Archive for Wednesday, March 18, 2009

County debates involvement in economic development

March 18, 2009

Leavenworth County wants to start moving forward with economic development and with its comprehensive plan. But how it will go about doing that is up for debate.

During Monday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioners JC Tellefson, Clyde Graeber and John Flower entered into a debate about how much involvement the county would have in the economic development in the county.

Tellefson said he wanted to create a task force made of members from the cities in the county, members of the Leavenworth County Port Authority and Leavenworth County Development Corporation, and area chambers of commerce.

He said that each year the county gives the LCDC and LCPA $268,000 but gets little to no representation in those boards. He wants something where the county has more authority.

“I don’t want to do away with LCDC, I don’t want to do away with the Port Authority,” Tellefson said. “I don’t know what it will look like when the end game comes, but I believe that in these economic times we are trying to be responsible.”

Commissioner Flower said that he and Heather Morgan, county administrator, had met with officials from the cities within the county and they had expressed interest in the county expanding its role.

“We made an agreement with this board some weeks ago that we need a long term plan on what we are going to be focusing in the next five years,” Flower said. “The Commission would not agree to move forward on that until such time a meeting was held with the cities they felt here was a need that the county could fulfill for them on a countywide basis.”

Graeber wasn’t opposed to economic development or a task force, but he didn’t want to do anything that could cost the county money if someone was already doing the work.

“I don’t want to see us moving into a tar baby where suddenly we have to have an additional staff person.” Graeber said. “We’ve had years of effort and commitment on the part of LCDC and the Port Authority to oversee the economic development of the county. I don’t want to see us buying into the situation where we become that focus.”

The task force would be in charge of doing research and going back to each of the entities with suggestions and a list of actions the county could take.

In other business Monday the county:

Listened to a report from Pat Barnhardt, from the Leavenworth County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council, and unanimously approved $19,430 for a 2009 grant request. The grant request includes $1,200 for the Lansing, Tonganoxie, Basehor-Linwood and Immaculata high school graduation programs, $1,000 for the Pleasant Ridge High School Prom Party and $3,000 for youth support programs. Barnhardt said there is currently around $80,000 in the council’s budget, which can last the council for three years after the state decides to stop sending the county money from alcohol tax. Flower suggested that the council start looking into other sources of funding and prioritizing specific grants to make their money last longer.

• Listened to an update on the 2010-11 Kansas Sampler Festival from the festival’s steering committee president, Bob Topping, and its director, Keyta Kelly. Topping said in the last several meetings the committee has been working on its branding and image and they have about $75,000 in the bank.

“Financially we are stepping off on a good foot. The cities and Leavenworth County have got us well established.”

Topping also encouraged the commissioners to visit the sampler festival in Concordia.

• Unanimously approved a Leavenworth County purchasing policy. Included in the policy is now a $50 after-tax stipend for department heads and specific county employees for a cell phone. Contracts greater than $25,000 must be reviewed every year by the board, but all other contracts can be written to be renewed for up to 5 years.

• Voted, 2-1, to pay $11,500 in dues for the Kansas Association of Counties. On Thursday a motion to join the group died for lack of a second, but on Monday, Graeber said he had changed his mind. Tellefson was the dissenting vote.

On Thursday the board:

• Unanimously voted to grant the public works department an exemption to the hiring freeze to allow Mike Spickelmier, public works director, to replace two heavy equipment operators who he had budgeted for. He said he has lost three operators.

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