Committee OKs funding applications



August 25, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Very soon Allen County commissioners will use a new format to consider requests to give financial assistance to businesses or nonprofits.
Application forms to provide a route to county funding for new and existing businesses and nonprofits were handed off Thursday evening to seven citizens, brought together as an Economic and Community Development Committee.
Those committee members’ task will be to review applications and make recommendations to commissioners, as to whether what proposed makes business sense and will be beneficial countywide.
Over the past two months another committee, moderated by Chuck Apt, Iola attorney, developed the application. Commissioners will decide whether to make out-right grants, give assistance through loans, or a combination of the two.
The project was loosely proposed by Apt to commissioners, who then selected him to lead efforts to put together protocols.
Thursday evening’s session was brief by most public meeting standards, but did include some commentary.
Don Ebert, of the protocols committee, said he harbored concerns about including financial statements and income tax return information on applications.
“Is that important? I think a business plan” and historic information should be sufficient, Erbert said.
Susan Thompson, another committee member, responded: “If they’re concerned about exposing (financial information) they probably have enough.”
Erbert added he thought asking too much financial information might be a barrier to application.
Eventually, County Counselor Alan Weber resolved the concern by saying financial information could be protected in a closed session under provisions of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
Commissioners have said they would consider financial assistance before the end of the year, from reserve funds created by a significant increase in assessed valuation from Enbridge pipeline company.
Application deadlines in 2018 are still to be considered, but it would be advantageous if commissioners were aware of draws on reserves before they worked their 2019 budget in early summer.
Applications will be available in the county clerk’s office after the review committee signs off, which isn’t expected to take too long.
Committee members who developed applications, in addition to Apt, Erbert and Thompson, were Matt Skahan, Travis Coffield, Herb Sigg and Jerry Dreher. The review committee contains Jerry Whitworth, Dave Regehr, Steve Strickler, Terry Sparks, Craig Abbott, Dick Works and Darrell Monfort.

COMMISSIONERS are aware that three businesses may make applications for funding, either yet this year or in early 2018. They are Tina’s Restaurant in Gas, the Mildred market and the group working to purchase and refit Stub’s Market in Moran.
Larry Manes, one of those closely involved with the Moran grocery project, said he was “hopeful we can raise enough to buy the market,” $148,000 at last count. He said fundraising was slow but sure, including $20,000 in hand from two $10,000 gifts, one from he and wife Nelda. The second benefactor was not named. “I am confident of a third” before long.
His comment on county money was if “an Iola grocery is worth $300,000 (actually, $180,000 from the county, $170,000 from Iola Industries and in-kind contributions with utilities from Iola), a store in Moran ought to be worth something.”
That will be for the review committee and commissioners to decide. “Get an application and fill it out as quickly as you can,” Apt said.
Manes said the hoped-for outcome was to raise enough to buy the store and acquire county assistance to pay for upgrades.

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