Tech center, Moran store get funds



April 3, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Allen County commissioners granted two of five applicants economic development assistance Tuesday, and then disbanded the committee recently formed to review applications.

To date, the committee had rejected all applications.

The Regional Technology Center outside of LaHarpe was awarded a $100,000 grant to help start a program to train wind farm technicians. Commissioners also provided $100,000 to match awards to the Moran Market cooperative. The Moran group has attracted grants totaling $75,000 and more than $25,000 in private contributions.

The cooperative means to purchase and operate Stub’s Market to give Moran area residents, many of whom are elderly, a local grocery rather than having to journey elsewhere. That is significant because the senior housing complex is across the street from the market and within easy walking distance. Available transportation is also a hurdle for many of the elderly who are without means.

Commission Chairman Tom Williams led the discussion and moved the commission fully fund the $100,000 requests by the tech center and the Moran group. “The tech center is good for everyone in the county and the Moran cooperative meets the needs of the (Moran) community, one of our primary concerns,” Williams said.

After Williams made the motion to fund the two entities, com-missioners revised the motion to give the Moran market a matching grant, rather than a flat-out gift.

Williams also suggested the $300 application fees be returned to the three entities who failed to garner support: Bolling Meats, seeking $190,000; Pregnancy Resource Center, $75,000, and the Mildred Store, $20,000.

Commissioner John Brocker said while he supported helping the tech center, he has difficulty funding private enterprises.

“That’s a dangerous field, a can of worms that never can be closed,” he said. “We might be looking at lawsuits,” if one were funded and another wasn’t.

Brocker also said he has been deluged with complaints about the county helping with economic development, though he deferred to say who other than “they.”

“Before anything else we need a consensus of the people,” Brocker said, but didn’t flesh the idea out.

County Counselor Alan Weber spoke on behalf of Moran cooperative, pointing to the “work the community has done to put together a cooperative is a point of culture and health” for Moran residents.

Commissioner Jerry Daniels added support for the tech center by recalling commissioners had obligated payments in lieu of taxes from EDP Renewables, which has started construction of a 60-turbine wind farm in the county, to support the three public school districts.

For each of the next 10 years EDP will fork over $250,0000. The company expects its ad valorem tax obligation to be better than $1 million a year thereafter.

“The wind farm program at the tech center is time-sensitive,” he said, “and since we’re already committed to the schools,” waiting until PILOTs become available “would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

DISSOLUTION of the economic development committee came quickly. Further requests for funding will be handled through the economic development advisory committee that operates under auspices of Thrive Allen County and has been meeting monthly for the past several years. Bill Maness, former Iola mayor and now on board at Thrive, serves as its director.