EMPORIA PRIMED, READY TO WELCOME NEW COMPANIESBy Christopher AdAms Special to The Gazette
The Emporia-East Central Kansas area is primed and ready as a permanent destination for companies seeking a relocation opportunity in 2023.
According to the Emporia Regional Development Association (Emporia RDA), the area is well-suited for new companies.
“I feel we’re very competitive,” said Emporia RDA president Chuck Scott. “I think with the announcement of the Simmons expansion last year, it helps prove that. I think you again also look at projects like Panasonic being announced. Eastern Kansas is certainly competitive with other locations in the nation. And then, if you’re looking more at just our region, Emporia, I think we’ve shown we can certainly compete for large projects as well.”
Scott said the region’s lower cost of living on a national scale, available workforce and shovel-ready land could be deal-makers. And despite some labor issues — that plague nearly most regions of the country — Emporia and Lyon County can compete with anybody.
“When we visit with companies look-
ing from outside our area to locate here, there’s two things they’re looking for,” he said. “One is, do you have what we call shovel-ready land? So that’s not just land, but you’ve got all your infrastructure, interior, roadwork, all of that’s ready and done. And then two, can you show to me that you can at least provide an adequate labor force?”
“We’ve got capacity. We’ve got a great transportation network between the rail and the highways. We’ve got a corporate airport not far away, which helps get people in and out for some of these companies.”
Scott said the region checks those boxes and can provide potential employees based on the graduation rates of Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College.
“Does not mean that all those graduates are looking to stay in the area,” he said. “But we’ve got an opportunity for a company. They can look at that and say, ‘If I come in and I’ve got certain wages, etc., benefits, I’ve got the opportunity or I’ve at least got potential to attract some employees.”
Other factors are also at work. Scott said access to the area’s quality infrastructure, including city services, water and sewer, is a decisive factor. The area’s transportation networks capacity,
i.e., rail, highways and airport are selling points as well.
“We’ve got capacity,” he said. “We’ve got a great transportation network between the rail and the highways. We’ve got a corporate airport not far away, which helps get people in and out for some of these companies.”
But readily available land and padready land are the key pieces. Scott said Emporia has been exceptional in facilitating this aspect. Just show up and let the process complete itself.
“We continue to work to make it as readily available and as shovel-ready or pad-ready … Everything’s sitting right at the property line, and all they got to
do is have their site plan and go through the normal permitting process,” Scott said. “But everything is ready for them to go if they decide to come locate here.”
And there is plenty of Emporia acreage that’s good to go. Three parks are already offering land.
“What we call Park Three,” Scott said. “So that’s out around the Simmons and Hills area. That’s all shovelready. So it’s ready to build today. Park Three just south of there is close. We’ve got some additional work to be done with some roads … then we’ve also got a sewer extension … and then leveling out some of the rollingness of that property.”
It appears the region’s economic development climate is trending warm and sunny, and the forecast is agreeable.
“So Park Three is close, and that’ll be the emphasis in ’23, is getting it completely shovel-ready,” Scott said. “And then we’ve got to continue to work out on Park four, which is the one out on Highway 50, to get it more ready… So they’re all in various stages, which is what you want to have. So when you get one ready to go and you start to fill it up, then you can slowly work on the other parks.”
CHUCK SCOTT, Emporia RDA president
CATH LAB ACCREDITATION SHOWS ‘HEART’ OF NEWMAN REGIONAL HEALTHBy ryAnn Brooks firstname.lastname@example.org
When Newman Regional Health opened the W.S. & E.C. Jones Cardiovascular Lab in 2013, the goal was to establish a strong team providing unparalleled care to Emporia and its surrounding communities.
And, they wanted accreditation to show it.
“We really wanted to validate that we were providing unparalleled care to our community, and we wanted to go after that certification by the American College of Cardiology,” said infection preventionist Ester Knobloch. “So, we built the team.”
A decade later, they reached that goal.
The American College of Cardiology recognized Newman Regional Health with Cardiac Cath Lab Accreditation with PCI in November, marking the end of a rigorous evaluation of the hospital’s staff and diagnostic processes for patients who come into their cardiac catheterization lab. Newman Regional Health’s cardiac cath lab is one of less than 2,000 across the United
States and is currently the only cardiac catheterization laboratory in Kansas to hold this particular accreditation.
