Belleville Travel Center will close this time… for good
By Fred Arnold Telescope publisher
Mayor Blaine Miller broke a 3-3 tie on Monday casting the final vote which will close the Kansas Travel Information Center located in Belleville permanently.
Following nearly 40 minutes of testimony and debate members of the local city council unanimously voted to reverse a decision two weeks ago that would close the TIC until road construction on Highway 81 was completed. That was the easy part.
Council members then sat awkwardly silent for minutes while Mayor Miller asked what they next desired to do. Council members him-hawed back and forth about whether the facility should be saved, closed, open seasonally or revamped.
“I’d like to see it stay around-I think it’s a tourism deal. It’s a positive for our community,” councilman Doane Sells said.
“If we keep it, it needs to be a Republic County Tourism Center, not a Kansas Center,” councilman Shaun Herring said.
Mayor Miller again reminded city leaders that since the original motion was rescinded, he was still looking for action from the city council.
In the end a motion was made to close the facility permanently effective Dec. 31. Council members Steve Scofield, Tiffany Hansen and Adam Robertson voted in favor of the closure. Council members Don Danielson, Doane sells and Shaun Herring voted against closing. Mayor Blaine Miller cast the deciding vote.
City leaders said the vote to close was purely a financial decision and not a reflection of workers or dedication to keeping the TIC open. Only a handful of people showed up in support of the facility.
Council members agreed that the closure of US81 for most of the summer has made an already bad financial situation worse. Last week KDOT said that US81 would not be completed as scheduled and that construction would resume again next spring.
“The Center is funded by the people of Belleville,” Mayor Miller said. “If it were cash flowing I don’t think people would have a problem with it, but it does add a substantial tax rates to peoples’ bills.” Council member Steve Scofield said perhaps if the State of Kansas and Republic County were to provide funding the TIC could remain open.
“But I don’t believe it ought to be up to the people of Belleville to pay for this to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 a year,” he said. “It does add two to three mills to our taxes.”
Councilman Adam Robertson said the TIC has to be looked at like a business. And he said it is a business that doesn’t cash flow.
“It kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth when the state of Kansas supposedly says they are disappointed we might close the facility,” he said. ‘Especially since they are the ones who dropped out of funding it originally.”
“I can’t see any way government funded businesses ever work.”
Following Monday’s vote the TIC will remain open during normal operating hours through Dec. 31. Council members did not discuss the fate of the building following that.