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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Commissioners ponder federal fund exchange program

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  • Harvey County Commissioners discussed at their meeting Monday whether the county should participate in a federal fund exchange program. The program would allow Harvey County to exchange its federal funding for Kansas Department of Transportation dollars to use on road and bridge projects. Although the exchange rate would be $0.90 of state funds for every $1 of federal funds, county officials believe they could save time and money due to relaxed regulations that come with the program. “We think it could work well for Harvey County,” said John Waltner, county administrator. “... We think we have more flexibility in doing this.” Jim Meier, county Road and Bridge superintendent, said by trading federal funds for state dollars, the county will be able to avoid some of the stricter federal requirements. However, the relaxed regulations will not impact the safety of projects such as bridges, which still would need to be approved by an engineer. “We’re not going to compromise quality,” Meier said. Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county, said the county would be required to develop a plan of how it would spend the money. The county could decide to use the exchange dollars to fund 100 percent of a bridge project, or the county could decide to contribute some of its own funding, and use the exchange dollars for several projects. Commissioner Chip Westfall did have some concerns about the program and how the county might be impacted if the federal or state governments changed the rules of the program in the future. “I think they’ve done a poor job watching out for the counties,” Westfall said of KDOT. Commission chair Marge Roberson believed the county’s funds would be protected in the program. “I think we ought to move forward,” she said.

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