Economic development committees take shape



May 31, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Allen County commissioners appointed 13 area residents to two committees to oversee economic development throughout the county.
Matt Skahan, Don Erbert, Travis Coffield, Susan Thompson, Herb Sigg and Jerry Dreher are in charge of putting together guidelines for how the effort will go forward. Chuck Apt will chair the committee.
On the second committee are Jerry Whitworth, Dave Regehr, Steve Strickler, Terry Sparks, Craig Abbott, Dick Works and Darrell Monfort. Their goal is to consider requests for assistance from existing or new businesses.
Commissioner Jerry Daniels suggested making some money available this budget year, perhaps $50,000 to $100,000, and a greater amount as a line item of the general fund in 2018, for the economic development fund. Discussion has been to earmark $200,000 or so each year.
The county’s valuation jumped by nearly $40 million two years ago because of Enbridge Pipeline’s presence. If one or more wind farms comes to the county, commissioners can expect an annual payment in lieu of taxes until a 10-year state-imposed property tax vacation is over. EDP Renewables proposed a PILOT of $200,000 a year a few weeks ago, but commissioners anticipate negotiating the amount before a final agreement is struck.
Commissioner Tom Williams also said he would “like for the fund to be in place this year.”
Several requests have been made to commissioners since the plan surfaced, including one Tuesday morning from Ken McWhirter, on behalf of the Rural Regional Tech Center outside of LaHarpe.
McWhirter lauded the early success of the tech center, a cooperative effort of school districts in Iola, Moran, Uniontown and Colony, as well as area community colleges from Iola, Fort Scott and Chanute.
“Our first construction class had 22 students,” McWhirter said, with welding and certified medical aide classes slated for the fall. Heavy equipment instruction and any number of other classes may occur in the years ahead, provided financing is available, which is where the county’s economic development fund can play a role.
“I’m very impressed” with what’s going on at the tech center, said Commissioner Jim Talkington.
“There’s a lot of potential, and I thought you might consider helping,” McWhirter added, also noting that adult education likely will become part of the center’s offerings.
IN OTHER business, commissioners:
— Approved purchase of a nine-by-20-foot storage shed for the senior citizens center on North State Street, to accommodate storage of clothing and other articles sold there. Larry Walden said he would add paneling to the inside of the shed for free, provided commissioners provide materials, which they also approved.
— Agreed to the purchase of a records management computer system for all public safety entities in the county, at cost of $87,000.

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