The Pottawatomie County Commission adopted a resolution Monday seeking a $300,000 grant to aid county businesses impacted by the coronavirus.
If approved, the federal Community Development Block Grant, issued through the Kansas Department of Commerce, would provide a maximum of $50,000 to eligible county businesses for working capital or inventory replenishment following the COVID-19 shutdown.
The potential $300,000 grant is part of $9 million being made available to the state to assist Kansas businesses, according to Debby Werth, who works for the Pre-Awards Office at Kansas State University and sits on the St. George City Council.
Werth was recruited by the Pott County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC) to write the grant and to administer it, if approved.
Eligible businesses must have between six and 50 employees, and at least 51% of those employees must be low to moderate income, she said.
Terry Force, president of the PCEDC, thanked both Werth and commission chair Dee McKee for doing initial legwork for the grant application.
“We really appreciate the commission taking this on because it will really benefit county businesses, and that’s what economic development is all about,” Force said.
If the grant is approved, a standing committee of the PCEDC will oversee the distribution of the funds, said Jack Allston, PCEDC director.
Allston said the committee would work with the county’s four Chambers of Commerce to determine potential grant recipients, allaying commissioners’ fears that businesses with previous dealings with the PCEDC would have a leg-up for funding.
“With $300,000, we’re probably not going to make everybody happy,” Werth said.
Force agreed: “The committee has its work cut out for it,” he said. “They’re going to have to make some tough decisions.”
The grant application was submitted Monday, with funds awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to Allston.
“I think we’re going to be in good shape if we get it in on time, and we will,” Allston said.
In other business Monday:
• The commission took under advisement a request by the city of Wamego to share equally in the cost of engineering and inspection for improvements to the intersection of U.S. Highway 24 and Balderson Boulevard, estimated at $192,000.
The cost would be part of a $2 million grant the city is seeking through the Kansas Department of Transportation to add a turn lane and acceleration lane on Highway 24, certifying the intersection as part of a truck bypass around the southeast portion of the city.
Wamego City Manager Stacie Eichem said KDOT encouraged the city to seek the grant as a supplement to the Industrial Commerce Route (ICR) planned for later this year.
The ICR project, funded through a $4.35 million KDOT grant, will improve access from the Wamego Industrial Park to K-99, by making improvements to Valley Street, Balderson Boulevard South, and a portion of Military Trail Road to the east.
• Vance Brothers, Kansas City, Mo., was apparent low bidder for the county’s 2020 chip-seal project, which includes about nine miles of roadway in various portions of the county.
Vance Brother’s bid of $261,890 was higher than the engineer’s estimate of $206,250. Two other firms submitted bids for the project.
Public Works Director Peter Clark said he would review the bids and make a recommendation at the June 8 commission meeting.
• Clark reviewed an analysis conducted by KDOT of the rock quality from five area quarries.
The analysis compared soundness, absorption and wear of rock to determine which quarry would provide the best rock quality for county roads.
According to the data, the Hayden Quarry near Zeandale has the best road rock, Clark said.
• Dustin Newman, assistant public works director, reviewed repair and clean-up of multiple structures and culverts in portions of the county following a heavy rainfall last week.
• Commissioners decided to continue making weekly meetings available via ZOOM teleconference, even though meetings have been reopened following the COVID-19 shutdown.
Commissioners also indicated a willingness to ultimately move toward some form of streaming or live coverage of meetings over cable television.
“It’s another level of transparency,” said Commissioner Greg Riat. “I think at least we should continue ZOOM and work toward televised meetings.”