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CityArts, Branch Libraries Safe Under 2019 Budget

Nadya Faulx
Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell speaks at his briefing Thursday, when he announced the 2019 budget will fully fund the branch library system and CityArts.

Two Wichita branch libraries that had been set to close in the coming years are safe for now.

Mayor Jeff Longwell announced Thursday that, in a reversal from an earlier budget recommendation presented to the City Council, Linwood and Evergreen branch libraries will be fully funded, as will CityArts. The city had been considering partnering with a third-party organization to operate the downtown art gallery and studio space.

"We don't intend to shut down those quality-of-life opportunities in the 2019 budget season," he said.

The city will move $1 million of a total $10 million intended for street maintenance to go toward cultural programs. But Longwell said, at least in the case of CityArts, "that doesn't eliminate the need to look at options" in the future.

"That’s critically important that we have those community discussions and figure out how we can continue to have those quality of life initiatives that everybody wants to enjoy," he said, "recognizing that in today’s environment, in today’s forecast, they’re not sustainable going forward unless we do something different."

A study of the city's branch library system found that Evergreen is the lowest-performing of the city's libraries, serving about 28,000 visitors, and that a bulk of Linwood's visitors indicated they'd use the downtown library. Longwell said the city will consider the study as the focus turns to the branch libraries.

The budget will also support keeping L.W. Clapp Golf Course open while city leaders and residents draft a master plan; the Park Board recommended closing the course at the end of September, part of an effort to fill a deficit in the golf enterprise fund.

City Council member James Clendenin says he will form a steering committee and hold public discussions over the future of the course in south Wichita.

"We need to make sure that whatever we do is going to be successful," he said. "But I think the important thing to realize is that the community is going to have input, and we're going to take the most popular ideas and we're going to implement them."

He said the process of developing a master plan will begin as soon as the City Council has voted to adopt the budget on Aug. 14.

Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.