Lyon County Zoning, Planning and Floodplain Management Director Sam Seeley presented Lyon County commissioners with an application for a zoning change from Agriculture to Heavy Industrial Thursday at the Lyon County Courthouse.

The request came from Lex and Janice Price, landowners of the area in consideration, the 1500 block of Road 200.

“BNSF Railways is seeking to add this property to its inventory for a rail-ready industrial site,” Seeley said. “They have a program called Certified Site Program that they will then market to companies, so that they can then maximize the assets that they have as a company.”

Representatives from BNSF Railways were present to provide more information on and answer questions about this proposed change.

“The reason we developed the Certified Site Program at BNSF is to help our communities prepare sites for development,” BNSF representative John Rider said. “Usually, when customers come in … they want to move quickly, and we’re not just competing with Kansas or local communities; we’re competing on a national level.”

Rider said the development association would have control of the property, because negotiating with landowners slows the process down.

Currently in Kansas, the Kansas Logistics Park in Newton is the only certified site.

The area is primarily agricultural, with the industrial inclusion of the Westar Energy Center. With its updated infrastructure and the rail line, it would be an attractive property for development, Seeley said.

Something to consider is the roadway impact. More personal and commercial vehicles would be driving through the area.

The heavy industrial zone would allow 49 different uses of the land, including everything from warehouses to steel companies or a meat-packing plant.

Seeley said the planning and zoning board voted in favor of the application. While there was no initial opposition, after the motion, the zoning board has experienced valid protest petitions.

“If the people within 1,000 feet of the area being rezoned own at least 20 percent of the land in that area, they can file a protest position within the two weeks leading up to this meeting,” Seeley said.

Commissioners asked for more information on roads and access, as well as other details about the proposal. Representatives said they would get more information for commissioners.

Commissioner Scott Briggs motioned to approve the application, but the motion failed for a lack of a second.

“I said years ago this is a perfect site,” Briggs said. “I understand the concerns … but, if you’ve got a project that’s real and concrete and brings a lot of economic development and economic opportunity to this community, then I think it’s an easy no-brainer at that point in time.”

“I want to have the ability, as long as I’m commissioner, to prove the project, once it’s defined, once it’s stated,” Chairman Rollie Martin said. “That’s what my recommendation would be. It needs some authority for the county commission. I just cannot give them a credit card on heavy industrial regulations or sites or whatever to put in whatever might happen. We just need a little more control, not that I’m against all the economic development.”

Slater motioned to return the application back to the planning and zoning board for further study. Martin seconded the motion. The motion passed.

Emporia State University

ESU President Allison Garrett came to the commission with updates.

“On behalf of our faculty, our staff, our students, our 4,800 alumni and the Lyon County area, I want to say thank you for what the county does for Emporia State and particularly for the scholarship dollars that you make available to our students,” Garrett said.

The county-funded scholarships are available to students who attend classes on campus and live in Lyon County. This year, 138 students received such scholarships.

Other updates included the completion of working with Westar Energy to bury power lines and remove power poles, the completion of Schallenkamp Hall — which is full this fall — the improvement within existing buildings, the destruction of Northeast Morse Hall and the full renovation of Abigail Morse Hall.

Garrett was also proud to tell the commission how the athletics department has been nimble, hosting big events that other schools were ready but unable to host, largely due to weather.

“Our folks turned on a dime and hosted those and brought a lot more people to the Emporia area,” she said.

In regard to enrollment, including both on-campus and online students, last fall, ESU experienced a 7 percent increase in incoming undergraduate students and a 36 percent increase in incoming graduate students. While it is still too early to have specific numbers for this year’s enrollment, Garrett is confident in most enrollment numbers surpassing last year’s. One exception is international student enrollment, which remains flat — a positive trait compared to the national pattern of a declining number of international students.

“Nationally, international graduate and undergraduate students have been declining (the opportunity to study in the United States),” she said. “There are a number of things at play that have caused that — the U.S., you think about the way we portray ourselves internationally through our media, seems like a really violent place ... The dollar is very strong right now … And, over the last couple of decades, a lot of countries that didn’t have much to offer in the way of higher ed. have developed in-country options for students ... One of the other things that has very much been in play has been what’s going on between the United States and China right now.”

Programmatically, ESU added undergraduate degrees in data analytics and general studies.

“That, I think, will become very popular, because that is specifically designed for individuals who may have accumulated a whole lot of college degree hours that may not actually relate to a particular degree,” she said. “That general studies degree will be, I think, a useful tool for certain segments of the population that need to go ahead and finish an undergraduate degree so they can apply for jobs that require a four-year degree or start graduate school.”

ESU also added the opportunity for the advancement of associate degree nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree of science in nursing.

On the master’s level, degrees in elementary education, data analytics, information science and nursing have been added.

2019 Budget

Lyon County Controller Dan Williams proposed two 2019 budget amendments. The first amendment was increasing the Multi-Year Capital Outlay from about $2.5 million to about $3.7 million, in preparation for emergency radio project expenses, including the buildings around towers.

The Multi-Year Capital Outlay is funded by sales tax. Slater thanked taxpayers for their part.

The second amendment was for the Road and Bridge Fund, increasing it from about $5.9 million to $6.6 million, largely in response to flood damage.

“As far as the cash goes, we have cash in both of these to cover this,” Williams said. “It’s just a matter of having — by law or by statute — we have to stay within our budget, or it’s a violation.”

The amended 2019 budget was republished, and commissioners motioned to certify the republishing. The motion was approved.

Road and Bridge

Lyon County Engineer Chip Woods asked the commission to consider approving the quote from Foley Equipment for repairs to our Cat 928G Loader D-129 for an estimated $43,661.66 to be paid from the special Road, Bridge Building, Machinery, Etc. Fund.

Woods said the labor cost is firm, but the parts are estimated, hence the estimated amount. If something comes up during repairs where an additional repair is needed, Woods will not have to come back to the commission with another request.

Because the machine is primarily used in the winter, repairs will ideally be complete by then.

The commission approved the quote.

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