Flat economic development funds seen

By The Mercury

The county’s contribution to the Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC) will remain the same for 2014, despite a request for an increase of almost $23,000.

Bob Cole, PCEDC director, asked Pott County Commissioners Monday for an increase in their annual contribution from $180,000 to $202,863. The increase would cover the cost of health and life insurance and retirement benefits for employees ($7,863) and funds for marketing ($15,000), Cole said.

Cole also announced his retirement as PCEDC director in May of 2014.

Cole and Julie Roller, development associate, made a presentation on the PCEDC’s recent successes in business development, retention and expansion.

“I think we’ve been throwing off and creating quite a bit of value (for the county),” Cole said, noting the expansion of Caterpillar Work Tools at Wamego, the start-up of three bioscience businesses, and business additions to the county’s three industrial parks.

All three commissioners said they intended to leave the county’s contribution at $180,000 for fiscal year 2014, and expressed a concern for lack of communication from the PCEDC.

“We’re a principal revenue stream for this organization and I think we need to be in the loop,” said Commissioner Pat Weixelman. “I’m all for helping you guys and that will not change as long as I’m up here. I just think we need to be kept in the loop a little better.”

Commissioner Stan Hartwich added, “Sure, we could raise taxes and spend more money on economic development and other things, but that’s part of the reason people come here…cheap taxes.”

Also attending the meeting were members of the PCEDC Board and representatives of Regional Development Associates, which has been helping the organization raise private capital.

In other business Monday:

• Commissioners read into the minutes portions of a letter from Dean Altenhofen regarding the start of construction of the Wilson Creek Bridge on Westmoreland Rd., northwest of Westmoreland.

Altenhofen said construction was to start in May, but has still not begun, although the road was closed June 17 and the old bridge removed.

He also estimated that the cost of extra travel due to detours would amount to $490,000 for area residents––much higher than the estimated cost of $150,000 to install a “shoe-fly” around the project.

Commissioners decided against the “shoe-fly” and instead invested in upgrades to Bigelow Rd., which runs west out of Westmoreland.

Leu Lowrey, public works director, told commissioners that King Construction, the contractor for the bridge replacement, is expected to be on-site this week. A “notice to proceed” was issued June 18, putting the 100-day completion date at October 10, Lowrey said.

• Robert Bellinger, who ranches in Blue Township, complained that the county road maintainer has been damaging on his property.

In one instance, he said, a slope was cut down, allowing a hard rain to wash road gravel into a hay meadow. In another, an entrance was dug out, preventing vehicle entrance into a pasture and precluding him from spraying for noxious weeds for the past two years.

“I’ve never had such a problem with land holdings than in this county,” he told commissioners, all three of whom told Bellinger they would inspect the sites personally at their first opportunity.

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