County receives grants and helps Peabody meet one of theirs



Grants were the main topic of conversation in Monday’s Marion County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Marion County Health Department Director Krista Schneider told the board that the health department has been awarded a $76,507.92 Work Force Development Grant.

Schneider explained that the grant is a federal grant that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment applied for, but 40% of it has to go to local health departments. Local health departments applied for it and those who are awarded with it are to use it for workforce retention.

“It’s used for education, so it can be used for our conferences for registration monies to send people to classes,” said Schneider.

She said that in Kansas, 50% of the workforce has been leaving their jobs.

“And a lot of them were leaving prior to COVID and nationally they were having the same trend. And so that’s where they came up with this for retention,” said Schneider. “So our plan is to use it to retain employees. Our plan is to use it to educate employees—like the Governor’s public health conference that’s coming up in March. We can use that for registration costs to send people. A lot of times at a lot of our conferences, sometimes there’s only money for me to attend. But now we can educate staff as well.”

The board also heard from Peabody Community Foundation Director Becky Nickel.

“I work as the director of the Peabody Community Foundation which has been around since 2000. I’m here to ask for support from you all for our work in Peabody, specifically around our efforts to improve and increase the housing stock,” said Nickel.

She explained that the housing committee’s been working in Peabody for two years to establish an expendable community improvement fund.

“We’re seeking to grow that fund. Currently, we have an opportunity with Patterson Family Foundation for an up to $70,000 match for money that is handed off to our foundation as long as we can raise the money,” said Nickel.

Nickel explained that Peabody was opened up to state funding for housing and they have established a land bank.

“We have a plan to move a donated home to Peabody. It’s in great shape. We anticipate we’ll be able to move it, add a foundation basement and then sell it. And those funds will allow the land bank to take more initiative,” said Nickel. “We’ll become a rotating pool of money, like a lot of communities in the county. The lack of housing in Peabody has been an issue for years and it impacts the health and sustainability of our community, especially that of our school district.”

Nickel shared that they were able to meet the $70,000, but then the committee moved some of the money around to make sure it got distributed a little bit more equitably across the community.

“So while we’ve met the match total, there’s still room to support the community improvement fund. And I’m here today because we are $10,437 short of optimizing that Patterson match for community improvement in Peabody,” said Nickel.

She said that she asked the wind farm in Peabody to contribute money to the fund, and they told her to ask the county since they had been given $400,000 from the wind farm.

Several commissioners expressed concern about giving one community wind farm money and causing all of the communities to want it, but Commissioner Jonah Gehring encouraged the board to focus on the situation in front of them without trying to predict future requests.

“It doesn’t hurt to help one out which helps us all out,” said Gehring.

The board approved awarding the Peabody Community Foundation $10,300 for their Community Improvement Fund utilizing wind farm funds given to the county.

In other business, the board:

* met in executive session to discuss election security. No action was taken during the session. After the session, County Clerk Tina Spencer explained that the county was awarded a grant to pay for 90% of the election security project. The project is estimated to cost around $40,000.

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