The Ellis County Commission on Monday heard an update from the Northwest Kansas Planning and Development Commission, which the county supports through an annual membership dues.

During its 30-year tenure, the non-profit organization has assisted with projects benefitting Ellis County with a total of approximately $8 million, with the help of more than $3 million in grant funds, said executive director Randall Hrabe. A recent project involved street improvements in Ellis, which cost approximately $944,000.

The planning and development commission works to secure community development block grants for improvement projects throughout northwest Kansas, among other endeavors. There have not yet been many projects within Hays city limits because of income qualifications, Hrabe said, noting the average income in the city is too high for certain grants.

That could change in the future due to a change in state practice that could allow a random survey of income qualifications.

“They might pick out different spots in Hays we could actually survey and still qualify for Hays. So that’s something we might consider sometime,” Hrabe said.

Throughout the region, the organization’s total financial impact across 18 counties is approximately $88 million during the last three decades.

Since 2000, Ellis County has paid approximately $580,000 in dues to the organization.

“It is a significant portion, but when you look at a $580,000 investment and you get pretty close to $4 million in actual grant funds back for the county, that’s a pretty good return on your money,” Hrabe said. “That doesn’t include all the business loans we’ve done.”

In addition to business loans, the organization also is involved in housing endeavors and manages Meadowview Place, an income-based housing complex for seniors in Ellis.

The planning commission branched into another non-profit, Northwest Kansas Housing Inc., which has built approximately 130 housing units throughout the region. That program gives residents the ability to purchase their home at a discounted rate if they rent for 15 years, he said.

County administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes currently serves as the agency’s board chairman, and encouraged Hrabe to visit the commission. Commissioners said they appreciated the update as they continue through the 2019 budget process.

“Seeing you on a regular basis gives us reasons to give you your dues and reminds us of how much you do,” Commissioner Barbara Wasinger said. “I know that you’re very active, but you don’t shine your light from under that bushel very well. It’s a good thing to be going to these counties and telling them the dollars spent, dollars invested and what exactly you’re doing.”

In other business, the commission:

• Heard a funding request from Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center.

• Approved replacement of a weed spraying truck.

• Approved appointment of joint planning commission members Nathan Leiker and John Schulte for another term.

• Approved a revised job description for a medical billing position for the county health and EMS departments.