CARES committee sorting pile of requests

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News

The sorting has started.

Ellis County’s subcommittees are working to figure out who will get a slice of the county’s $5.74 million in federal COVID-19 CARES Act aid.

They hope to have a rough estimate by Monday.

The county got a total of $11 million in requests from businesses, nonprofits, schools and local government in Ellis County, including $8.3 million in requests for direct aid.

“So the good news is we’re not going to leave money sitting on the table,” said Ellis county administrator J.D. Cox, speaking during a ZOOM meeting Wednesday with the 26 members of the CARES committee.

“The bad news is we have a little bit of work to do,” Cox said.

During the wide-ranging discussion on Wednesday, the committee members discussed how to handle the big sorting process on such a short timeline required by the state.

“Are all of these up for discussion or are there some that are etched in stone, like the county, or the education transfers?” asked Doug Williams, executive director of the county’s economic development arm, Grow Hays.

“Are all those going to be scrutinized further?” Williams asked. “Or are some of them, ‘This is what it’s going to be and this is what’s left?’ ”

“It’s all fair-game in my book,” Cox answered. “We’re required by the law to supply funds to local government entities and educational entities, however, the state is leaving it totally up to us on how much that is. All of it’s fair game … I don’t think it really is unreasonable to ask everyone to sharpen pencils and whittle it down a little bit.”

The money from the feds is intended to reimburse local governments as they address the COVID-19 public health emergency, and to pump money into the local economy, Cox said.

Deadline for applications was noon Monday.

The county’s plan for spending the money is due to the state of Kansas by Aug. 15. Final day for amendments is Sept. 15.

The federal money, which is being funneled to counties through the state, must be spent before Dec. 30.

The Ellis County Commissioners will take up the CARES committee’s recommendations and make the final decision as to who gets the money. The commissioners meet at 8 a.m. Thursday to decide.

The applications break down into some broad categories, Cox said.

The largest by far came from businesses and for-profit entities, with some $4.9 million in requests.

Nonprofit requests came to $1.2 million.

There was also $1.1 million requested for education, and $547,000 for governmental needs.

Three buckets

The committee came up with three buckets for splitting the money:

• $498,388 for reimbursing Ellis County, Hays, Ellis, Victoria and Schoenchen for COVID-19 related expenses.

• $1.8 million for planned county spending related to COVID-19.

• $3.44 million in direct COVID-19 aid.

In the bucket for direct aid, the committee is recommending: $1 million to businesses and for-profits; $1 million to nonprofits; $1 million to education; and $438,458 to Hays, Ellis, Victoria and Schoenchen for additional spending on COVID-19 expected this year.

With the state’s approval, businesses and nonprofits can be reimbursed for lost revenue, Cox said, noting a lot of six-digit requests from hotels and restaurants. Committee members have said the money has to help businesses, for-profits and nonprofits in Ellis County.

“There’s very few of the entire project or requests that are totally ineligible,” said Ellis County Emergency Management director Darin Myers, who is on the committee. “There are some of the requests, where part of their requests aren’t eligible.”

Some requests were declared ineligible, for having no tie to the COVID-19 emergency.

“We had a $1 billion dollar request that clearly did not go toward the program, as well,” Cox noted.

Each entity receiving money must sign a memorandum of understanding with the county, and show proof how the money was spent.

“We have to ensure that the funds are properly spent,” Cox said.

Business and for-profit direct aid requested:

Oil: Sidekicks Jetting, $30,000; Noble Well Service, $30,000; B’s Oilfield Service, $30,000; White Knight Drilling, $50,000; Castle Resources, $30,000; Heartland Oil, $59,927; and C&B Well Service, $59,193.

Restaurants/bars: Defiance Brewery, $335,000; Paisley Pear, $20,000; Wild Rose, $135,000; Gutch’s Bar & Grill, $370,000; Thirsty’s, $140,000; and Gella’s Diner, $383,712.

Hotels/motels: Hays Lodging, $100,000; Baymont Inn, $350,000; RSD Fairfield, $20,000; Fairfield Inn, $314,569; Super 8, $225,000; Inn at 117, $56,600; and Econolodge, $125,000.

Retail: Grand True Value Rental, $80,045; Couture for Men, $50,000; Simply Charmed, $27,066; Kat’s Hallmark, $27,500; Hays Mall, $500,000; BOS Motorsports, $60,000; World of Wheels, $75,000; Garden City Inv., $140,000; and RD Graphics,$45,000.

Entertainment/health/fitness: Southwind Crossfit, $10,100; Kendall Krug, $2,704; Precision Valley, $41,950; Heritage Eatery & Bingo, $25,000; Rose Garden, $200,000; Precision Valley, $41,950; Professional Disc Golf, $37,402; Elements of Massage, $10,000; Heartland Gymnastics, $10,000; Carrie Nassif, $4,282; and Hess Medical, $115,660.

Misc.: Jensen Farms, $10,000; Mega K LLC, $190,000; Midland Marketing, $74,526; Rooks County Holdings, $27,000; Premier Business Management, $40,268; H&J Productions, $4,800; Zenhaus, $14,720; CAM Properties, $17,500; WTSVC, $16,400; and Centennial Towers, $1,038.

