MULLINVILLE — Jim Turner, of Wichita, was back at the Mullinville City Council meeting recently to discuss a lease-option for part of a city-owned building.
In months prior, Turner's idea to turn the town's former elementary school into a home for troubled youths had been met with lukewarm anticipation. City leaders were not sure if expenses could be met and who would assume leadership and management of such an endeavor.
Turner, a Mullinville native, told council members at their September meeting that he will pay all building remodel costs that will ultimately house 14 boys. He offered $12,000 a year as well as payment of all utilities for the building and insurance. Two rooms presently used by the city will remain at their disposal.
“I think the council is in favor of it, if all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed in the contract,” said Tom Daniels, city council president.
He said for a youth home to happen, someone would need to set up a nonprofit organization, procure letters of intent from contractors to donate funds and start a board of directors, plus put some fundraising ideas in place.
“I don’t want to put a bunch of time, effort and money into this if the council isn’t interested,” Turner said. “If you think this will help the community, I am willing to put forth the effort to do so.”
Council member Todd Alexander said he was in favor of the building-lease option as opposed to Turner's original request to have the city fund and build the youth home with his support.
“What does it matter what he has, it will be his problem if the project fails, we will just be leasing the building to him," Alexander said. "We won’t be running the youth home. He will.”
After some discussion council members said they would entertain the offer and Turner said he would have a contract ready for discussion in the next 30-60 days.
Turner originally broached the idea of a youth home in Mullinville at a special town hall meeting in January 2019. An alumnus of the Mullinville school system before consolidation, Turner said he was driving from Wichita to Mullinville and passed through Kiowa County towns of Wellsford and Cullison, each of which now have populations less than 100 people. Turner said he was shocked to see that the once formidable cities were now almost gone.
He said he didn't want to see Mullinville end up the same way, and with only about 247 residents presently living there, he said without something changing in 15 years, the outcome could be similar to nearby towns.
“I just want to help the community I grew up in,” Turner said.
Turner said his idea to create a group home similar to Youth Horizon in Wichita could benefit youths in need in the state and give the town of Mullinville a purpose and place of employment.
“This would not be a warehouse for kids or a juvenile hall detention center, but we want it to be a home," Turner said. "Mullinville could be a place to give these kids an opportunity to become functional adults who would be able to turn around and be tax-paying citizens.”