“Newman Regional Health has demonstrated its commitment to providing Lyon County with excellent heart care,” said Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, FACC,
Please see Cath, Page 6
A TIME FOR EXPANSION: CITY OF EMPORIA LOOKS FORWARD TO ADVANCEMENTS IN HOUSING, RETAIL, INFRASTRUCTUREB y s h AylA G Auldin G email@example.com
With a year of much-need road and waterline repairs, housing contracts, welcoming new retailers and more under its belt, the City of Emporia is proud of its accomplishments during the past year — and looking forward to much of the same in 2023.
As he steps back into the mayoral seat, Danny Giefer said he expects the priorities facing the City of Emporia to be largely the same as last year — with a focus on improvements to infrastructure, bringing in more industry and retailers and building affordable housing to sustain an expanded workforce.
City Manager Trey Cocking agreed, adding that while the city will continue to address concerns as they arise, improvements this year will also be preventative. One such example: the city’s aging water lines.
“Obviously, we had some significant waterline failures last year, so now we are in the process of how do we make those upgrades, how do we replace those 90-plus-year-old water lines and have something that is reliable and can transfer the amount of water that we
need throughout the community,” Cocking said.
The city is in the approval process of a loan from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to redo Emporia’s major stretch of transmission water lines. As of now, the city is simply waiting for the final OK, which Cocking expects in the next couple of months.
Repairs will stretch from 24th Ave. all the way to the water tower on the southeast side of town near Penny Lane and South Weaver St., which was completed in 2019.
“Flint Road is a transmission water line and then where it broke on Prairie is a transmission water line,” Cocking said. “... All of that stuff, in the next few years, will be upgraded and replaced with new lines.”
In addition to waterlines, the city will also complete major repairs to roads, such as Highland Street near Emporia State University, which will be paid for through a CDBG grant. The grant covers $750,000 of the $1.2 million project, with work completed by APACShears Kansas Division.
“This is going to be a complete reconstruction of that street where we go down, remove the street completely to
the dirt, do a new storm [drain], new water, new sewer lines through there and then a new driving surface at the end of the day,” Cocking said.
In addition to infrastructure repairs, bringing more industries and retailers to the community will be on the city’s todo list for 2023.
According to Giefer, many projects are currently underway, with an expected completion date within the year.
Giefer said the city should be hearing news soon about the new travel plaza on the west end of town. Known as the Brownstone addition, the plaza will be located along Graphic Arts Road south of U.S. 50.
Across the road, in the Flint Hills Crossing Community Incentive District, construction on the new QuikTrip building will also be starting within the year.
“That should be starting sometime after mid-year, probably closer to fall,” Giefer said.
On the north end of town, Emporians will also see expansion at the Emporia Pavilions — which is now boasting four retailers: Hobby Lobby, Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls and Shoe Dept. Encore.
“They’ve got three more that they’re talking about [and] getting real close to announcing, and then there’s a few more out there that they’ve been working with so that hopefully by the end of the year, we should have that pretty close to filled
up out here,” Giefer said.
Giefer said he believes the city is in a good place when it comes to industrial expansion.
“I don’t know of an industry right now in town that is talking about cutting back,” Giefer said. “They’re either at status quo or expanding.”
However, in order to accommodate expansion, the city also must provide housing for the potential workforce. According to Cocking, that is where the city is hitting a wall.
“I think we are in the place where we are trying to address housing quickly,” Cocking said. “... We need people. There are not people in the community so we are bringing in people from the outside and they need places to live.”
The city is looking at multiple new housing additions, including the Kretsinger subdivision on South Exchange Street and east to Gavin Road, the Mahtropolis development near Whittier Street and Riley Avenue, and the Heartland Housing Partners project. The latter, being developed by Cory Haag and Ross Vogel, would include the Winston Lofts, located at 412 and 416 E. 12th Ave., the Senate Lofts, located at 1124 and 1128 Union St., and the Mallory Square Lofts, located at 1106 and 1110 Mechanic St.
chair of the ACC Accreditation Management Board, in a written release. “ACC Accreditation Services is proud to award Newman Regional Health with Cardiac Cath Lab Accreditation with PCI.”
A cath lab has special imaging equipment used to see the arteries and check how well blood is flowing to and from the heart.
“It’s a room with a highly specialized X-ray,” said cardiologist Dr. Michael Lloyd. “It allows you to visualize the arteries that supply the heart with blood.”
