Highlights include possible cheese processing plant, street projects

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe

City manager Nick Hernandez gave an update on the City of Dodge City during the State of the City Address on Wednesday at the Boot Hill Casino and Resort Conference Center.

Among Hernandez's talking points were the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on city's saying that the national and state response was met with mixed responses while Ford County saw prosperity due to agriculture and energy sectors, as well as impacts to small businesses such as retail and services.

"When I'm talking about the ag sectors, I'm talking about the mills, the plants, they were able to continuously run throughout this entire pandemic," Hernandez said. "The energy sector in wind energy didn't stop and got it producing energy in this area."

Hernandez said 555 small businesses were given PPE loans locally, ranging from $400 to $2.6 million given out.

The city also received close to $2 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

However, regarding city project construction, the amount of work done was zero, which the city switched more into a planning phase for current and future projects for when the construction started back up.

Some of the projects that will either be continuing or new to the city are the completion of Central Avenue from Vine Street to Comanche Street; residential street rehabilitation such as the 2020 asphalt street projects or overlay.

Other projects upcoming are US-50 highway and Loretta Avenue; downtown streetscape; Dodge City Regional Airport terminal remodel; 2nd Avenue bridge repairs; US-56/US-283/US-400 and Trail Street intersection improvements; widening of US-50 and Gary Avenue; Iron Road from Avenue A to 6th Avenue and 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue realignment.

A major potential economic development being worked on is for a cheese processing facility in the city.

According to Hernandez, the project would bring 280 or more permanent jobs to the area with $350 million in local investments for Ford County and the school district and a potential for jobs created through its construction as well as an economic increase to hotel and restaurant revenues for a year.

"We're close," Hernandez said. "Hopefully within the next month or so we can actually announce it and it gets the go-ahead, but it is one of the big projects we have been working on internally in the city."

On the mill levy, Hernandez presented the city has decreased the mill levy by 12.6%, with Dodge City Unified School District 443 decreasing its mill levy by 6.1%, Ford County increased its mill levy by 12.3% and Dodge City Community College raising its mill levy by 7.5% between 2011 and 2020.

"The county has had an increase, but the county has had a lot more challenges than the city has had," Hernandez said. "We had a lot more revenue streams available to us than what the county does and they've had a lot more things thrown at them, so that is part of the reason why it is a little more different than us."

The sales tax is up 2.8% from 2019, something Hernandez said is good in that usually the city sees more of a flattening of the sales tax revenue.

A cause for the increase, according to Hernandez, is utilities from Victory Electric and car sales.

On the housing side, through programs such as the Rural Housing Incentive District, the city has added 500 housing units since 2011, with 250 housing units on the way.

The housing units are made up of owner-occupied, rentals, single-family units, duplexes, townhomes and apartment complexes.

There were 85 single-family units completed in 2020.

Looking ahead, the goals of the city will be to increase financial transparency through its annual report, new budget book, new audit formatting and increased accessibility to Capital Improvement Plan process and financial records, as well as attracting new retailers, continuing housing developments, maintaining or decreasing the mill levy and making enterprise funding stronger.

To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com