Allen County commissioners will rely on recommendations from the newly formed economic development committee, including whether to approve loans or give outright grants in financial support to those so asking.
While some aspects of the process legally may be done in closed session, Commissioner Tom Williams said he anticipated information being made public so “ideas and concerns” might be forwarded to commissioners.
The process began a couple of months ago when a committee, moderated by Chuck Apt, Iola attorney, began deliberations on protocols for how the county will approach requests for funding, from new or existing businesses and nonprofits. Applications, developed by that group of seven, were turned over to another committee of seven Allen Countians, which will review requests and make recommendations.
It is, however, a work in progress, said Commissioner Jerry Daniels, allowing that the review committee can make changes to the process.
“It’s up to them to scrutinize and amend,” he said. “The fact is, we may never give away a penny.”
Commissioners confirmed the committee approach would not affect their support for the joint development effort headed by Bill Maness of Thrive Allen County. County support is $20,000 a year. Maness was critical in bringing a new Sleep Inn & Suites to Iola.
Commissioners also said budget support will continue for entities such as Hope Unlimited, Tri-Valley Developmental and the mental health organization, but the Bowlus Fine Arts Center will be required to undergo an annual review for funding.
Two years ago commissioners approved a three-year grant of $100,000 to the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, in measure to replace money USD 257 withdrew because of budget crunches.
Commissioners said they would expect Bowlus representatives to make annual application through the committee process for support in and beyond 2019. “It seems better for us to have more information,” Williams said.
No deadline was mentioned for when applications would be considered. They are available on the county’s website or at the county clerk’s office. Commissioners have said they would consider requests before the end of 2017,
COMMISSIONERS renewed their relationship with Rodney Burns, of Schlotterbeck and Burns, Chanute, for annual audits and budget preparation. For the upcoming year the audit will cost $16,800, budget prep $1,400. Burns has shepherded Allen County financial documents for 34 years.
Talkington said he had been asked “if we’re getting too comfortable” with Burns, but then dismissed the inquiry with “I’m comfortable.” Burns also was asked if doing both processes could lead to conflict. “No,” he said, declaring “I just look at numbers.”
Commissioners approved, without public opposition, their 2018 budget, with an overall levy of 64 mills, which may change slightly when final assessed valuation is determined in late fall. The budget gives authority to spend $20.56 million, including $9.78 million in the general fund and $3.89 million for road and bridge maintenance and improvements. Actual expenditures in 2016 were $11.5 million and are expected to be $15.4 million this year.
Budget authority — the $20.56 million for 2018 — does not mean that much will be expended, but that the county can’t exceed expenditure of what is authorized. The 2018 levy will be .191 of a mill less than this year, 1.858 mills less than 2016, with the caveat of what final assessed valuation happens to be.
Next year’s budget authority in the general fund indicates reserves approaching $4 million, the result of exceptional valuation increases from Enbridge’s pipeline and pumping station.
IN OTHER business, commissioners:
— Were told by Cole Herder, Humboldt city administrator, that many limbs lodged against the Marsh Arch bridge west of Humboldt were removed, “but they have a lot to go.” Joe Weiner, contracted to do in-river portions of removal, worked three days last week and is continuing to prep brush and limbs for removal this week. County crews were expected to be involved with removal today. Commissioners gave Mitch Garner, director of Public Works, authority to put the site off limits to the public for safety’s sake.
— Accepted a bid of $2,183 from Lickteig Construction, Garnett, to tear out and replace a walkway near the Senior Citizens building on North State Street. Lickteig’s was the lower of two bids.
— Accepted a recommendation from county planners to approve a conditional use permit, sought by Delbert Nelson, to build one or two more care homes near Heartland Meadows a mile northeast of Iola. The original home is at capacity of 12 residents. Either of the two additional units will have the same capacity. Authority to build two was asked, said County Counselor Alan Weber, “so they won’t have to come back again” for a second addition.
— Met in executive session for 10 minutes to discuss client-attorney issues about wind farms.