Category Archives: Fort Scott

Salvaging Bricks

Tomorrow the final pieces of the old bath house will be hauled off. This evening a number of local volunteers helped comb through the debris retrieving bricks that could be salvaged and used again. The good bricks were loaded onto the flat bed of a truck to be hauled off and stored elsewhere. The hope is that the historic Fort Scott bricks can become part of the new facility in some way.

As you can see from the photos below, the concrete from the old pool has all been removed. There is an orange safety fence going up around the construction site. There were two large trucks parked on the tennis court and two backhoes in the pool area.

 

Five Ideas for Downtown

In the run up for the last city commissioner election, I was very interested in hearing from the candidates at a forum where they were asked about their plan for downtown. I was very disappointed that most of the ideas consisted of “get businesses” and “get grants.”  If anyone had concrete ideas, they weren’t shared at the meeting.

Even a candidate whose family had previously run a downtown businesses didn’t have anything to share about what would have kept them from moving. I’m not trying to criticize anyone, but just point out that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ideas (at least that I’m aware of) designed to benefit the downtown area and get more foot traffic to those shops.

So to get the conversation started, here are five ideas of mine.  I’m not saying that they are all great ideas, but even starting with a bad idea can help get people thinking and eventually produce some winners.

Be sure to leave your comments at the bottom. Which of these ideas sound worthwhile? Which sound stupid? What other ideas can you think of?

1. Put In a Play Scape

At Wall and Main there is a large grassy area where a building burned down. This space is owned by the city and contains a concrete pad where the Christmas tree is attached around the holidays.

My family eats down town nearly every week with some friends. After dinner we will usually head over to this grassy area so the kids can run around, maybe kick a soccer ball a bit and the adults can talk.

This area could be turned into a very nice small park to help draw people into downtown. A school grade plastic and metal play scape that can accomodate about 22 children would cost around $11,000 for the hardware. A larger unit that can accomodate 50 children would probably be in the $30,000 range. Wooden systems may be considerably less expensive and it might even be possible to get used equipment from schools that close down, etc.

One of the nice things about this idea, is that if there is ever a desire to put a building back there, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to think about moving a play scape to one of the other city parks.

2. Giveaways & Contests

My dad grew up in Arcadia back when it was a thriving little town. To help get people downtown, they would choose one night when all the stores would stay open late and they would do drawings to give away cash and prizes sponsored by the downtown merchants. This produced quite a draw and the only way to fit everyone in was to double park up and down the street.

Could something similar work in downtown Fort Scott?  Maybe or maybe not, but it might be worth considering.

3. Downtown Movie Night

Would people come downtown to watch a city sponsored movie on the side of one of the buildings? The downtown concerts are great, but perhaps showing Toy Story 3, would pull in a slightly different demographic. It might mainly help the two restaurants downtown because most of the other shops are usually closed in the evening. I’m not sure what the cost would be to show a movie like that, but I imagine it wouldn’t be outrageous.

4. Use Empty Shop Windows

One thing that is plentiful downtown are shop windows and unfortunately many of them are empty. I’ve seen some efforts to put up displays in some of these windows, but none of them were things that you’d make a specific trip to go see.  Would people come downtown to view local art work? What if high-school & middle school art projects were displayed downtown–perhaps a contest where people could vote for the winner from their cell phones?

5. Free Wireless Internet

Pretty much any downtown business is going to need to pay for Internet. This will probably cost $50 to $150 per month depending on what options are available at a particular location. Offering free wireless can help free up those dollars for businesses that are willing to invest in our downtown and if done correctly, the cost should be fairly inexpensive.

A mesh based solution like Meraki would make it easy to cover the downtown area and add on access points to get to the back of buildings or other places where reception didn’t have good signal from the main antennas. The actual hardware to get started would probably cost somewhere in the $2,500 to $4,000 range and businesses who wanted better coverage could buy an extender for around $200. Monthly costs would probably be in the $50 to $150 range–or virtually nothing if it could be run over the city’s existing connection.

In addition to helping the businesses, it would benefit visitors who need to get to the internet from their phone or laptop. Obviously offering free wifi isn’t going to produce a flood of 100s of visitors each day, but it is a little thing that can make for a more pleasant visit for the people who want or need access.

So there are five ideas. If you’ve read all of them, I bet you have some opinions about what might work and what wouldn’t and chances are you have some other ideas that are much better than what I’ve come up with. Please take a few minutes to share your ideas and thoughts in the comments where everyone can benefit from your perspective.

Plans For a New Bowling Alley

Julie Saker and Bill Farr are partnering together on buying the old IGA to turn it into a bowling alley–something that Fort Scott has been missing for quite a few years now. They hope to have it open by May or June. The plan is for the new facility to include 12 lanes of bowling.  It will also have a grill and arcade area.

Julie wasn’t sure if smoking would be allowed or not under Kansas state law, but there are no plans to make it a private club. They do plan to get a liquor license so beer can be served.

The project is going to be partially financed by investors. Julie said that Macy Cullison is going to help the partners look into getting some grants and they will probably finance any remaining needs with a loan.  Julie also said they are open to talking with other people who might be interested in investing in the project.

They haven’t come up with a good idea for the name yet and are looking for suggestions. If you have a good name for a bowling alley in Fort Scott, please leave it in the comments below and we’ll make sure Julie gets to see them.

Interview with Macy Cullison

Macy Cullison is Fort Scott’s new Economic Development Business Recruitment and Retention Manager. She moved her from Pennsylvania where she was working with Economic Development loan fund called Community First.  We caught up with Macy at City Hall and asked a few questions about her new position.

What brought you to Fort Scott?

I wanted to work in economic development and have always wanted to live in Fort Scott. So when I started looking for a new job I looked at Fort Scott first and was excited to see there was a position here.

How do you plan to help foster economic development?

Right now I’m working on revamping the marketing for the city to help market ourself to companies outside of Fort Scott. A major component of economic development is fostering the businesses that are already here. So working with them to help them grow is a major part of what I’m doing.

Last week I met with a bunch of our manufacturers to talk to them about how we can help them grow. We found that a lot of them are looking to expand so we are going to be having a job fair with the chamber in November.

What types of things can you do to help a local person looking to start a new business?

They should definitely come talk to me. I can help find a good place for them to locate, help them get demographic information and try to help them get a good building to rent. I can try to help make sure they are in a place where there is traffic for their type of business and I have the resources at my fingertips that may take them a few weeks to find on their own.

Is your position only targeting new businesses?

No. Definitely not. I want to know about all of our businesses in town. I’m going to spend 60 to 70 percent of my time working with existing businesses helping them grow. Just last week I found out that existing business owners have 20 or so positions open that they are having trouble filling.  A huge amount of our growth is going to come from our existing companies.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

Yes. Ask people to “like” our Facebook Page!