Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
The Chamber week really began a week ago on Friday afternoon as we readied for the Travis Marvin Concert that evening…I hope you were there. It was a large crowd…not only under the pavilion, but the whole surrounding area. Many sat in their car and listened…those under the pavilion enjoyed conversation, good music and a festive atmosphere (few pictures here). The exact size of the crowd is hard to estimate because it was so spread out…definitely several hundred. It seemed the perfect way to tie a bow on summer this year! 
 
COVID Update:
 
Franklin County Public Health Official, Dr. Bud Ransom addressed City Commissioners this week to give them a firsthand update…another 26 cases this week. Currently there are 8 local hospitalizations due to COVID…locally, we’re experiencing more hospitalizations than when the disease peaked last spring. Our percent positive rate has hovered just over 11 percent now for 3 straight weeks…ideal would be less than 5 percent. Breakthrough cases are rare but happen…a breakthrough case is a fully vaccinated person contracting COVID. Dr. Ransom said generally the breakthrough cases do not get very ill…only one has required hospitalization out of the 65 breakthrough cases. Here is this week’s update. On a positive note, Franklin County is now at 56.74 percent of citizens receiving one shot and 49.54 percent of individuals who are fully vaccinated. Here are the percentages for Kansas by county. Masks are required if you go into one of our schools. You need to make an appointment to get the vaccination…you can do that by click here
 
More Housing Updates:
 
The housing conversation continues to percolate with City Commissioners…this week the conversation centered on the Coves at Tallgrass development (east of Davis Street and south of Wilson Street) and the Lakeside Development (south of West 15th Street and north of West 17th Street). The Coves have been in a stuck position since the early 2000s when the banking/housing crisis came to a head. On this particular development, the then City Commission approved paying for the infrastructure with tax dollars to be paid back with the sale of the lots with a property tax assessment…when the developer went bankrupt, the taxpayers continued to pay the infrastructure costs with no land sales or houses to receive payback. Now the newly formed City Land Bank owns the properties and will offer the first 16 lots at auction next Wednesday, August 25 at 11:00 a.m. in the City Commission Chambers. A base bid has been set on each property to capture as much of the back assessments as reasonable and the payment of the assessments for the years 2021, 22 and 23 will still be required. Here is a list of the lot numbers to be sold and a map…if you’re interested in building a new house, this could be a good opportunity.
 
The Lakeside Development is a whole different issue. In this case most lots have been sold and many have new houses built. The Commission purchased the property because of the lake which existed there…and realizing it would be a good place for a community park and fishing pond. They subsequently sold the most desirable building lots and are now left with lots with steep slopes and also receive large amounts of rain runoff during wet periods or heavy rains. Some in the community have questioned the wisdom of building a park when the lots could be sold, and houses built. Here is a picture of the Commission taking their show on the road this week to view the property. Work has already begun to clean the lake to make it deeper and more usable for fishing. The common consensus between the Commissioners and City staff seemed to be, by the time you took out the existing easements and then factored in the runoff and flooding potential, the better use of the property is to develop a park. I’ll say this…if government and elected officials don’t advocate for recreation and green space, no one will. A community well planned includes parks and areas for neighborhoods to play and enjoy space…also, a fishing pond is a nice addition to Ottawa.  
 
Ottawa University:
 
There is much going on at the University this week…with students back on campus and classes beginning. We celebrated student’s return last week at Fusion. There are 850 students enrolled this fall at OU…this is the largest number of students in 50-years. Housing is short…some are having to be put up at the new Holiday Inn Express on the south side of town. This week was convocation…the more formal welcome of students to the university (here are a few pictures). Also, in addition to the students’ convocation, a grand community welcoming was held at the Granger House to introduce Dr. Bill Tsutsui and his wife, Dr. Marjorie Swann to Ottawa (pictures here). Having a growing student body is an anomaly for small liberal arts colleges…most are shriveling and dying. The fact Ottawa is growing is a real testimony to the leadership and administrative team at OU. And how great for our community…their growth has already caused a new development in downtown Ottawa, with the improvement of the Halloren Building at 4th and Main Streets. There is also a new building project on campus…and probably additional housing is not in the too distant future. All of this is not to mention the spending 850 new people do in the community…all very positive for our local economy!! Welcome to students and Bill!!
 
Moonrise Bike Ride:
 
Here is something fun and interesting to do this weekend…if you are so inclined. Ottawa Bike and Trail owner, Jeff Carroll is organizing what I think sounds like a good time…a Moonrise Bike Ride. You can register by clicking the link. Riders from 2 communities will be taking part. Bikers from Council Grove and Ottawa will head toward Pomona Lake…once there they will dine on a chuckwagon meal served by Angry River BBQ. A couple of bands will play in the evening and after dark, the group will do a moonlit bike ride around Pomona State Park. After a night of camping, breakfast will be served and each group heads back to their respective communities. To date, over 100 riders are signed up to pedal in this event…give Jeff a call or click the link if you’re interested.
 
First-Day of School Pics:
 
All area schools are getting started for the fall semester…we have 4 grandkids who started school this week (pictures here). Max and Newt start school next week…I’ll have their pictures next Friday.
 
Try to do something cool this weekend…looks like hot days all next week. We should start seeing some fall weather soon…at least on occasion – just to give us a break!
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John  
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000