GREG LOWER

ERIE – Neosho County 911 officials will liaison with their counterparts in Chanute next week after the mayor invited all to a broader work group.

Neosho County Commissioners discussed the invitation from Chanute Mayor Jacob LaRue and voted 2-1 to have the county’s 911 director, the sheriff and possibly the county counselor meet with the city’s dispatch director, police chief and the city attorney.

In an email Sunday, LaRue proposed that the meeting also include one commissioner from each governing body, Interim City Manager Todd Newman and Chanute Fire Chief Kevin Jones. He also requested a week’s notice before any meeting, and county commissioners left Monday morning’s special meeting without setting a firm date. Monday is Memorial Day and the Chanute City Commission meets Tuesday.

Gail Klaassen, 3rd District Commissioner and Chair, voted against the measure and moved for the county to accept LaRue’s invitation including the parties he suggested, but that motion died for lack of a second.

County 911 Director Lori Nally said she has not received response from the city after several attempts to contact officials and said that the city plans to start its own dispatching within the next 40 days. She has tentatively put together an interlocal agreement, which commissioners will present at the planned meeting.

Commissioner David Orr said Chanute is invested in its dispatch center and is unlikely to change its position. He said there is nothing more to discuss.

“Nothing’s going to be achieved with all these parties involved,” he said, noting that he wanted to see an open meeting with all members of both commissions available.

“They chose to not meet with us,” he said.

Sheriff Jim Keath said the mayor’s email is an invitation to a small work session.

Klaassen said she appreciated the mayor reaching out to the county and that she thought a joint meeting could let the county present its case.

“At least we can make our point,” she said.

She said her district has the largest Chanute population and there are a lot of issues between the city and county to discuss besides 911.

Nally said the two entities need to work  out  issues  including warrants  and National Crime Information Computer entries before the new dispatching begins. She said they mainly need to work out how the Chanute Fire Department will respond to calls outside of the city limits, and how Emergency Medical Service calls will be handled. She said she assumes the county will keep EMS dispatching since it is a county entity.

The county owns Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center and Chanute’s city dispatch will not need to handle it, Orr said. He also questioned how calls to and from Neosho County Community College will be handled. Orr compared the issue to Chanute’s zoning where property that fronts a street is within the city limits while an adjacent lot is not, depending on whether the owners want annexation.

“I’ve never seen a zoning deal so messed up in my life,” Orr said.

Keath said the city police respond to the NCCC campus. The sheriff’s office makes arrests in the judicial center in Chanute when court is in session, although police can hold a suspect until deputies arrive, he said.

The city owns the judicial center building, which is a former library.

The commission met in executive session with County Counselor Seth Jones for 45 minutes to discuss legal matters before the vote.

Newman said Chanute is on track to take over dispatching and 911 operations inside the city limits on July 1.

 

CDBG application

The commissioners also met with Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission Director Matt Godinez, who is also the director of Chanute Regional Development Authority, to discuss the application process for a Community Development Block Grant program to provide relief from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Both the City of Chanute and Neosho County are applying for up to $300,000 in funds to assist businesses through grants. Both will hold hearings on their applications Thursday. The county is applying for an additional $100,000 to assist with providing food to residents.

Godinez said businesses can apply for grants, but they won’t be effective until after the hearings. He said four cities have tried to apply prematurely, but were told the applications were not valid without a hearing.

If the commissions pass resolutions after Thursday’s hearings, they will be among the first communities to apply.

“There is a ton of hearings on Friday,” Godinez said. “(We’re) hoping to hit ‘send’ as soon as we have our hearing.”

As the grant application writer, SEKRPC will receive fees of up to $15,000 each or 10 percent of the grant, whichever is smaller, from the city, the county or both. The fees will come from the grant money awarded.  If the application is turned down, neither the city nor the county will owe fees to SEKRPC, under the terms of their contracts as members and the grant requirements.

The additional $100,000 request would be used to assist meal programs. Based on low or moderate income information from the 2010 census, only the Thayer program qualifies. Godinez said the funding can be used for food, rent or other needs, but the situation of volunteers or employees are not a stipulation like it was with the county’s recent microloan distribution.

Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to convert the microloans to grants.

The microloans were given to businesses from a dormant CDBG revolving loan fund and the state required that money be spent in response to the COVID outbreak.

“That money will never be coming back,” Orr said.

He said they started as microloans because the application process was faster.

Commissioner Paul Westhoff said the county was burned in the past on the revolving fund loans. One pre-COVID loan is still out and the borrower is making payments, and three have defaulted.

“For our future, we need these funds,” said Klaassen, who voted against the grant conversion.

Commissioners voted May 7 to divide $92,000 among nine businesses. Godinez said he thinks the funds will be taken away if they are not used, and suggested reopening the application process as a grant program.

“We’re changing the whole ball game after we’ve already awarded the money,” Klaassen said.

 

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