FCEDC request more than quadruples

6/8/2010

By DEREK THOMPSON

By DEREK THOMPSON

dthompson@gctelegram.com

Representatives from the Finney County Economic Development Corp. presented county commissioners with a budget request of $590,000 — $465,000 higher than the group's 2010 county budget — at Monday's commission meeting.

County commissioners heard the final round of budget requests from area organizations seeking county funding for the 2011 fiscal year, and agreed to take the requests "under advisement." Final decisions will not be made until county valuation numbers are tallied later this month.

Representatives from the following organizations presented budget requests Monday: Finney County Research and Extension, the Senior Center of Finney County, Finney County District Court, 25th Judicial District Court, Finney County Conservation District, the Finney County Historical Society, Area Mental Health and the Finney County Economic Development Corp.

Most of the organizations presented requests similar to last year, with the exception of FCEDC. The economic development group submitted a request of $590,000 — a one mill increase from last year's county request of $125,000. The increase would allow the organization to set up a reserve fund to help entice new businesses into the area, officials said. Business incentive grants, recruitment fees, industrial site development, workforce training and retention, incentives to current businesses and labor force recruitment efforts would be possible through the reserve fund.

"We're not competitive. We don't have anything to offer that other sites don't," Cathy McKinley, chairwoman of the FCEDC board of directors, said Monday.

In May, representatives from FCEDC traveled to Amarillo, Texas, to meet with the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. The trip served as motivation for the local organization to take action. Eric Depperschmidt, FCEDC president, said the decision to ask for the increase was spurred by both the Amarillo trip and prior plans.

"After discussion, and after our Amarillo trip, it was determined that we actually just need to move forward, make the request (for one mill) and then see where we can go from there," Depperschmidt said.

The reaction from county commissioners was mixed. Commissioner Roman Halbur expressed his doubts about the request.

"I know you've got ambitious plans, but you're not going to get my support," Halbur said.

Commissioner Don Doll was "on the fence" about the proposal. Commissioner Larry Jones and commission chairman Cliff Mayo expressed their support of the request.

"Either we step up to the plate or we forget it," Jones said.

"It's time to take the bull by the horns and do something worthwhile," Mayo said.

FCEDC also is requesting an additional one mill from the city of Garden City, as well. In 2010, FCEDC received $89,000 from the city, and the 2011 request is for $255,000.

Other requests to the County Commission on Monday included: Finney County Research and Extension requested $230,000; the senior center requested $400,000, the same amount received in 2010; Finney County District Court officials requested $82,000, the same amount received in 2010; 25th Judicial District officials requested $67,547; Finney County Conservation District requested $39,680; Finney County Historical Society officials requested $206,400, the same amount received in 2010; Area Mental Health requested $205,000 for 2011, the same amount received since 2005.

Each request was taken "under advisement" from the commission until final county valuation numbers are tallied.

County commissioners began discussing the 2011 budget just months following approval of the 2010 budget last summer and have reiterated their concerns about the impact of the global economic downturn on oil and natural gas prices.

Oil and gas valuations make up about 30 percent of the county's total assessed valuation, the second-largest piece next to real estate in Finney County.

Since the start of the budget process, commissioners have indicated their desires to make cuts, if necessary, rather than raise mill levies. County department heads also have amended their requests for capital items for next year, and a "soft hiring freeze" remains in place across most county departments.

County valuation numbers are expected to be lower than last year, but not as drastic as previously thought, officials said. The county valuation for 2010 was $497,714,282, compared to 2009's $488,264,468.

"We'll just have to wait and see," Pete Olson, county administrator, said Monday.

In other county news:

* The Finney County Babe Ruth Association requested to give the Garden City Recreation Commission control, operation and assets of the program. The motion was approved.

* The commission approved conditions from a Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority grant, stating that the grant be used for the development, implementation, operation and improvement of juvenile community correctional services.

* The commission accepted a bid on a copier for the county attorney's office. The bid of $23,649 was submitted by Office Solutions.

* FCEDC reviewed with the commission plans to join the Cimarron Valley Port Authority. There are no membership fees to join the port authority, but there may be legal services associated with joining, estimated to be no more than $5,000, according to Depperschmidt. FCEDC would cover any associated costs of joining the group.

* The commission passed a motion to start the petition process to close the railroad crossing at Jennie Barker Road. Representatives of the Conestoga ethanol plant submitted the request in order to bring the plant into the area. If railroad crossings required by the plant are not in place, the plant may choose not to locate to southwest Kansas.

Telegram reporter Shajia Ahmad contributed to this article.

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