Lloyd said the cath lab was recognized for its percutaneous coronary intervention — also known as coronary angioplasty — which is a non-surgical procedure designed to relieve symptoms of heart disease or reduce heart damage during or after a heart attack. This involves opening narrowed or blocked coronary arteries with a balloon and typically stents are placed in the artery and drugs are prescribed to ensure the artery remains open after the procedure.
He said it’s important to have high-quality cardiac care available in Emporia, and that the community knows they can stay home for their heart health needs.
“This American College of Cardiology accreditation provides independent and unbiased outcomebased evidence that our patients and their families are receiving the highest quality care,” he said. “It should be very comforting to the patients and the families to know they are getting the best possible care just by staying here.”
Knobloch said she believes this accreditation helps to “uplift” Newman Regional Health with
larger cardiac hospitals in the region, which have spent decades building their reputations for quality cardiac care.
“It puts us on a field to start developing that reputation with them,” she said.
APRN Krista Ohmie, who works in the cardiac cath lab, said the accreditation has reinforced the knowledge that what she does every day makes a difference in people’s lives.
“I feel like it kind of validated for us about the work that we do on a daily basis,” Ohmie said. “We’re always striving to give the best here and let our community know that they are going to get that. We are here for them.”
Knobloch said the accreditation review process took about 18 months. Throughout the process, the ACC review team was impressed with Newman Regional Health’s commitment to its community.
“He kept track of the number of times the team said ‘that’s for the community,’ and he was very impressed with that,” she said. “That’s just a reflection of the heart of our people, is that we’re here to serve.”
From rolling out the latest “G” to bringing in the newest devices, the team at Nex-Tech Wireless is focused on the customer experience. It’s ok if you’re not a tech expert, NTW will give you the help you need when you need it most. The technology and devices change at a rapid pace and we’re ready to help you make the most of them! Looking for a provider who cares about you and this community? You’ve found them. We’ve invested over 1.5 million dollars in our Emporia network to bring you the best coverage. We’ve also donated thousands of dollars to local businesses and spent hundreds of hours volunteering at area non-profits. It doesn’t stop there. We’ve enjoyed long-standing partnerships with a number of local organizations, from non-profits to t-ball teams, and from internships to scholarships. We’re proud to partner with Emporia State University, Kansas Shrine Bowl, and the Kansas State Fair, just to name a few.
Investing in our communities isn’t just about time or money spent, it’s also about working to support our way of life and committing to our future. We believe there’s no place like home, so why leave? Kansas has some of the brightest and hardest working residents, and we want to keep them here by offering jobs and bringing the latest technology to our friends and neighbors.
We know you have a choice when it comes to your wireless provider, and we are so grateful for the support we’ve received from Emporia. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for us here.
We want you to experience a network built by Kansans for Kansans. Come visit us to get the best phone, at the best price, from the best people! Stop by and see our team in Emporia at 1670B Industrial Rd, inside Flinthills Mall.
Nex-Tech Wireless has been providing superior wireless service and LOCAL support for more than 17 years. We are continually working to deploy trusted technology to the communities we serve. Why? Because we live here, too!COURTESY PHOTO
EMPORIA AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SETS EYES ON COMMUNITY BUILDING IN 2023
The excitement is building for a new year full of new opportunities for the Emporia community. For Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Jeanine McKenna, that excitement is focused on helping businesses grow and thrive after two unprecedented years thanks to COVID-19.
Please see Chamber, Page 11
From PAGE 9
Now the chamber is primed for a comeback in 2023, with a shortlist of priorities on which to focus.
“I believe that what we’re doing for members large and small is, there are three things that are affecting them, no matter who they are,” McKenna said.
Childcare, housing and workforce, she said, are vital components for both large and small businesses to grow and thrive across the country. While all three were issues before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, the pandemic amplified gaps that already existed.
“When you look at Ignite Emporia, in 2018 and 2019, childcare was on the radar but it wasn’t set as one of the top priorities,” McKenna said. “Now, it is a top priority because it affects the workforce and people have decided that it’s more cost effective for them to stay home with their children.”
That’s why the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Ignite Emporia have already been leading conversations around the state, with a childcare summit planned for Feb. 1 right here in Emporia.
“Childcare is something that affects all of our businesses, no matter what size,” she said. “We’ve really got some good conversations going and I think you’re going to see us hitting the issue of childcare pretty strongly in 2023.”
