SCKEDD rep pitches loans for small businesses

Abdul Arif, new executive director for the South Central Kansas Economic Development District, told Marion County commissioners Monday that his initial observation is that agriculture is the strongest economic force in Marion County.

Arif said he was impressed by the expanse of cropland and livestock production he saw. But agriculture also is the base for growing small businesses using the loan program SCKEDD administers.

Teresa Huffman, county economic development director, introduced Arif to the commissioners.

Arif said he will work to use the $50,000 maximum SCKEDD loans in cooperation with local bankers who may be able to increase loaning that would otherwise be impossible without the initial $50,000.

Arif, who has helped create charitable health care in Wichita as well as became an attorney there, said he is open to learning about the needs of people in the county by listening to their desires.

?I propose to get your money?s worth for you, but I need to know from you before I can help,? he said. ?We?re not going to give ever smaller slices of the pie. We?re going to grow the size of the pie.?

Arif said he will work with programs for business creation through the depart?ments of Commerce and Agriculture.

Arif will be administering the program in 14 counties, including Marion. Each county, he said, has its own strengths and needs.

Commission Chairman Roger Fleming said Arif?s obvious enthusiasm already shows promise of a successful program because ?you aren?t doing it because you have to, but because you want to.?

After the commissioners approved a 32-square-foot sign for a home-based chiropractic practice at 1307 Chisholm, Tonya Richard, Planning and Zoning director, agreed to go to the zoning board to develop automatic approval for a sign of that size. The normal size is 4 feet by 8 feet.

Under current rules, Richardson said, only smaller yard signs are allowed without commission approval.

She also promised to help the commissioners develop further consideration on whether to allow three home owners at Marion County Lake to incorporate land zoned for undeveloped street siding into their home plats.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said that might be what the current homeowners want, but the county must consider whether it wants to set such precedent for future landowners.

Road and Bridge Director Randy Crawford and the commissioners said they may have to come up with better policy in the future for keeping non-surfaced dirt roads in use.

Crawford said there are continuing problems with large grass growth at roadsides blocking drainage and ditches filling in so that dirt surfaces are eroded. He acknowledged that the problem is increased by farmers making extra cultivation cuts into grass roadsides, which increases fill and erosion in ditches.

The commissioners approved a road and bridge transport fuel bid of $23,384.50 for 5,000 gallons of diesel and 3,000 gallons of gasoline from Cooperative Grain & Supply of Hillsboro over a competitive bid of $23,650.50 from Cardie Oil Inc. of Tampa.

County Appraiser Ray Cook said the county has been notified by the Kansas Department of Revenue that it is in compliance with its property valuations.

The commissioners met for 10 minutes of executive session for personnel with no decision.

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