In other business Wednesday morning, the Barton County Commission:
• Reappointed Mark Mingenback and appointed for the first time Kristen Clark to the Barton County Community Development Advisory Board. The 11-member BCCDAB advises the commission on economic and community development matters, monitors the progress of the Barton County Strategic Plan and makes suggestions to the commissioners concerning the advancement and realization of the plan goals. It was born of the plan which was adopted in 2005. Mingenback has served as the board’s chairman and his is a three-year term, expiring in August 2015. Clark will fill out an unexpired term that ends in August 2014. She is replacing Brad Teichmann who left the area and had to leave the board.
• Reappointed commissioner Jennifer Schartz and Elise Sharp, a local nurse, to the Center for Counseling and Consultation Governing Board. This Board reviews and makes recommendations on mental health services in Barton County and the surrounding area. The terms expire in December 2015.
• Reappointed local nurse Marge Conell and Ruth Heinrichs to the Health Advisory Board. The board reviews and makes recommendations on policies related to public health services in Barton County. The three positions are to be filled by one nurse and two lay persons. The terms expire December 2014. Barton County Health Department Director Lily Akings said there is still one unfilled citizen’s position on the board.
The positions on all three of the boards are uncompensated.
Some steps that can make Barton County a more hospitable for pedestrians and a more healthful place to live require little more than new signs and paint, Barton County Health Department Public Health Educator Janel Rose told the County Commission Wednesday morning.
However, there are measures that call for improved and additional infrastructure, measures that will make streets and roads safer for kids walking to school or adults riding a bicycle on rural blacktops. Rose was giving an update on the efforts of a county-wide leadership team dubbed Be Well Barton County, funded by a Healthy Communities Initiative grant from the Kansas Health Foundation.
“The initiative focuses on healthy community design by improving policies, systems, and environment to encourage healthy lifestyle choices,” Rose said. “Because of my work with Chronic Disease Risk Reduction and its goals of increasing activity and improving nutrition, I have been involved from the very beginning.”
Ideas considered by the team range from establishing new trails to adding bike lanes to existing roads to installing signage.
There was also discussion of the different challenges facing urban and rural efforts. Sheriff-elect Brian Bellendir said his department was willing to offer input and do what it can to help.
The grant application was submitted by August 2011, and Golden Belt Community Foundation received the award in December 2011. In January 2012, five team members attended Leadership training in Wichita and in February the foundation hired a consultant to guide the planning process.
This team has grown to 19 members representing all incorporated cities of Barton County, county government, schools, the college, the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic By-way and Kansas Wetlands Education Center, and interested community residents. “We chose ‘Be Well Barton County’ as our organizational name and continued the planning process to identify specific work to be done in our county.”
Over the past year, Rose said the Leadership Team has been gathering information on existing infrastructure, policies and systems, and asked communities to help identify what needed to be done through a community survey. Based on these results, the team chose to focus on complete streets initiatives, walking and biking trails, Safe Routes to Schools, and increasing accessibility to affordable, healthy foods.
However, to be eligible for the follow-up grant that funds the project for the next three years, the team had to pick on of the focus areas to include in its “logic model.” It opted for the streets and trails portion.
“In a nutshell Complete Streets means that all transportation users of all ages and of all abilities are considered in every road project being done whether that is new construction, repair of roads, or maintenance of roadways,” Rose said.
These are all vital concepts, Rose said. They are important health and safety reasons, as well as economic development. “Revitalized downtown areas, parks, and trails will make our community a more appealing place for families and businesses to choose to relocate and join our community.”
“More than half of Americans recently surveyed would like to walk more and drive less,” Rose said. Poor community design and lack of pedestrian facilities are the primary reasons people cite for not walking more. “An overwhelming number support policies intended to make their communities more livable by reducing traffic speed and creating a safer pedestrian environment.”
But, more almost as important is the legacy this will leave. “A livable community preserves resources for the next generation and improves quality of life for the generations to come,” Rose said.