Workforce services and how those could best be provided has been an ongoing discussion among the Harvey County Commission. The latest installment took place at Monday's commission meeting as the governing body took a look at the current agreement with Kansas WorkforceONE, which is set to expire June 30, 2017.

Though Harvey County falls into the jurisdiction of Kansas WorkforceONE, commissioners have made requests in the past year to see if the county could be realigned into the area served by Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas.

Last year, the commission and Kansas WorkforceONE collaborated on an agreement that the latter presented for a five-year term initially, though the commission voted to move forward with a one-year arrangement and try to get more details on services provided in the area by Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas.

Kansas WorkforceONE Executive Director Deb Scheibler presented statistics to the commission last year while discussing the parties' agreement, and included those again in an email she sent to the commission and local business partners this past week encouraging a renewal.

"Our number one goal in Harvey County is to recruit job seekers for Harvey County businesses," Scheibler said.

In fiscal year 2015, Kansas WorkforceONE made $186,007.48 in expenditures to or on behalf of Harvey County residents for employment and training services, while 477 residents received KANSASWORKS services (including job search assistance, mock interviews, resumé preparation, etc.).

For that same time period, county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber was able to secure data from Keith Lawing, CEO of Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas. Figures including expenditures made to or on behalf of Harvey County ($68,068.98) and residents receiving services (77) were both significantly less than those of Kansas WorkforceONE.

Geographical alignment has been at the center of re-districting talks, with the commission pointing to a labor force in Harvey County tied more closely to the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas.

Commissioner Chip Westfall noted he also spoke with new Kansas Secretary of Commerce Antonio J. Soave during his recent visit to Newton, with Soave acknowledging that the regional split is a problem — currently, Kansas WorkforceONE serves 62 counties in western Kansas (all the way to the Colorado border), while Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas serves six.

Swartzendruber was looking for direction from the commissioners for action regarding the agreement and while there was a sentiment to continue looking into options to contract with Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, they also recognized the commitment of Kansas WorkforceONE.

"The way they're treating us, I think we oughta stay with this," said commission chair Ron Krehbiel.

Committing even more, Scheibler noted Kansas WorkforceONE has expanded availability in Harvey County to five days a week in recent months, though commissioners questioned that ease of access given communication issues with the Newton office and the fact that Tucky Allen is no longer assigned to the organization, along with the fact that training centers in Wichita are closer than those in other Kansas WorkforceONE communities like McPherson and Pratt.

As the workforce program is federally funded at the state level, there are no costs to Harvey County for these services, but it is not something the county wants to lose given the numerous benefits. In working out an agreement, questions were also raised about a potential partnership between the two closest workforce areas to offer services in Harvey County. Swartzendruber admitted that would likely be a broader conversation.

"That could be another route we could go, but I think that would involve getting I and IV in the room with the city and other partners, seeing what's possible," Swartzendruber said.

For the time being, the commission recommended drafting another one-year agreement to continue services with Kansas WorkforceONE.

In other business, the county commission:

Was notified that the Council of Governments meeting for this week has been rescheduled to June 10.
Heard a legislative update on amendments addressing the tax lid at the state level, with Swartzendruber noting new legislation has been drafted to allow for additional exemptions as well as a bill that would change the election on tax increases to a protest petition, with a timetable for hearings still unclear.
Learned of a budgetary request from the indigent defense panel, regarding an increase in its contract, that will be coming before the commission at the May 30 meeting. Commissioner Westfall requested statistics on usage of the panel from county counselor Greg Nye prior to that meeting.
Received an update on Sedgwick resident Fred Bright's land erosion issues. Road and Bridge superintendent Jim Meier contacted local Natural Resources Conservation Service agents on the issue, who noted Bright would not have to start from square one on his application for state aid. There was not much advice they had beyond that, but Swartzendruber said he is trying to contact the state NRCS to find out the next step, though Bright's specific requests also need to be made to help the process in determining the required funding match from each party.
Approved the appointment of Wayne Valentine to the Harvey County Council on Aging, waiving the second reading. Valentine's first term will be served from May 1, 2017 to May 1, 2020.
Made a proclamation recognizing May 14 through 20 as National Police Week, also calling upon citizens to observe Peace Officer's Memorial Day on May 18, with a ceremony outside the Law Enforcement Center at 11:30 a.m. that day.
Heard from Planning and Zoning Director Gina Bell that Sand Creek Watershed District and Troy Holdeman have come to an agreement to allow for a building, which will be nowhere near the Sand Creek Dam, on Holdeman's property. The department also received an application for a subdivision west of Hesston, near the intersection of Dutch Avenue and Mission Road, this past week (to break up a large tract of land and more easily facilitate sale).
Learned from Meier that design work is done on five culvert projects laid out by his department and it is currently waiting on permits for that work.
Was notified by assistant county administrator Dan Bronson that packets have been submitted to insurance companies to get price quotes regarding the potential archery range project so a final presentation can be made be Parks Director Kass Miller at a later date.
Made note that the filing deadline for city/school general elections is June 1.