Allen County has been awarded a transportation grant in excess of $70,000.
Jessica Thompson, director of development for Thrive Allen County, confirmed the state’s award of the 5311 grant, and said it would “allow us to move forward and establish a public transportation system in Allen County.”
The program will launch in July, and set the groundwork for a more “permanent” system moving forward.
Thompson also said that surveys had been distributed regarding potential fares, and noted that so far residents would mostly prefer either donations or a $1 fee.
(The 5311-oriented program is different from the county’s pilot transportation program, set to launch in April. It will offer free rides until at least September.)
Regarding the program centered on the 5311 grant, commissioner David Lee, who was not a member of the commission when the program was originally advanced, expressed concerns about the cost of the county’s match.
As an 80-20 grant, the state would pay more than $70,000 (max $92,500), whereas the county would pay approximately $18,500.
Lee said that individuals had been “inundating” him with calls about the program, and maintained that “if we do this thing, we need to break even at minimum.”
By contrast, Lisse Regehr, CEO Thrive Allen County, suggested that commissioners should look at the program’s more indirect benefits, financial and otherwise, rather than focus only on the bottom line.
“These are people, if we don’t get them where they’re going, they’re not spending that money grocery shopping, they’re not going to the doctor’s office,” she said.
And via existing transportation initiatives, “we are already seeing these dollars going back to the community,” she argued, even if not back to the county as such.
“We have all kinds of stories told to us,” Regher continued. “We know that there’s a need.”
No additional action was taken by the commission regarding the program at this time.
Jason Trego, Allen County emergency manager, spoke with commissioners about a new digital mapping tool for forecasting and tracking flooding.
The Silver Jacket application allows one to “see exactly which homes in which neighborhoods are going to be flooded,” he explained, providing improved response times for evacuation and other safety measures.
Trego said that most of the tool’s cost would be covered by federal dollars ($45,000 of $49,000), but he was hoping that Allen County, Iola and Humboldt would split the remaining cost of $4,000.
No action was taken at this time, but commissioner Lee called the program “pretty exciting for the county.”
Commissioner Jerry Daniels chimed in by noting that federal dollars designed for items like storm shelters could be spent on forecasting methods/alert systems as well.
Chelsie Angleton, Allen County 911 director, presented commissioners with two training events that she wants the county to host at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
One focuses on hostage negotiations for dispatchers, and is scheduled for May 25. Around 40 seats are available for those who are interested (fees apply).
The second event is a presentation by Phil Chalmers on July 28, who is marketed as a “true crime writer, homicide trainer and television personality.”
His presentation is titled “Inside the Mind of a Teenage Killer,” and nearly 700 seats are available for a $50 entrance fee. (As the presentation is graphic, attendees must be 18 or older.)
Angleton, along with sheriff Bryan Murphy, agreed that the presentation would likely sell out, and commissioners gave their approval to both events.
Carla Nemecek from K-State Southwind Extension District said that staff had completely moved into their new office at 1006 N. State St.
However, after settling in they discovered that the windows in the building were subpar, with broken seals, foggy glass and sun damage.
Nemecek therefore asked commissioners if they wouldn’t mind her seeking bids for window work, which they approved.
There may also be an issue with the roof of the building as well, but no action was taken regarding it at this time.
During his weekly report, public works director Mitch Garner said the recent rains posed no significant harm other than holding up road repairs.
Garner said that crews had been trimming trees, fixing signs and unplugging culverts as well.
Tuesday’s meeting concluded with Sheriff Murphy noting the county would likely receive significant stimulus dollars via the American Rescue Plan Act.
In reference to deciding how the money might be spent, he asked commissioners to consider how other cities and states provided bonuses for essential workers.
Commissioners seemed receptive, though took no action at this time.