Given some of the local statistics and funding it is privy to, more grant opportunities were made available to Harvey County recently, with Health Department Director Lynnette Redington bringing application requests before the county commission at Monday's meeting.

Spur of the moment as these grant opportunities are, with application deadlines looming next week, Redington noted the potential benefits could not be ignored.

The first grant is one made available to the county due to its status as part of the greater Wichita metropolitan area — the UnitedHealthcare Community Care award. A funding award will be presented to one grand prize recipient in the amount of $25,000.

Partnering with Peace Connections, the department is targeting the food needs of county kids — particularly in the summer — as a way to utilize those funds. While the communities of Halstead and Newton have an established summer meals program, both entities would like to see those opportunities expand in either Burrton, Hesston or Sedgwick.

"We can't do all three communities. We're just looking right now at different options," Redington said. "The hope is we'd find the money; I mean, it's gonna take money because we have to pay to get food made and we have to pay for food, and if we want to keep it free."

Burrton, for example, has a student body where 59 percent of kids in the district (141 of 239 students) are enrolled in free and reduced lunch, so there is a clear need. Potential plans are to partner with a local food truck — based off a similar setup in Emporia — to help offer those meals in the summer in Sedgwick or Burrton, while Hesston already has a limited (one-day) program through Whitestone Mennonite Church. Redington noted the entities are in talks with the church to potentially expand that program if grant funds are received.

On top of addressing an immediate need, Redington noted the program has the potential to make local and healthier foods available in those communities with no income requirements needing to be met. Using Burrton as an example again, she pointed to the fact that there is no grocery store in town, so providing that access is critical.

"The food for kids would be free every day, Monday through Friday," Redington said.

Additional grant funds the health department is seeking are available through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment — and potentially obtainable by the county given the fact it already receives funding through the chronic disease risk reduction grant program.

Stemming from the risk reduction program, the county has an opportunity to get an additional $10,000 for walking promotion and enhancement projects. Given the ReNewton 10-year comprehensive plan for pedestrian and biking paths, Redington said the grant seemed like a natural fit — and one in which funds could be used almost instantaneously.

Redington noted she immediately started discussing potential uses of those funds with Newton Director of Public Works Suzanne Loomis. With a project already lined out at Centennial Park, Redington said there is an idea those potential funds could be used to help continue biking and walking paths through the park (to provide easier access to restrooms and other amenities).

Both grants are something Redington sees as helping promote healthier habits around the county, something she and county commissioners were ready to pursue — with the latter unanimously approving the former's grant application requests.

"I think they're both great, as far as I'm concerned," said commissioner Ron Krehbiel.

"I just think we're really primed for some of these. We already have the chronic disease risk reduction grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment," Redington said. "If we can keep folks healthy, there's gonna be less chronic diseases. If we can give them space to walk and exercise, that's gonna go with reducing chronic disease, and so that is the section we're looking at."

In other business, the county commission:

Noted appreciation for the strong turnout among county personnel to last week's sexual harassment training webinar.
Heard an update on the county's work recovering from a cyberattack last week, with a number of public services being unaffected (and listed on the county website, County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noted the focus remains on protecting citizens' personal information and that, barring any setbacks, more services will be restored this week.
Received a letter from Newton Medical Center expressing gratitude for the outstanding service recently provided by Harvey County Transportation Coordinator Karen Kaufman for her work helping a traveler receive some needed assistance.
Was presented with an official letter from Sedgwick County terminating the interlocal agreement on the provision of Section 8 housing vouchers, with the county having shifted to a new agreement with the city of Wichita for those services.
Learned of a number of activities emergency management personnel will be involved in over the next week, including a regional mass fatality exercise in Wichita this week and presentations on active shooters and storm spotting next week.
Approved Resolution 2018-6 authorizing the county counselor to initiate and conduct a lawful county tax foreclosure action on properties that are not up to date on their property taxes.
Approved a bid from Wichita Kenworth for two stainless steel body dump trucks, with snow plows and mounts, for a total of $355,384. It was the lowest of three bids received that fully meet specifications, which is why Road and Bridge Superintendent Jim Meier recommended moving forward with it.
Approved a bid for a new van for the Sheriff's Office (a 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan SE) from Midway Motors for a total of $14,599. It was the lowest of three bids that met specifications and the bid recommended by Sheriff Chad Gay and staff.