Grant sets up county for success



October 24, 2016 - 12:00 AM

Progress continues across the county on a series of projects set through a Community Engagement Grant project that kicked off in the summer of 2015.
Representatives from Iola, Humboldt, Moran, LaHarpe and Elsmore gathered Thursday for their monthly “Allen County Together” meeting, which follows along to ensure the projects remain on the front burner.
Thursday’s meeting was at Thrive Allen County’s offices.
The projects were formed at a series of countywide community conversations, in which each community’s representatives spelled out some of their more strident needs.
For example, Elsmore sought a new storm siren patched into the county’s dispatch service, while LaHarpe targeted dilapidated properties.
Six “priorities” took shape:
1.    Employee and business development, primarily for Iola and Humboldt.
2.    Public safety.
3.    Safe green spaces and communities that are bike- and pedestrian-friendly.
4.    Developing a “complete streets” policy in Iola and Humboldt.
5.    Expanding opportunities for physical activities, earmarked for Iola and Moran.
6.    Increasing educational opportunities by supporting the new technical education center at the old Diebolt Lumber facility near LaHarpe.
Damaris Kunkler, programs director at Thrive Allen County, which is overseeing the Community Engagement Initiative, gave a breakdown of each of the bullet points.

Like the other primary objectives, this one has evolved, Kunkler said.
Originally, the effort was geared almost solely to beautifying and restoring old businesses in downtown Iola and Humboldt.
Now, the hope is to include employee training so that a process that starts with facade development ends with a new business, she said.
Kunkler acknowledged that the first priority has been slower going than some of the others.

Earmarked originally for LaHarpe, the priority focused on clearing up dilapidated properties.
Much of that occurred the weekend of Oct. 9, when LaHarpe PRIDE, City Slickers 4-H Club, three University of Kansas students and other volunteers picked up debris, mowed grass, cleared brush and removed old furniture from eight properties.
In addition, funding is being set up to have an old house demolished in the near future.

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