Updated: Apr 1
MOUND CITY – On Monday, Feb. 28, two of the Linn County Commissioners committed part of the $1.9 million dollars in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as a match for a Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) grant to make the Pleasanton Industrial Park a certified industrial park. Commissioner Danny McCullough was not at the meeting.
Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower told the commissioners that the funds the county is requesting would be used to upgrade 157 acres of the industrial park south of Pleasanton to get it listed as a certified site with the Kansas Department of Commerce. That plot is that the larger parcel at the industrial park.
If awarded the BASE grant would be used to get that area “shovel ready,” which would include running the utilities to it and completing the necessary environmental studies, said Hightower. She added that with those requirements in place, that tract is much more attractive to potential businesses that might want to build in the area.
“In speaking with our local utilities and the engineer on call, we have estimated the project at $1.4 million total,” said Hightower.
Hightower said that she needed the commitment of the commission to spend $350,000 for the 25 percent match for the $1,050,000 grant and $140,000 for the 10 percent contingency reserve.
Hightower told the commissioners that according to Taylor Hogue, Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission (SEKRPC) community liaison, the county could wait to allocate those funds when the grant is received. The commissioners approved the request for a total of $490,000.
She told the commissioners that the BASE grant was a highly competitive one. The state is funding $100 million dollars for development.
In a later interview, Hightower said that there are specific requirements for the county to meet before becoming certified.
The $1.4 million will be used for doing an environmental assessment report. If a recognized environmental condition is present, other investigations or work to clean up that condition must be taken.
The money will also be used for locating and doing the engineering to bring utilities to the site. This includes electric, water, phone, fiber-optic cable, natural gas and some sort of sewage system.
According to the Commerce Department site, most of the other requirements are providing a variety of information.
Hightower explained that by making the park certified, the property could be advertised as ready for a business and the Kansas Department of Commerce would help with promoting the park.
The Kansas Department of Commerce website says that certified parks receive many benefits, including marketing and investment attraction support. Kansas certified sites will be included in a variety of marketing campaigns and strategies that attract investors, and may include a profile on the Kansas Department of Commerce website and visibility on their social media channels.
Information on the website says that a certified site is attractive to investors and site selectors because it provides important background information on the site, encourages site selection decisions, and can help greenfield or expansion projects get started.
The commissioners have also committed $95,000 to the Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission (SEKRPC) for administration of the $1.9 million ARPA grant.
In addition, the commissioners have talked about buying a walking floor trailer for the transfer station but have not made a decision on that.
According to Commission Chair Jim Johnson the cost of the walking floor trailer could be between $300,000 and $400,000, but the commission is still looking into that.
They also have Hightower and Hogue working on developing a request for proposal for installation of broadband Internet service on the west side of the county. In previous meetings, People’s Telecommunications and KwiKom have expressed interest in bidding on this.
At last week’s meeting, Commission Chair Jim Johnson suggested that maybe some of the money could be used for assisting people with hooking up with Starlink satellite service if they were unable to get the broadband services. The price of getting setup with Starlink is approximately $700, including the first month’s usage fee of $100.
While ARPA funds were originally tagged for directly addressing issues caused by the COVID pandemic, a rule change last month allowed recipients, including cities and the county, to write off much of the grant as lost revenue because of the pandemic. That freed local governments to use the money more ways.