Commission hears about new housing services for Marion County residents

The Marion County Commission heard good news from officials with the South Central Kansas Economic Development District talking about a new program that will benefit residents at the Aug. 12 meeting.
Steven Wilkinson, executive director of SCKEDD, introduced Bill Lampe, program director, who talked about a weatherization program aimed at improving homes in Marion County.
“Marion County has been underserved for so many years, we are trying to make big efforts to overproduce and extend what the minimum service requirement is in your area,” Lampe said.
In addition, he said, he wanted the commission to make sure residents know SCKEDD is in the area and providing these kinds of services.
“Right now, the Kansas Housing Resource Corp. has leveraged to get some additional funds that can be tied to this,” Lampe said. “This could allow roof repairs, some replacements, help with handicap accessibility, electrical repairs.”
Foundation problems would probably not be included because those get more extensive then what is available, he explained.
“This is a large grant, and we serve roughly 450 people in our service area annually. Typically, we spend between $6,000 to $7,000 average.” Lampe added.
Once an application is received, he said, it takes between 60 to 120 days for service, but there are ways to speed that up, he said.
“We are excited to have our primary service hub in the Wichita (metropolitan area), which is much closer than Ottawa (about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City) where services were provided earlier,” he said.
Both Lampe and Wilkinson will visit with residents about the services that can be provided in the county.
Commissioner Randy Dallke asked if the services were for landowners only?
Lampe said it was for multi-family housing, public housing authorities, low-income properties, module homes, and just about anything other than campers. If someone wants to see if they qualify, residents are asked to get in touch with the office in Bel Aire or Hutchinson.
Dallke asked: “What if some of them have a nest egg? How do you look at that if you find a home where homeowners have quite a bit of money?”
According to Lampe, it doesn’t matter what someone has in savings or what their retirement is. It is based on their annual income and other qualifications.
“Eligibility is based on household income relative to federal low-income guidelines,” he said.
“If a household contains a member who receives supplemental security income or SSI, temporary assistance for needy families or TANF benefits or utility assistance from the Low Income Energy Association Program or LIEAP, that household is automatically considered eligible for weatherization services.”
“There are tons of benefits with the weatherization program,” Lampe added.
The program provides improvements to heating and cooling efficiency and energy savings by ensuring a home holds heat and air conditions while keeping hot and cold air out.
“At no charge to the applicant, income-eligible families receive a comprehensive home energy audit which is an assessment of the entire house,” Lampe said.
The types of assistance could include weatherstripping, caulking around doors and windows, cleaning, testing, repairing or replacing appliances, heating and/or cooling systems, adding insulation to walls, ceiling and foundations, infiltration reduction and lighting and ventilation upgrades, he said.
Commission chairman Kent Becker said he is pleased that SCKEDD had brought Marion County back into service.
“I can remember a number of years ago when we used weatherization quite a lot,” Becker said, “and there is certainly a need.”
Commissioner Dianne Novak asked if they would have access to applications or cards.
“I know I will definitely be going out to a number of places this week where this service is needed,” she said.
Becker said he believes this will make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.
Lampe said: “Yes, we make houses into homes. Whether it’s making modifications for weatherization, rehabbing or performing minor repairs, we can provide solutions to homeowners, renters and property managers.”
When SCKEDD has the information, someone will let the person or manager what happens next, he said.
The Kansas Department of Commerce annually awards small cities with Kanas Community Development Block grants or CDBGs for housing rehabilitation in communities. Lampe said, the grants are administered by the city and provided to individual homeowners. Low to moderate income families can qualify for up to $25,000 in federal grant assistance for housing rehab.
For an application or other information, call the Bel Aire office, 9730 E. 50th St., 316-262-7035 or the Hutchinson office, 530 E. 30th St., 620-259-6544. Or applications can be downloaded online: sckedd.org.
In other business, the commission:
◼ discussed a conditional use permit with Sharon Omstead, director of the planning and zoning department. The commissioners approved a resolution for a CUP applied for by US Cellular with Kole Talbott, acquisition agent, on behalf of a request by Duane and Karen Unruh to establish a wireless tower on property zoned “A” agricultural district. In addition, certain restrictions and conditions were requested. Talbots said those wouldn’t be a problem for US Cellular. The tower is a free-standing 195-foot tall structure.
◼ went into executive session with Diedre Serene, director of the county health department, to discuss personnel performance.
◼ went into executive session with Travis Parmley, EMS director, to discuss personnel performance.
◼ road and bridge issues with Brice Goebel, the county engineer. In addition, the commission extended his contract for 60 days while waiting for his certification paperwork to come through.