The second priority is housing, with the chamber leading the charge for public/private partnerships. The first of those projects is the Kretsinger subdivision, spearheaded by Ignite Emporia. Plans for the addition see the construction of 53 new houses to
From PAGE 5
Combined, the housing projects will bring just under 100 new housing units to Emporia.
“I think we are in a good place,” Cocking said. “We are seeing multi-family and single-family housing which then should help us on the industrial recruitment side and hopefully we start to see things pay off and more expansion and new plants coming in with that.”
In addition to improvements for the
the area of South Exchange Street and east to Gavin Road on land acquired from the John D. Kretsinger and Claudia V. Kretsinger Revocable Trust dated Nov. 19, 2012. The lots would average around 7,900 square feet, with homes ranging from $200,000 - $250,000.
McKenna said, because housing has been a big priority for a long time, the chamber has been working hard on partnerships behind the scenes.
“What we are reading and finding is, there needs to be more public/private partnerships,” she said. “We’re working with the city on a partnership, and not just with Kretsinger. Kretsinger is the
citizens of Emporia, the City of Emporia also has plans to continue internal improvements for its employees. Giefer and Cocking said much of that will come in continued wage studies and recruitment efforts.
“We got a wage study that we approved doing here later last year and we should get the results on that,” Giefer said. “We’re trying to make sure that our employees are paid a fair wage for what they’re doing and that wage study should tell us kind of where we’re at on that.
“We’ve made some major improvements to the wages over this past year to our employees and we’re going to continue on trying to make the right choices
main one and the one everyone asks about, but we’re also working with a lot of private individuals.”
McKenna said the goal was for the chamber to act as a “conduit” to help connect people with the right resources and people in order to make new housing developments — whether they are single family or multi-unit structures — happen.
The third priority? Workforce.
The Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce recently attended the ESSDACK Career Expo in Hutchinson, where 5,700 high school students from across the state were in attendance learning about career and educational opportu -
on that and a lot of those costs of money, but it’s nice to see that our revenues are up so that we can support that,” he added.
According to Cocking, staffing has improved. As of mid-January, the police department was still down three personnel, while the fire department was down six.
“Which sounds like a lot but where we were in July, August, things have improved,” Cocking said. “ … We seem to be kind of treading water right now on staffing. It’s not great but I’m not worried about the wheels falling off like I was four or five months ago.”
He also mentioned that the city
nities. McKenna said Emporia’s impact at the expo was enormous.
“We did something no other community has done,” she said. “In the past it’s been universities, tech colleges, military recruiters and some businesses that have been there, and the idea is, this is a career expo where they can learn about different career options. We made sure Emporia was well represented. We had 27 spaces reserved. We took up half of one building, so when students came in, they saw Emporia.”
McKenna said she knows that some students did sign up for information from several businesses and from the Flint Hills Technical College during that event.
It was so successful, she would like to see a similar career expo in Emporia that really targets local students.
“That’s workforce, that’s people, that’s the future,” she said.
A new web site is also in the works that is all about Emporia Opportunity. More on that will be released in the coming weeks, but McKenna said it will help with job recruitment, relocation and more.
“I don’t think that people realize the wide array of opportunities that are available here,” she said. “There really are great opportunities for everyone.”
And McKenna said the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce is always around to help — especially when it comes to business.
“We’re here to work with the business community and we’ve got great partners,” she said, adding that the chamber works well with other organizations like the City of Emporia, Ignite Emporia, the Regional Development Association, and more. “We want the community to feel good that we complement each other in our actions. That’s important for people to know.”
would be looking to hire a deputy city manager and housing specialist in the coming months.
Overall, both men said they are proud of what the City of Emporia has accomplished in the past year and hopeful about what it can accomplish in the new year.
“We had probably one of our most productive years last year in 2022 and what we’ve seen, what we see and what people have talked to us about in the early stages, it looks like 2023 will be as large or larger than last year,” Giefer said. “A lot of things are happening in Emporia, Kansas right now and we’re going to continue supporting that.”
“I don’t think that people realize the wide array of opportunities that are available here. There really are great opportunities for everyone.”
JEANINE MCKENNA, Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO
MAIN STREET PROVIDES RESOURCES FOR BUSINESS GROWTHBy riChArd BurkArd firstname.lastname@example.org
Emporia Main Street businesses are shifting out of coronavirus recovery mode.
