Finney County Commission approves regional hazard mitigation plan, state ROZ program

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram

Planning for possible natural disasters.

A resolution adopting the Kansas Homeland Security Region D Hazard Mitigation Plan was approved at Monday's Finney County Commission meeting. 

Stephen Green, Finney County Emergency Management director, said the resolution gives the county an avenue for cost recovery if it's ever confronted with a catastrophic event. 

"It's more based on a risk assessment and hazard analysis for potential vulnerabilities, droughts, floods, things of that nature, earthquakes, then it kind of associates a cost-recovery perspective to those types of events," he said. "This provides us an avenue to reach out to FEMA to retrieve our cost if we are subjected to something of that nature."

Green said the resolution doesn't necessarily tell how to fix a problem, but it looks at the statistical vulnerability if something were to happen and the costs associated with it.

"Some of those numbers in there as it pertains to our utilities, we had a little push back on that and it was clarified through the state that no one's held accountable for those estimates, they're just kind of a baseline to work off of, again, if we're confronted with something of that nature," he said. 

This plan was last updated in 2015, Green said the resolution complies with federal requirements on a five-year maintenance/update schedule. The update got pushed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In other business the Rural Opportunity Zone Eligibility program was approved by the Commission. The program allows employers to offer incentives to potential employees to relocate to Kansas. The person can be from Kansas, but has to have been living outside of the state for at least five years.

Some incentives include, 100% state income credit for up to five years and student loan repayment assistance of up to $15,000. 

Lona DuVall, president/CEO of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation, said 50% of the repayments comes directly from the state of Kansas from the Economic Development Incentive Fund program, which is funded by Kansas Lottery revenues. 

"There are different types of sponsorships available, but the county has to authorize it or none of those other sponsorships matter, none of the other sponsorships can take place if the county doesn't opt to participate," she said. "The county does not have to opt to fund any of the student loan debt, but they do have to authorize the use of the program within the county."  

DuVall said the program has been in place in Kansas for several years and was designed to support communities who are experiencing depopulation, Finney County isn't necessarily included in this as the population continues to grow, however population is now used to determine the threshold. Once the population reaches 40,000 the county is no longer eligible.

"If it's one year that we get some significant benefit from, it's probably worth it. I would tell you from an employer standpoint that certainly we have some larger employers who are struggling in that right now with getting help, that this tool could be very helpful if they were able to jump on it right away and utilize it," she said. 

The program can be very beneficial to rural communities around Finney County, DuVall said. 

"We've been very supportive of this program from the Finney County Economic Development standpoint," she said. "We've been supportive of this program because we feel like it does help to grow a lot of the rural communities around us and those are absolutely a part of our trade area and a part of our success in Finney County. So we've been very supportive of it." 

Also at the meeting, the Commission took six 2022 budget requests under advisement including requests from Compass Behavioral Health, Spirit of the Plains CASA, City on a Hill, Finney County Commission on Aging, Finney County Historical Museum and Finney County Public Library.