Sedgwick County gives Wings Over McConnell a $10,000 grant, won’t use ‘chalet tent’

Sedgwick County will support this weekend’s Wings Over McConnell air show with a $10,000 grant, but it won’t use a special “chalet tent” where commissioners and other leaders could have stayed out of the sun and enjoyed a catered meal and beverages.

It was a compromise approved by three of the five commissioners.

Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau voted against the gift to McConnell.

Ranzau had questioned spending $10,000 on what he called a “party tent” in a story in Monday’s Eagle. He noted the county cut funding to many departments and groups this year and said the tent was not a priority for him.

A veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves who served in Iraq and the Persian Gulf, Ranzau said he didn’t need to be thanked that way for his service. Peterjohn noted that the newspaper story had generated several calls from constituents who expressed concern about spending taxpayer money on a hospitality tent.

Board members decided to give a grant to the Air Force base but not accept tickets to the tent.

The original proposal was for the county to receive 75 tickets to the hospitality tent for each day of the show. The county traditionally has given some of those tickets away to nonprofit groups.

Commissioner Dave Unruh brokered the compromise and made a motion to give the $10,000 as a grant. Chairman Tim Norton also voted to go that direction.

Commissioner Jim Skelton, whose district includes the base, said supporting the air show was important because the base generates more than $500 million each year to the community through its payroll.

This year, the county budgeted $343,256 for community programs and events, including $29,427 for the Sedgwick County Fair and $21,771 for the Kansas Junior Livestock Show. The county in the past has contributed $7,500 to the Wichita Open and $20,000 to the city’s flight festival. The county’s budget for next year for such contributions is $333,256.

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