The Barton County Commission Tuesday morning agreed to help fund Great Bend Economic Development Inc. in the amount of $250,000 in a decision hailed by commissioners as a historic cooperative effort between the county and the City of Great Bend.
“Today marks a special day in our community,” said District 3 Commissioner Shawn Hutchinson. “For the first time in recent history, Barton County is joining forces with the City of Great Bend and Great Bend Economic Development to develop a countywide initiative focused on growth.”
The city already funds GBED for $250,000. Now the county will jump in at the same level.
Due to the timing of the request, the first $150,000 will come out of the county’s current eco devo fund with the balance coming out of next year’s budget come January.
“I have been told ‘it can’t be done,’” Hutchinson said. “I have heard ‘it’ll never happen.’ Well, guess what, today we did it.”
“No one is an island,” District 5 Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. Now, Great Bend, the county and all the communities in the county stand to benefit through this partnership.
“Our mission is to improve the economic quality of life for those in our area,” GBED President Sara Hayden said. “And we quickly recognized that mission extends beyond Great Bend.”
The saying a rising tide raises all ships really applies here, she said. “What’s successful for Hoisington and Claflin and Ellinwood brings success to Great Bend and vice versa. “So, GBED has expanded our efforts to make sure the programs that we put in place benefit the county as a whole.”
The funds will go toward such programs such as workforce initiatives, incentive programs helping businesses expand job creation, recruiting incentives, increased education and expanded marketing efforts.
With childcare, GBED is mimicking what Garden City and Finney County Economic Development have put in place, Hayden said. Her group is developing a self-sustaining childcare center in Great Bend, and hopes to break ground next spring.
But, “we don’t see that this would ever be an effort that stopped because the need will continue to grow as our community grows,” she said. This is just the start and they hope to continue with this model and establish centers in other county communities.
She stressed their goal is not to compete with existing childcare providers since they are needed as well. They want to provide a network “to make sure that any existing childcare providers can participate with us if they choose to and use our resources, utilize our teachers, utilize curriculum or whatever it may be that they need to make sure their programs are growing and sustainable.”
This project is already funded, Hayden said. So, the county’s contribution will go for other efforts.
“Sara, you’re doing wonderful and I really enjoyed working with the city on such a good thing for economic development and Barton County,” District 2 Commissioner Barb Esfeld said. “It benefits everybody.”
District 1 Commissioner Kirby Krier called Hayden “a shining light.”
It was noted that the county will be involved in selection of GBED board members and will have a seat on the board as well.
Barton County Commission meeting at a glance
Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Tuesday morning:
• Denied offering &17,192 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to Rural Water District No. 1, Ellsworth Count, for now.
On May 20, Barton County received its first of two $2,503,634.50 ARPA funding installments. The district sought the money to assist in the installation of 17 automated meters for Barton County residents.
However, the county has spent the installment to: Make enhancements to public communications for first responders such as the update of 911 consoles with improved remote operations ability; premium pay for county employees for work performed for during the pandemic and recognizing critical government duties; payroll for workers performing essential COVID related duties and COVID related legal counsel; and a single audit relating to the federal funds.
The commission had no opposition to the proposal, and noted it would revisit the request if and when the second installment is available next spring.
• Approved the letter of support for the Rosewood Services grant application to the Kansas Department of Transportation for their Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities.
• Approved offering county support for Great Bend Economic Development Inc.
The mission of GBED is to improve the economic quality of life for the working families in the community, said GBED President Sara Hayden. The City of Great Bend supports GBED at $250,000 annually. The commission approved the county’s offering the same amount.
• Approved Facade Improvement Grant program applications.
The commission also heard an update on the facade grant program from Grant Coordinator Sue Cooper.
• Approved accepting a Drug Free Communities Grant for 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services.
Barton County received notice of an award of $125,000 per year for a five-year Strategic Prevention Framework program that will mobilize a “peer-led youth task force to reduce youth substance use,” said Juvenile Services Director Marrisa Woodmansee. The funding may be used for staff and related expenses to include travel and training, youth events and consultation.
“This is a collaborative effort with Central Kansas Partnership to build healthy and safe communities,” she said.
Grant Coordinator Sue Cooper said this involves a 100% in-kind match through existing personnel time, benefits and operational expenses.
The funding, which has to be approved annually, comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Drug Free Communities program.
• Approved the purchase of a thermal camera for the Barton County Solid Waste Landfill for $6,716.99 from NexTech Security.
The Barton County Information Technology Department invited proposals for the camera. It will be used to scan the disposal areas at the landfill to determine “hot spots” as a means of fire prevention, Solid Waste Director Phil Hathcock said.
• Approved the voice logger maintenance agreement.
In 2018, Communications joined with the County Attorney’s Office to purchase a voice logger that creates audio recordings from telephones, radios, microphones and other sources that improve emergency services and aid in criminal prosecution.
The contract ends Nov. 30 and needed to be extended for another year with Communications and the Attorney’s Office sharing the expense, said 911 Director Dena Popp. The total cost is $8,920 (most of which is paid for by the 911 tax) and just over $1,600 being covered by the County Attorney’s Office.
• Approved repair of a guardrail on a bridge that crosses the flood control ditch west of Great Bend on West Barton County Road.
On Sept. 23, a vehicle severely damaged the guardrail on one corner of the bridge. County Engineer Barry McManaman said. He received one quote to remove and replace the damaged rail and posts – from J&J Contractors Inc. of Iola in the amount of $13,110.
Once the repairs are complete, efforts will be made to recover the repair costs from the driver’s insurance company if possible.
• Approved a revision to the county’s executive recruitment consultant agreement.
On Oct. 12, the commission entered into a personal services agreement for county administrator search with Osenbaugh & Deardoff Consulting. After that time, the county was asked to make payment for services to Donald W. Osenbaugh, as shown on the W-9 for the business, County Counselor Patrick Hoffman said,