“We’re getting back to where we were in 2019,” Executive Director Casey Woods said Wednesday. “Our big push in 2023 will be resource oriented.”
That means providing money and expertise to help the members grow and expand their businesses.
“That expertise is based off real data. It’s not just our opinions,” Woods said. “We’re not trying to throw out marketing fads. We’re trying to offer real help.”
One way Main Street is promoting expertise is through the Fabrication Lab, which opened last April for members at 727 Commercial Street. Woods spent time this month giving tours of it to interested people.
“We’re already seeing a lot more traffic than we would have expected,” Woods said. “We’re helping entrepreneurs and existing businesses create new products to drive traffic and diversify their sales.”
Woods said the “Fab Lab” can help businesses develop new sidelines that brings more income to the Emporia area. It includes 3D printers and scanners, large format printers, a CO2 laser engraver and electronics testing equipment.
“We have people coming in every day that have products in mind,” he said.
In 2022, it was used to create everything from the PDGA World Championship trophies to chocolate molds.
Main Street is also big on events that can attract people from around the region. The organization’s homepage shows scheduled activi - ties from mid-February through late September.
“We’ll focus on more event growth, calibrating those events to grow visitors from outside the area,” Woods said.
One local event which had immediate success in 2022 was “Show of Hands,” where potential start-ups offered pitches of their products and services to an audience willing to provide funding.
“We saw seven of the eight participants actually start their businesses or
expand their businesses,” Woods said. Show of Hands will return Thursday, March 9. Applications are available now on the EMS website, and are due by Friday, Feb. 24.
Woods is also concerned about the Emporia area slowly losing population, especially young adults taking high-tech jobs in larger areas.
Emporia Main Street added the new Apella reunion weekend last summer, with activities designed to bring former Emporians back to see the jobs and opportunities available.
“We think bringing people home is an effective strategy,” Woods said.
This year’s second Apella is moving
to Emporia High School homecoming weekend, Sept. 22-23.
“That was at the request of some of the different Emporia High graduating classes,” Woods explained.
“That’s our target market.” A “Family Park Party” is on the drawing board as part of that.
One large goal for Woods in 2023 is improving contacts with surrounding counties, not simply larger metropolitan areas such as Topeka and Wichita.
“We’ve got to work with our neighbors to make sure we support their needs as well,” he said.
Woods also wants the area to have a better “holistic” understanding of everything Emporia Main Street offers and does.
“I don’t think we want to be the or-
ganization that just focuses on one big idea,” Woods said. “We want to be the organization that gets things done.”
Among other things, Main Street holds classes for people curious about starting their own business. A class last fall filled quickly. A new course for tech-based entrepreneurs is planned in April.
“We want to be the most entrepreneurial-friendly city in Kansas,” Woods said.
In short, Woods thinks this is a good time to start a business in Emporia. Especially if an owner thinks something locally is missing.
“Those entrepreneurs that see market gaps — something that they want here that isn’t here — it’s an opportunity for them to start that business.
ESU MODEL POSITIONS UNIVERSITY FOR THE FUTURE
Special to The Gazette
As 2023 dawns, Emporia State University continues to reimagine itself as an institution relentlessly focused on the needs of current and future students even as the pipeline of students continues to decline.
Emporia State is not alone in that, according to Cory Falldine, ESU vice president for infrastructure, who is one of many in ESU’s Leadership team continually reviewing the articles about institutions across the United States that are responding to pressures by reorganizing academic offerings, optimizing their campuses, merging with other institutions, or even closing their doors entirely.
“Even from just 2022, you can easily find examples from more than 20 different states, many of which have multiple institutions facing crises, all trying to adapt to the changing demands of our students, families and communities.” Falldine said.
The future of Emporia State University, while important to the students who attend the university as well as the faculty and staff employed there, is equally important to the City of Emporia and the surrounding community. Emporia State University is the fourth largest employer behind Simmons Pet Food, USD 253 and Tyson Fresh Meats.
In January 2022, leaders at Emporia State University began looking at all areas of the institution to determine where to align resources and future dollars to position ESU for growth.
“We have a new way of thinking about higher education,” ESU President Ken Hush said this week. “We call it the ESU Model. And we are laser focused on building a bright future for students, university and community.”