Nonprofit direct aid requested:

First Call for Help, $20,000 and $17,560; Hays Rec Commission, $47,550; Good Samaritan Society, $64,103 and $15,130; and United Way, $11,500, $15,000 and $4,650.

Hays Chamber, $41,286; DSNWK, $28,500; Wild West Fest, $75,000; Ellis Knights of Columbus, $8,160; Homestead Nutrition Project, $79,248; and Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center, $74,659.

High Plains Mental Health, $59,950; MCH Home Visiting, $4,450; USD 489 Foundation, $75,000; Ellis Recreation Commission, $2,182; Ellis County Fair, $56,905; First Care Clinic, $143,177; and Grow Hays, $127,080.

Hays Area Children’s Center, $22,990; Hays 1st Presbyterian, $80,000, $10,714 and $17,342; Jana’s Campaign, $9,987; Big Brothers Big Sisters, $4,491 and $20,775; Cancer Council, $6,000; and Celebration Community Church, $24,700;

Options Domestic and Sexual Violence, $66,876; Downtown Hays Development Corp., $59,000 and $22,149; St. Joseph’s Church Food Pantry, $10,000; Hays Senior Center, $4,967; and Center for Life Experience, $10,000.

St. Boniface Church, $13,500; Project Dream, $15,000; Smoky Hill Education, $39,790; NW Kansas Area Agency on Aging, $69,781; Kiwanis, $23,000; Community Foundation of Ellis, $5,136; Victoria High School Alumni, $5,584; KVC Hospitals, $315,825; and Foster the Cause, $34,700.

Government reimbursement requests are: Ellis County, $116,464; Hays, $58,529; Ellis, $8,233; and Victoria, $351.

School reimbursement requests are: USD 489, Hays, $179,300; USD 388, Ellis, $42,925; and NCK Tech, $94,383.

City government requests for expected needs are: Hays, $349,400; Schoenchen, $83,600; Victoria, $66,765; and Ellis, $15,299.

Education requests for expected needs are: Fort Hays State University, $500,000, $46,500 and $100,000; TMP-Marian High School, $283,504; USD 432, Victoria, $108,609; and FHSU’s Sternberg Museum, $79,484.

County’s $1.8M request

The big ticket item in Ellis County’s $1.8 million planned spending is a $1.5 million public safety records management system and computer-aided dispatch system.

The new system would update the current one installed at the Ellis County Law Enforcement Center, 105 W. 12th St., in 1992. It would be shared by all the county’s public safety and law enforcement agencies, and those of its cities, said Myers, who is also fire chief for the county.

The system would impact 11 public safety agencies and five governmental entities, including Fort Hays State University, the cities of Hays, Victoria, Ellis and Schoenchen, Ellis County, the local and rural fire departments, EMS, Hays Police Department, Ellis County Sheriff’s Department and the Ellis County Health Department, Myers said.

The county’s $1.8 million request also includes money for contact tracers, an assistant EMS director and administrative assistant, remote ballot drop offs, four ventilators, laptops and licensing, a generator, personal protective equipment for county departments, HVAC air purifiers, audit costs, ionized sprayers, video conference equipment, respirators, a Clorox 360 machine and postage.

Round 2 next

People reviewing the applications from schools are: Eric Burks and Steve Hudman with NCK Tech, Jerry Michaud with Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, Sarah Wasinger at the Hays Chamber, and Toby Dougherty at the city of Hays.

People reviewing the applications from business and for-profits are: Sara Bloom with Downtown Hays Development Corp., Nikki Pfannenstiel with Sunflower Electric, Doug Williams at Grow Hays, Mendi Alexander at the Heartland Foundation, Sarah Wasinger at the Hays Chamber, Dan Steffen, Brandon Prough with Bank of Hays, Sara LaRosh, Karen Dreiling, Karie Younger, Rick Feltenberger and Doug Bruggeman.

People reviewing the applications from nonprofits are the Heartland Foundation Review Group: Nikki Pfannenstiel, Bob Moorhead, Andrew Rupp, Mendi Alexander, Chris Sook, Sandy Jacobs, executive director of the foundation, and Sara Bloom at the downtown chamber.

Besides Cox, Myers and Williams, others members of the lead committee include: Brant Rice, Ministerial Alliance; Bryan Brady, First Care Clinic; Corey Burton, Ellis School District; Kent Michel, Victoria School District;

Also, David McDaniel, Ellis; Hays Medical Center president and CEO Eddie Herrman; Fort Hays State University president Tisa Mason; High Plains Mental Health Center executive director Walt Hill; Holy Family Elementary School principal Rachel Wentling; and USD 489 superintendent Ron Wilson.

Also, Hays city manager Toby Dougherty; First Call for Help executive director Linda Mills; United Way of Ellis County executive director Erica Berges; and Hays Area Chamber of Commerce director Sarah Wasinger.

Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas president and CEO Jerry Michaud; County Extension agent Donna Krug; and Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Melissa Dixon.

The state has said there will be a Round 2 of money.

That money won’t go through the counties, but instead go directly to applicants for public health, economic development, connectivity and education, according to Cox.