County moving forward with SPARK funds

Chad Frey
The Kansan

SPARK (Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas) funding — both already spent and yet to spend — was a topic front and center of the county commission this week.

The county received a total of more than $7.5 million to distribute to entities in Harvey County to reimburse expenses incurred as the result of COVID-19 efforts.

The state SPARK Taskforce is charged with distributing over a billion dollars in federal funds Kansas received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Phase I reporting, which funded requests from public school districts and municipal governments, is due to the state this week.

The county expended more than $775,000 of the SPARK funds between Aug. 1 and Sept. 25. About $5.5 million, or 79%, remains in the fund for COVID-19 related expenditures under Phase I.

Phase II, which launched Oct. 1 for private entities, is currently in the grant application stage.

As of Oct. 6 there were six applications filed. The CARES Committee will be reviewing applications with the hope of approvals by the county commission in late October.

“The way it looks right now ... the team will review the applications after Oct. 21. It takes some time to process the applications,” said Anthony Swartzendruber, county administrator. "We hope to come to you the following week for recommendations for rewarding. After that is getting checks out. It is the county clerk’s office that will issue those.”

The concern in that timeline is that checks will be created at the same time the clerk’s office will be preparing for the general election set for Nov. 3. Mail ballots will be sent starting Oct. 14.

All funds must be expended by Dec. 31.

According to the Health Department, as of Oct. 6 5,429 individuals have been tested in Harvey County with a total of 7,732 tests given. The two-week positive rate was 2.8%. The county announced 15 new cases Oct. 5. There are currently 21 active cases in the county.

In other business, the commission:

• Refinanced two bond issues totaling $2.4 million. UMB Bank submitted a bid of .82% interest. The previous interest rates were 4.20% on the first and smaller of the bonds and 3.77% on the second, larger bond. The savings for the bond issue are projected at more than $384,000.

• Was told that the Harvey County Health Department was named Healthcare Heroes by the Wichita Business Journal.

• Received an update on sales tax collections. Collections for the month were down 7% from 2019. However, the collections are stable when compared to 2018. For the year, sales tax collections are up.

• Received a bond rating of AA with a “stable” outlook from S&P.

• Learned that the solid waste department received more than $45,000 in grant funds for a composting tractor.

• Learned that the Newton Police Department may be able to move back into the Law Enforcement Center next week.

• Learned that the heath department has received a $25,000 grant for drug use prevention efforts.

• Learned that meetings for the creation of new flood plain maps will begin next week.

• Approved the purchase of about $45,000 of ballot tabulation and auditing equipment using grant funds.

• Learned that the planning and zoning commission will meet to discuss a conditional use permit for a horse track near Halstead.