“We have a new way of thinking about higher education. We call it the ESU Model. And we are laser focused on building a bright future for students, university and community.”
in-classroom training and providing a thorough knowledge of their content areas. Working with other academic departments on campus, students planning to teach at the middle- and high-school levels, earn a degree that ensure they know how to teach and are knowledgeable in their desired curriculum area. The Teachers College also offers alternate pathways for career changers to enter the teaching profession.
ty Center. These additions build on a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for a new Cybersecurity Center. Plans for the new center include benefits for both Emporia State students and the Emporia community. Funds from the federal grant will purchase technology equipment.
MUSIC: The Department of Music is adding a faculty position for music education and community outreach and an instructor to direct choral activities. The department’s budget also will receive additional allocations.KEN HUSH, ESU president
In September, as the university and the local community was moving past the COVID pandemic, Emporia State University announced its own reorganizations, reinvestments and future plans.
TEACHER EDUCATION: The Teachers College continues to offer programs for both the elementary and secondary levels that focus on immersing students into
NURSING: The Department of Nursing will offer two new programs. An RN to BSN online program allows those working as registered nurses to add a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The second program is an online master of science in nursing program. Three faculty positions will be added to meet demands of the programs. A new building on ESU’s main campus is anticipated to be complete by spring 2025. The building will house new academic spaces for the nursing program as well as space for Student Wellness Services.
BUSINESS: TECHNOLOGY + CYBERSECU -
RITY: The School of Business is adding a computer science faculty position and hiring a director for the new Cybersecuri-
COMMUNICATION: The Department of Communication will add a full-time instructor to expand into content creation, digital video, virtual reality and gaming/ interactive media. A new social media influencing certificate program will allow students on campus who want to create or grow a productive online presence in their chosen field. Members of the Emporia community who want to expand the online presence of their small businesses or organizations could also benefit from the program.
HISTORY + GOVERNMENT: A new program in the Department of Social Sciences, Sociology and Criminology will combine existing resources in history and political science into all new majors: Americus History + Government, World History + Government and Ideas + Institutions.
ART: The Department of Art will add faculty to teach ceramics and graphics, an art historian, instructor for art in practice, a gallery and outreach director and a graduate teaching assistant for gallery
Beyond academic programs, university leaders studied the student experience and related initiatives.
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has hired a full-time Basic Needs Coordinator and will double the size of its summer BRIDGE program for first generation, low-income students and students of color. A new Intercultural Center is being built in the Memorial Union, and stipends for diversity ambassadors will be increased. In addition, Interdisciplinary Studies and Ethnic Gender and Identity are now aligned with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Investment and enhancement efforts in both academic areas and the student experience will continue to be announced during the current semester, as well as other projects aimed to achieve operational excellence. The bottom line is that Emporia State is focused on elevating the programs that students want and Kansas needs for economic development.
For more information and future announcements, see www.emporia.edu/ future.
WHAT’S AHEAD FOR LYON COUNTYB y s h AylA G Auldin G email@example.com
With the dawn of the new year, the Lyon County Commission is prioritizing new ideas, new building projects and a renewed focus on the county’s finances and infrastructure.
In 2023, Commission Chair Rollie Martin said the focus will be on keeping a strong budget, while also funding much needed projects.
One such project: the new Lyon County Road and Bridge shops.
In December, county commissioners approved a $4.8 million bid to build two new shops for the Road and Bridge department. The construction will be handled by NF Construction out of Marion, Kansas, with the project funded through the American Rescue Plan.
Commissioner Doug Peck said the new shops are necessary, as the conditions of the current Road and Bridge shops are derelict.
“They are operating out of some very antiquated buildings, very antiquated,” Peck said. “They can’t work on a tractortrailer without keeping the doors open and when it’s four degrees and 29 below wind chill it makes it kind of hard.”
“A lot of their equipment out there is just like with any agriculture or anything else, it’s bigger and it’s more technical and it will give them a much safer place to work and to store all of this equipment and different things that we try to do as a county,” Martin added.
Martin said the new construction will serve as maintenance shops to allow county employees to work on larger equipment — such as semis or road graders — inside.
“Currently, we cannot close the doors when we work on those machines,” Martin said.
The new county shop facility will be 17,222 square feet and have a four-bay maintenance area with a 15-ton bridge crane to safely move materials within the shop. The shop will have mezzanine storage, offices, a parts room, a restroom/storm shelter, and more. The
bridge facility will be 4,426 square feet with a 7.5-ton bridge crane and will also feature storage, offices, and a restroom/ shelter.
