County hears of state?s new ?rural opportunity? program

If you know college students who financed their education through the student loan program, you may be able to invite them to live and work in Marion County to get the loans paid off under a new state program.

The program was presented to the Marion County Commis?sion Monday.

Renee Lippincott, Central Kansas Rural Opportunity representative for the Kansas Department of Commerce, said students may receive $15,000 in state funds over five years, plus whatever the county chooses to contribute, for living and working here.

Cities and other entities can also contribute to the program, but she said the state wants the county involved no matter how local entities choose to put it together so the state has a representative office through which to work.

Lippincott said the county has time to consult with entities around the county, but the sooner it submits information, the more assured it is of funding.

She said the county would need to establish guidelines to assure that graduates actually live in and take part in the county rather than taking the money and leaving.

Commissioner Dan Holub was assured by Lippincott that the program could include as many as five graduates.

Commission Chairman Roger Fleming said, ?I know (the program) is a shot in the dark, but you have to shoot before you hit anything.?

Marion City Administrator Doug Kjellin said cities and the county could commit to doing the state program to gain college graduates even if the funding isn?t needed until next year.

After consultations with Bond Consultant David Arteberry of George K. Baum & Co. in Kansas City, the commissioners approved authorizing a $1 million note, offered first to local banks, to pay expenses for building a new jail before bonds are issued early next year.

Arteberry said his company?s analysis shows that sales-tax receipts toward the jail should cover costs by a ratio of 1.9 to 1, enabling the county to pay off its jail bond in only 10 years or so.

Senior center members at Ramona have decided to close their operation, according to Department of Aging coordinator Gayla Ratzlaff. She told the commissioners that the four remaining charter members of the center can?t afford roof repairs, so they are donating their building to the city of Ramona.

Ratzlaff told the commissioners that in three months of monitoring, her agency isn?t getting customers in after 4:30 p.m. As a result, she received approval to stay open only until after that time, depending on needs and appointments.

Road and Bridge Director Jim Herzet received permission from the commissioners to take about $394,000 from capital outlay funds to hard surface 12 miles of Nighthawk Road.

Herzet said his department has already spent $195,000 for patching materials on the road.

The commissioners voted to declare a state of local disaster for Marion County in the aftermath of Friday?s storm damage, centering on Marion and points predominantly east. The declaration opens the possibility for Federal Emergency Manage?ment Agency assistance through the state for cleaning up tree debris and damages.

Marion Fire Chief Mike Regnier and County Emergency Management Director Steve Smith told commissioners they probably will need to spend $60,000 to upgrade four primary rescue trucks with another four to six secondary trucks awaiting upgrades.

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