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  • Charlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission approves student loan relief for county employee

MOUND CITY – Linn County Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower told the Linn County Commission on Monday, Sept. 12, that a county employee had asked about the Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) program.

Hightower explained that the ROZ program, which the county had joined, had an option for employers to help employees with paying back student loans. To qualify and receive help from the state and their employer, an employee must be fairly new to the state, be a Kansas resident, hold a degree, have outstanding student loans, a proof of residence, and a sponsoring company to assist them.

A person who qualifies for this program could have $15,000 worth of student loans paid for them, half from the state and half from the entity that is sponsoring them. The applicant would pay their student loan payments, and then at the end of the year turn in the amount they paid to be reimbursed. The state would pay up to $3,000 a year in reimbursement for five years.

The county would pay $1,500 per year to the state, which would be paid back to the student.

The commissioners agreed to opt in with $1,500 for the next five years. The employee is Stephen Sage in the county clerk’s office.

Commissioner Rick James said that this was a great program and needed to be utilized.

The county has been signed up with this program since 2014, said Hightower.

“I think it is a super plan,” said James. “I think it is a good opportunity for someone who leaves and comes back or is out of the area and comes to our area to be employed.”

If the county seeks an engineer or whatever later on, this may be a reason they sign on with us, said James.

Hightower said that one of the school district’s is sponsoring some employees.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Appointed Commission Chair Jim Johnson as the delegate, County Clerk David Lamb as the first alternate and Commissioner Danny McCullough as the second alternate to the Kansas Association of Counties (KAC) business meeting on Oct. 18.

• Appointed Johnson as the voting delegate and David Lamb as the alternate for the county’s insurance company Annual KCAMP and KWORCC, the county’s worker’s compensation company, meetings in October.

• Learned from Hightower that SEK, Inc. has recently become more active with a new director and requested that Hightower be on the SEK Housing Coalition board. The commissioners appointed Hightower as the board member to the housing coalition.

•Later in the meeting, at Hightower’s request, the commission appointed Matt Cunningham as a board member with SEK, Inc. and Hightower as the alternate board member.

• Received submitted bids from Zoning Administrator Darin Wilson for redoing the zoning regulations. The bids were from the Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS) for $21,000 plus expenses, and Kaup Law Office for $34,000 including expenses. The bids will be reviewed by Wilson, the commission and the planning commission and will be discussed again in two weeks.

• Learned that the county had received three invoices for fiber cables that were cut in the right of way from CenturyLink. Public Works Director Shaun West told the commission that he had looked into the bills and believed that only one was the county’s responsibility when they did not do a locate far enough down. The bill is for $2,032. The location of this damage was 400 West 2100 Road in Parker.

• Approved a resolution for traffic control signs, a stop sign for the westbound traffic at 1000 and Read roads and a yield sign for westbound traffic at 950 and Osborn roads.

• Approved $18,500 for replacing the motor on the road and bridge department mechanic’s truck from Olathe Ford. West explained that he had first looked at just replacing the top of the motor. He said that Oakes Ford in Pleasanton would charge $8,300 for a turbo and new injectors for the truck. But he said that they recommended that was not a good option because the motor has 180,000 miles on it, and those motors are known for going bad when they reach that mileage. West said they went back out for bids for a whole new motor. Bids were received from Oakes Ford for $19,907, from Midway Ford for $21,295, A1 Auto $19,500, and Olathe Ford for $18,000. The bid from Olathe had a two year warranty and was in stock. West said that the availability with other companies was also a problem.

• Approved reduced dumping fees for a property at 109 North Second in La Cygne owned by Jacquelin Pribble.

• Approved pay request from River City presented by County Counselor Gary Thompson for $878,210.98.

• Discussed a change order from River City for the amount of $16,166. McCullough will go over items on change order with Sheriff Kevin Friend and Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin and bring back more information next week.

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