After years of working toward relocating into the South Central Kansas Economic Development District's region for weatherization services, the Harvey County Commission's wish was granted earlier this year.
On Tuesday, SCKEDD Weatherization Program manager Bill Lampe came before the county commission to give an overview of how those assets could be used locally.
"The weatherization program is really designed to lower utilities for low- and moderate-income families," Lampe said.
The program does that by making infrastructure improvements to those homes, which can range from replacing windows to weatherstripping to even replacing refrigerators, in some instances, with grant funding coming from the Department of Energy and other organizations at the state level.
Compared to the county's previous weatherization program through the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corporation (ECKAN), one of the main differences with SCKEDD that Lampe pointed out is that not only can the organization do individual homes, but it can also make improvements to apartments and other multi-housing complexes — something Harvey County has taken advantage of in the past.
"We have those services available for other multi-family properties," Lampe said. "We can do that."
Repairs available through the program include roofing replacements, handicap accessibility improvements and more. While the funding pool is a little more limited (about $500,000) for such services, Lampe said with SCKEDD's network of contractors it can make that money go a long way.
Securing weatherization services is as easy as individual homeowners filling out an application and, if they are determined to be eligible, having an inspector sent out for a comprehensive assessment to see how utilities can be handled more efficiently.
Currently, Lampe said, SCKEDD is working on 416 houses, with the average cost of work done on an individual house totaling $6,200 and leading to an average household cost savings of 20 to 30 percent on utilities. That work has been done since 1979 in a 40-county region that will now reach into Harvey, Butler and Marion counties as of June. With those three counties added, Lampe noted SCKEDD is focused on making its services available in all three immediately.
"A lot of the funds we have are really going to be directed towards these three counties over the next 24 months," Lampe said.
So far, Lampe noted SCKEDD has already received 25 applications, which are available at www.sckedd.org/weatherization, for weatherization services from Harvey County residents.
Commission chairman Chip Westfall noted the benefits of having more localized services (coming from Bel Aire as opposed to Ottawa) and the commission in general was open to fostering connections between SCKEDD — through contacting Lampe — and the Harvey County communities to take advantage of what it sees as a win-win situation.
"This is more efficient, more economical and a better use of dollars," Westfall said.
"This is where we provide economic services already and we're ready to hit the ground running," Lampe said
In other business, the county commission:
• Noted an upcoming groundbreaking for Park Aerospace scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 15.
• Learned that the Kansas Association of Counties has hired a new executive director, Bruce Chladny.
• Received invitations to a few upcoming events, including the annual fair luncheon on Aug. 5 and a tour of water technology farm projects in Harvey County on Aug. 9.
• Heard from Health Department director Lynnette Redington that the department has been certified for — and already performed some — HIV testing, while the department has also started scheduling flu clinics.
• Reviewed Walk and Roll Harvey County's strategic plan, as presented by Health Harvey Coalition coordinator Lorrie Kessler. The plan has to be renewed every two years, Kessler noted, and work this past year has focused on building biking/walking plans in partner communities such as Hesston, while also beginning talks with Sedgwick. Kessler noted the group gets $100,000 annually from the Pathways grant to work on bike plans. With a plan being formulated in Hesston, commissioners raised questions on whether a pathway connecting Newton and Hesston may be brought up, which County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber said would require a more in-depth conversation among the commission given the work that needs to be done to Hesston Road.
• Approved Resolution 2019-16 requesting a public hearing Aug. 13 to discuss the proposed closure of a portion of S.W. 60th Street from the intersection with S. Essex Heights Road and west 670 feet because of recent flooding.