Commission to look at industrial park utilities for 2024 budget
By Charlene Sims, Journal staff
MOUND CITY – What was meant to be a preliminary budget request by the Linn County Economic Development Department on Monday, June 19, quickly turned into a discussion on developing the Pleasanton Industrial Park.
Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower presented commissioners the budget for the department for 2024. It was for about $109,200, a $2,000 increase from the 2023 budget.
She told the commissioners that the $1 million dollar cost that was written into a grant application that the county was not awarded would have built out the infrastructure to the industrial park and would have made it shovel-ready.
Hightower said that she would like to put some money back to work on the industrial site or if you would like to just work on it next year. She said that if they wanted to budget some money for that purpose, the amount in her budget could be increased. At present, the economic development equipment reserve has $55,000 in it.
Jessica Hightower said the county needs to get infrastructure out to the industrial park, even if it’s just engineering plans on how to get it there.
Commissioner Jason Hightower asked what the county needs to do to bring businesses into the county.
Jessica Hightower said that the county would need to have somewhere for them to go, be able to show them that the county has an adequate workforce, and in order to have an adequate workforce we have to have adequate housing.
“It’s really kind of a circle, and you just have to jump in somewhere and decide where you are going to start,” said Jessica Hightower.
County Counselor Gary Thompson asked what the cost would be for an engineering design.
Jessica Hightower said that she could each out to the county engineer, Pfefferkorn, to get an estimate. She said that Pfefferkorn actually helped her develop the $1 million dollar figure for the grant but did not separate the cost of the items.
She told the commissioners that companies that are in the market to add on to their business reach out to the state Department of Commerce. They don’t just look at Kansas. They have site selectors that look for potential sites for their companies to build on.
Those site selectors reach out to the state with their requirements and the state sends them out to local entities. They are looking for sites that are ready for them to come in and build, she added.
The utilities need to be on the site. She said that the park did not need to be broken up into plats but utilities needed to be there. She said that site selectors looked at reasons to knock sites off the list. She said that the county has not done enough work out there. An environmental study has not been done.
Jessica Hightower told the commissioners that there are grant programs with the state that will help the county fund that.
“I would like to make it so it is part of the certified sites program in the state which is infrastructure, environmental studies, basically making it shovel-ready for the business to come in,” said Hightower. “We can do it in chunks if we want to spread it out over three or four years, we don’t have to do it all at once.”
She said that there is a grant from the Economic Development Alliance, a nationwide entity that the county is part of through SEKRPC.
“There is funding available that we are looking for but we are going to have to put some skin in the game as well,” she said.
McCullough went back to the budget said that he would like to see what the money is doing under each item on the budget.
Jessica explained the budget more fully. She told the commissioners that the salary is not changing; the $13,200 under contractual is for SEKRPC membership ($4,000), $1,500 for the rural opportunity zone (ROZ), $5,000 for utilities and licenses, Blue Dot an online portal to help manage business contacts; incentive is $14,000, $12,000 to the summer youth employment grant, $1,000 to the community development grant, $1,000 to the childcare grant; commodities are food, mileage, office supplies, ads for $5,000; and capital outlay for industrial park improvements for $10,000; miscellaneous for $3,000.
The commissioners decided to wait until Jessica Hightower gets an estimate from Pfefferkorn, for the cost of preparing an engineering report on infrastructure. They indicated they may add this amount to the economic development budget.