Pittsburg pow wow
University, city officials convene at Alumni Center
Marcus Clem | editor in chief
One advantage to having a university as the centerpiece of a small town is when important matters come up, it is easy to bring the ‘who’s who’ in government onto the campus to talk it out.
In a luncheon, Shawn Naccarato, Pittsburg State director of government and community relations, served as master of ceremonies. Everything from the upcoming season for football to election politics was discussed.
The meeting was held at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, in the lower level of the Wilkinson Alumni Center.
Attendees included Michael Gray, City of Pittsburg mayor, Steve Scott, university president, City of Pittsburg Commission members John Ketterman, Chuck Munsell and Patrick O’Bryan, as well as leaders from multiple city departments and university offices.
Tax-hike proposal promoted
The top political matter of the day, presented by Daron R. Hall, city manager, pertained to Hall’s proposal to increase the local sales tax by a half-cent.
“We believe we have the authority to do this, but we need to put it on the ballot,” Hall said. “We don’t take our ability to manage the city’s taxes for granted.”
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17, to all residents, who may cast a simple vote of approval or disapproval. No other proposals or contests will be featured on the ballot.
Hall says that the tax is necessary in order to improve public safety in the city.
The money raised over the course of the next 10 years will allow the Pittsburg Police Department to hire more officers and upgrade obsolete computer systems.
The Pittsburg Fire Department is also in need of additional funding following what Hall described as a tougher environment for federal and state funding as well as grant money.
They will primarily use the money to purchase and train with new rebreathing equipment that will improve firefighter safety on the job and help the department comply with federal standards.
Hall says the tax increase is important, but added that it’s also important the city simply make the best case for the proposal and leave things to the voters.
“We’re not in the business of telling people how to vote,” he said.
Pitt needs hotel rooms
Another significant part of Hall’s presentation centered on his claim that the city has been aware of the need to increase hospitality space.
This may be especially true in the coming years as Pittsburg is making a bid to host the NCAA Division II National Football Championships for four years, starting potentially in 2014.
Hall admitted that as the city currently stands, there would be no way for it to support the horde of fans, university and other officials, players and media that would descend on the area for the game.
“All the media would at least have to stay in another town,” he said.
Hall says that he doesn’t know right now how much construction would be needed, or exactly how the city would go about it, though he added city officials would start first with local hotel owners.
“We’d ask them if they’d be interested, for example, in building another hotel here, and go from there,” he said.
Before anything begins, Hall says, a study would have to be commenced to understand the overall situation and the likely needs presented by a successful championship-game bid.
Campus construction progress
Standing for the university’s side of the meeting, Scott says he is proud of the pace of construction and improvement happening in the city and on campus.
Chief among these projects is the Center for the Arts.
Scott says that the construction site for the Center, located on Ford Street south of the Weede Athletic Complex, has seen a considerable amount of progress since the groundbreaking in 2012.
“You can see the superstructure of the pre-cast concrete walls already in place,” he said. “By the end of the fall, the building will have its final look on the outside pretty much done.”
Scott says that an anonymous donor provided an undisclosed amount of money to earn naming rights for the center, set to open in time for the 2014-2015 academic year next August.
This person’s name and the exact title of the building will be revealed at a later date, once the university has had time to finalize when that will be suitable.
“We came up with the name, ‘Center for the Arts,’ with the naming rights in mind,” Scott said.
Steve Erwin, associate vice president of campus life and auxiliary services, says that the other big project on the horizon for the university, plans to expand and enhance Overman Student Center, will commence in March.
Details on the project’s features were not hashed out at this meeting, but changes will include areas for students that officials described as “new and modernized,” highlighted by a new ballroom.
Scott also took some time to reflect on the penultimate phase of the university’s grand residence-hall renovation project, which has cost $24 million to date.
Dellinger Hall was completely redone at a cost of $5 million in time for this semester, and Scott says that new residents have gushed at the building’s amenities.
“Students have told me that it’s like a nice hotel,” he said.