As the budgeting process continues, county entities continue to make presentations to the Harvey County Commission, with Harvey County Economic Development bringing some good news before the commission at Monday's meeting.

Executive Director Beth Shelton pointed out that the three percent re-apportioned from the second cent sales tax to fund an office position with HCED will expire prior to the next budget, resulting an estimated savings of $20,000 for the county, while the organization is also asking for three percent less in the county's funding portion — from $115,000 to $111,550.

"That's a significant drop," said commissioner Chip Westfall.

"That's definitely going the right direction for us," said commission chair Ron Krehbiel.

On top of working to control costs through efficient performance and managing marketing travel expenses to create a responsible budget, Shelton noted HCED is looking for ways to spend reserve funds built up in order to help and best serve its partners.

"We're trying to find additional ways to help our companies," Shelton said.

Shelton and business and retention specialist Jennifer Mueller also presented on the work the HCED has been doing so far this year, with Mueller noting she has visited with 41 local companies so far this year —and seven have mentioned plans to expand either immediately or in the next four months.

Growth is a good sign, but the commission also asked Mueller — recently appointed as a representative to the South Central Kansas Economic Development District — to look into a program brought up by another regional economic development group at a conference some of the commissioners attended. The program (out of northwest Kansas) was focused on providing housing for employees to rent initially and potentially take ownership of in the future.

"That would be a positive for us," Westfall said, "because housing is an issue here."

Noting that there are numerous new business projects that the HCED is continuing recruitment on (with some more promising than others), Shelton also highlighted the collaborative work from a regional standpoint that has gone into marketing.

Both the Greater Wichita Partnership and South Central Kansas Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth (BREG) have helped with efforts to advertise in some widespread publications, while the latter recruited Shelton to help conference at one of the state's biggest recruitment trips of the year — to the Paris Air Show.

"It's a wonderful opportunity that they've provided us and is's an example of BREG, that regional coverage, actually in work," Shelton said.

Collaboration continued to be a point of discussion in terms of the workforce, with the commissioners again asking for some form of joint meeting with Workforce areas one and four. Shelton noted there seemed to be some of that at the last BREG meeting and stated the HCED is interested in that approach, too, pointing to its upcoming annual meeting from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. June 27 at the Meridian Center.

At that meeting, Garner Economics will present its strategic planning report for the HCED, which Shelton said she believes can be a document all the partner entities can use to understand retail, workforce and other needs around Harvey County.

In other business, the county commission:

Heard a report on the recent tax foreclosure sale, with county counselor Greg Nye noting the largest attendance he has seen in 20 years. While taxes for many lots were paid off the day before, there were several still up for bid and the former Hills Service Station (a separate auction itself) drew a great deal of interest, getting the full $110,000 in back taxes back for the county.
Learned of a deal through the National Association of Counties offering free software for permitting services, making department heads (like Planning and Zoning's Gina Bell) aware of the opportunity. Commissioner Randy Hague also questioned if the county department could use the state's GIS software after discussion on the topic at last week's Kansas County Commissioners Association conference.
Signed a letter to Rich Denno, thanking him for his years of service to the Public Building Commission.
Received an update on grant requests from Health Department Director Lynnette Redington, noting the department was approved for a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation totaling $262,000 over three years and the department is one of the final 16 under consideration for a pathways grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield (which would total $500,000 over four years).
Was informed that budgetary discussion on capital improvement/equipment purposes would be put off a week, as the county has received its assessed valuation (up 1.85 percent) and Director of Finance Dan Bronson noted those will be plugged into calculations for the preliminary budget recommendation to be brought before the commission next week. Bronson also noted administration has received insurance price quotes regarding the potential archery range at East Park, with a discussion to be held with the Parks Department before bringing that item to the commission for action.
Received a request during citizen's forum from Paul Sanford of the American Legion in support of the Kansas Legacy Run that will culminate in Newton on Sunday. Sanford invited county commissioners to the event, which works to raise money for scholarships given to the children of veterans, while also asking for a county escort from the sheriff's office for the Legion Riders participating in the run (once they cross over into Harvey County).
Approved a new agreement with the Boy Scouts of America for the annual Trappers' Rendezvous, making it so the entity only has to make out one check to the county and setting a minimum fee for the event ($2 per person for a base attendance of 1,000) to help the parks department cover expenses. Additionally, the new agreement has a more long-term structure, and will be in effect through 2022.
Accepted four bids from three companies on a batwing mower for the solid waste department, allowing Superintendent Rollin Schmidt a week to review before coming back to the commission to present a final purchasing recommendation.