Kansas town to begin rebuilding after explosion

ANTHONY, Kansas (AP) — A south-central Kansas community that lost a downtown block to a fire five years ago is preparing to start rebuilding.

Several businesses were destroyed on July 8, 2009, by a gas explosion and massive fire that burned for hours. The fire began when a truck broke through pavement in an alley, severing a gas line that then exploded.

Demolition began a year later, and a special sales tax was levied in the downtown area to fund the reconstruction.

Sherrie Eaton has been the owner of Jetts clothing store since 1982.

The store is just across the street from where a fire destroyed most of downtown Anthony about five years ago.

“This has been like a broken leg to us and we’re ready for it to be healed,” said Eaton.

Mike Lanie, the Director of the Harper Economic Development Council, says over the next year, the hope is to revitalize Anthony’s business district.

“It’ll be all brand new, two stories, approximately 42,000 square foot, up and down, plan on retail at the bottom and office space for companies or whatever at the top,” said Lanie.

To pay for the $3.5 million project, Lanie says they instituted a two cent Community Improvement District tax.

This tax raised the town’s sales tax up to just over eight percent.

“The study we did costs the people that live in this community of their spendable money less than 30 cents a day, it was probably more like 22 or 23 cents a day to live here,” said Lanie.

Long standing residents, like Eaton, are happy to see the town rebuild and not suffer the demise many towns face when tragedy strikes.

“There’s a lot of communities that once they have something like this happen to them they never rebuild,” said Eaton.

The CID is set up to collect money to pay for the project for the next 22 years.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled Thursday morning, beginning at 10 a.m.

 

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