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City council meeting attracts Walmart crowd

POSTED: June 23, 2014 7:00 a.m.

Rob Fillion, executive director of the Smoky Hill Development Corporation, an economic development organization, talks about Walmart at Monday night's meeting of the Ellsworth City Council.

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More than 50 residents of Ellsworth and Ellsworth County jammed into the chambers of the Ellsworth City Council Monday night to voice their support - and objections - to the construction of a Walmart Express at the junction of Kansas Highways 140 and 156.

Both sides were represented and presented their reasons for attending the council's regular meeting at City Hall.

Council members said the city's hands were tied as far as keeping the store out of Ellsworth. And Rob Fillion, executive director of the Smoky Hill Development Corporation, stressed that no one with the city or the county's economic development agency recruited the store.

All communications between the city and Walmart were done through a third-party developer and it was only recently the city confirmed the developer represented the giant retailer, city administrator Tim Vandall said.

The first direct communication with Walmart came less than a week ago.

Vandall said the cost of developing the old rest stop property will fall on the developer. The city might have to spend several thousand dollars to install a fire hydrant on the east side of K-156 and to increase a water line from two to eight inches.

"It's still fluid," Vandall said.

He said the property already is properly zoned for light industrial. The only catch might be a left turn lane into the property. Walmart representatives have told the city the turn lane won't be necessary, but that information has not been confirmed by the Kansas Department of Transportation, which has the final say.

Public comments continued for almost an hour before Mayor Cole Worrell moved on to the next item on the agenda.

Pick up a copy of the June 26, 2014, edition of the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter for much more on Monday night's City Council meeting.

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