Martin said construction should begin in spring and be largely complete by the end of the year or early next year, pending delays from the supply chain.
“We’re finding that there are a lot longer delays,” Martin said. “We start in March but some of the equipment and supplies won’t come in until June.”
In addition to the supply chain, Martin said another obstacle of the new year will be finding additional staffing. He estimates the county needed as many as 30 employees at times in the past year.
“Last year at one time we did not have enough help to maintain an asphalt crew and a bridge crew so we had to alternate
working on that,” Martin said.
Martin also attributed that shared workforce to the delays on the road and bridge work on the Olpe-Hartford Road, which he said should be completed in the near future.
“It is a challenge. We have had to change many wage structures to attract, generally, level one workers. We’ve been able to maintain our department heads, keep pace with them, but it is a challenge, finding a workforce that is ready to go to work and be interested in working for Lyon County,” Martin said.
However, one bright point as the county heads into the new year is the budget.
“We are financially strong,” Martin said. “That’s kind of been the history of the county. We pay for things as we go.
For the county itself we have no bonds, we pay no bonds in interest, so we’re trying to maintain that status.”
Additionally, Martin added, increases in sales tax last year allowed the county to transfer $800,000, or 2.3 mills, to the general fund to maintain a flat mill levy.
“Which helps everybody that has property and things that are taxed with property tax, so we are in a good, strong financial position,” he added.
Peck said the budget is always the biggest priority.
“That was quite a task last year, to keep the budget mill levy even across the board,” Peck said. “... Taxpayers, they need to know where their money is going, being spent.”
Commissioners had to look at each budget carefully, he said, making adjustments and allowances where they could.
“We wanted to give everybody a 3% COLA (Cost-Of-Living Adjustment), which we were able to do,” Peck said. “But again we are looking at the price of gas, diesel, rock, concrete, steel, health insurance, which was a real struggle this year because it went up and we were able to keep the same insurance rate for our employees.”
Peck said the adjustments are also a part of continued efforts to be competitive amid staffing shortages.
“We are short in several areas,” he said. “Road and Bridge, jail, county sheriff’s department. There are areas that we just need more help. And it’s hard to find help right now. I think our unemployment rate here is very low from what I understand, so that makes it a little harder for us to draw people in.”
Another new aspect for the county this year is incoming Commissioner Ken Duft. Duft said his goal is “to protect the county taxpayers dollar” while also learning the ropes as a new member — including getting acquainted with the many departments throughout the county.
“I made a list yesterday of all the county department heads that I still haven’t set down with and talked with,” Duft said. “ … I’m here for them. I want to work together with them.”
In addition to the county employees, Duft said he feels it’s important to hear from the county taxpayer, especially about what their money will be used for.
“We are financially strong. That’s kind of been the history of the county. We pay for things as we go.”
ROLLIE MARTIN, County commissioner
“We are representing the people of Lyon County. We want to hear from them,” Duft said. “It’s not all my ideas; it’s the county’s.”
It’s also important, he said, that people within the city limits of Emporia know they are represented by the county too. Working together, Duft said, is the best way to advance both the city and the county.
“That’s the whole thing. We need to all work together to make this county one of the better counties,” Duft said. “We want to build this community up, make it better.”
Martin and Peck shared the same sentiment, saying efforts from both county and city organizations can be mutually beneficial.
For example, Peck said, while housing and workforce pose a problem for industrial expansion, local organizations are actively working on remedies.
“RDA (Regional Development Association) is working very hard to accomplish some goals as far as housing and employees and employers, which is
a good thing for all of us,” he said. “The more we can bring in is more revenue for the county … be good for the city, be good for the county.”
With more investments in housing, he added, business will follow.
“We can hopefully encourage outside businesses to come in, relocate here,” Peck said. “We have a fantastic county and city, good place to raise their kids, good schools. Good infrastructure as far as railroad, interstate, US 50, all of that going for us. Hopefully someone can see the bright spots that we represent to attract people in … I think we are in a good place. I really do. We have companies that want to come here, want to relocate or locate here.
Overall, the commission said, Lyon County saw another successful year in 2022 — with a bright future ahead in 2023.
“We had a good year in Lyon County, and I’m very hopeful, very positive that we will have a good outlook for this year,” Peck said. “We work hard and try to listen to the citizens. It’s their money that we are using and hopefully they see what we are doing and are in agreement. That’s the main thing, we need to make sure we are doing what the citizen’s want.”