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County commission discusses SPARK funds

Mark Schnabel
mschnabel@thekansan.com

The Harvey County Board of Commissioners discussed “Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK),” Tuesday at its regular meeting.

SPARK is a program to help the state recover from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The program was part of the federal CARES Act.

There was $1.25 billion allocated to Kansas from federal sources. Of that, $116.1 million was allocated directly for Johnson County and another $99.6 million to Sedgwick County.

Harvey County will be allocated $194.26 per resident (roughly $6.688 million total) with an additional $300,000 based on the county’s unemployment rate.

Half of the amount will be a direct payment to the county. The other half will be in the form of reimbursements.

The county will participate in Zoom meetings about the program.

The funds can be used “to cover costs that:

“1. are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);

“2. were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and

“3. were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.”

The funds can be shared with cities, school districts and local businesses.

The commission must pass a resolution by July 10 and send that resolution to the state to receive the funds. That resolution must contain a plan on how the county intends to utilize money. The deadline to spend the money is Dec. 30.

Commissioner Chip Westfall, who serves as the president of the Kansas Association of Counties, said that group still has questions about the program, especially taxing districts that cross county lines, such as school districts. He said it could also lead to a federal audit, which could cost Harvey County between $12,000 and $15,000.

“In Harvey County, we have 12 school districts that have taxing authority in the county,” Westfall said. “I’ll use Halstead as an example. What if Halstead asked for $300 per student for computers. Do we obligate the 25 percent of the student body that lives in Sedgwick County or do we get the Sedgwick County Commission to match that? That occurs in some federal grants.”

He said that also can apply to some hospital districts and fire districts.

Westfall said some of the deadlines have not been set.

“The turnaround for small counties without the administration staff, and not hiring the help to help them, there’s no way they can pull this off. It’s going to be tough.”

The commission scheduled a meeting for 2:45 p.m. Friday to continue discussion on the matter.

• The commission reviewed the Camp Hawk Cabin Rental Fee Agreement for the two cabins recently built at the county park.

The cabins will rent for $85 a night or $510 a week from April to November. October through March rates will be $65 a night and $425 a week. During summer holidays, the cabins will rent for $125 a night with a three-night minimum.

There are two cabins available for rental. The anticipated opening date would be sometime in August.

• Health Director Lynnette Redington gave an update about the COVID-19 outbreak in Harvey County. She later gave a press briefing.

“We should remain in Phase Out,” she said. “But we should remind our residents to keep them washing hands, wearing a mask when you are out and keep social distancing.”

• The commission meetings for July 21, 28 and Aug. 4 will be disrupted because the community room in the courthouse basement will be used as an advanced voting site.

The commission will explore alternatives and make a decision at its next meeting.

• Emergency management director Gary Denny reports there were two commercial display fireworks permits issued for the Fourth of July Holiday. He said fireworks sales begin Saturday at the earliest and ends July 5, all dependent on the municipality involved.

• The commission approved issuing warrant checks of $93,482.32 for county business for the week.

• The county approved the sale of a 1993 Ford E350 ambulance by the Purple Wave On-Line Auction. The ambulance was donated to the county by the city of Hesston in 2007 and retired last year.

• The county approved an extension with Kansas Workforce Local Area 1, which “provides funding for training of workers to compete for employment as well as to support ‘one-stop’ employment centers throughout the country.”

The commission met in executive session for “Discussion of Matters Deemed Privileged in the Attorney-Client Relationship.”