a very lengthy discussion about repair or replacement,” Cook said, emphasizing the “or.”
Gage Park mini-train: Replace or repair?
The commission had previously voted to allocate $650,000 in funding through the American Rescue Plan. The request today wasn’t a request to authorize more money, but simply to seek out bids, Laurent said.
“My understanding is that we are asking folks if there’s an option to refurbish our current train,” he said. “From our initial conversations, the replacement option is really what we think is the better option.”
The train was originally built by the Allan Herschell Co., and put into service in 1967. After going out of business in 1970, the company was acquired by Chance Rides, an amusement park ride maker based in Wichita.
Brent Hulsether, fleet services superintendent for parks and recreation, said a refurbishment of the train would require some significant redesigns. Chance is willing to manufacture the new parts needed but would not help adapt them to the train.
“They were not willing to take on the viability of redesigning the controls,” Hulsether said.
A new train would come with other benefits, including new passenger cars which Hulsether said would be a lot more “grandparent friendly.” The new cars would be larger and sit higher up off the floor of the train, much to the relief of knees and backs.
All of this being said, the repair, refurbishment or outright replacement of the train should not affect the spring opening of the attraction, Laurent said.
Commission OKs placement of cell towers on Stormont Vail Event Center
The commission also approved a request to place several cell towers on top of the Stormont-Vail Events Center. The contract allows Halo DAS LLC to install a distributed antenna system on the events center in order to improve connectivity.
“This would allow us to expand the wireless coverage inside Landon Arena and Exhibition hall,” said Kellen Seitz, the events center general manager.
These wouldn’t be the large cell towers that dot the landscape but smaller antennas that are about two feet in height. Seitz said the antennas would be color matched to the exterior of the building.
The DAS would improve the “patron and user experience,” while also opening more revenue streams to the events center. The county wouldn’t be required to pay the significant electrical bills for the new towers as that would be covered by Halo DAS LLC on a separate meter.
Tax exemption incentives for economic development passed
The county commission also approved 10 tax exemption-incentives for economic development for eight businesses that operate in Shawnee county. Several members of the businesses were present in Monday’s meeting.
Three businesses sought their eighth year of tax exemption out of an 11 possible. These include Mars Chocolate, which opened a $250 million plant in 2011, Crosswinds Pet Foods and Big Hearts Pet Foods.
“Thank you all for being here,” Chairman Aaron Mays said after the council approved the motions 3-0. “We do appreciate the investments you guys have made in our communities and all the people you have employed.”
Alex Edwards is the local politics reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via twitter @AMEdwards21