The Garden City Commission authorized a one-time credit towards the City’s electric customers’ utility bills.


City manager Matt Allen said the idea is to provide a financial relief to residents and businesses, because many are struggling with bills because of reduced work hours or have lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


In the past, Garden City has done what it could to help its customers, Allen said. In response to the 1933 banking crisis, the governing body issued $5 utility certificates to all of its citizens to use toward their utility bills.


“Today’s probably a similar time in history,” he said. “We looked across the board ... in our departments to see if there was a way that each of our business units, that the city might be able to help ... this item is the product of the electric utilities’ examination of how they might be able to help.”


The one time credit is expected to cost between $507,000 and $746,775 for a $50 credit to the city’s 10,140 residential accounts; $145,375 for a $125 credit to the 1,163 small commercial accounts and $94,000 for a $200 credit to large commercial accounts.


Allen said the funds for the credit comes from the $750,000 that the city’s electric utility annually budgets to Jameson Energy Center’s operating reserve account.


Presently, there is $4,650,000 in the account.


Michael Muirhead, Garden City public utilities director, said the intention is to continue to place $750,000 per year in the account for the foreseeable future, probably for 10 years, so that if need be there would be funds to replace one or possibly two of the units.


Commissioner Deb Oyler said she likes the idea because a $50 credit is significant to a lot of people.


“I think this will certainly help a lot of households and a lot of families,” she said. “I think it's a great gesture and I know especially for small businesses and large businesses, I think that this is a significant gesture, but I also think from a good-will perspective from the city that this really is a great opportunity.”


In other business, the city commission approved a change in the way it issues Community Development Block Grant Economic Development revolving loan funds.


Allen said direction has been provided by the Kansas Department of Commerce, under emergency guidelines, on some relaxation in the program’s requirements to assist businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


The guidelines are:


• Local approval only, no loan committee approval is necessary.


• Applicants must meet the low to moderate income requirements for all company employees, but the owner is not counted in the calculation.


• The maximum loan amount is $35,000 per job retained.


• Can be administered locally — they do not require administrator (GPDI) services.


• Commerce is assuring 24-hour turnaround on environmental surveys.


• Working capital loans only.


• Applicants must provide a letter stating the funds will be used to retain employees and that the business is at risk to closure due to COVID-19.


• Short-term loans are for three years or less.


• Interest rate is to be set locally.


• No matching funds are required.


• No collateral is required.


• No loan review committee is required.


• No financials or tax returns are required of applicant.


• Applicants must provide proof of use of funds for working capital such as pay stubs, receipts, etc.


Melinda Hitz, Garden City finance director, said the city has approximately $504,000 available.


Lona DuVall, Finney County Economic Development Corporation president, said they are asking businesses to stay in that $35,000 request level or less so they can help as many businesses as possible.


“We feel fairly comfortable that for most businesses the $35,000 would be enough to guide them through the next several weeks while we rebound from this situation,” she said.


DuVall also added that Finney County does have funds available as well, about $370,000.


“The question came up during the (county commission) meeting as to whether or not the City of Holcomb has their own funds, they do not,” she said. “So any businesses in Holcomb that need to apply for these would apply under the Finney County funds, the City of Garden City funds can only be used for businesses within the corporate limits of the city of Garden City.”


Two CDBG loans were approved at Tuesday’s meeting.


Loans in the amount of $35,000 each were awarded to Patrick Dugan’s Coffee House and Sammy’s OC.


DuVall said presently they have 16 active applications for the loans. If the city approved all loans at $35,000, they could help about 14 businesses.


Not all of the businesses are asking for the full $35,000, DuVall said.


“Businesses are being very, very responsible in this, and again we're encouraging them to only apply for what they would need to get them through until we get past this crisis and they can get opened back up,” she said.