Staff Updates

Staff Updates: January 2022


Sheridan Garman-Neeman, Executive Director

RWe here at Kaysinger are doing a huge variety of projects, and there is a lot of details to oversee. Day-to-day operations take an increasingly larger amount of time as we build the capacity to serve our communities in more ways. With the STIP nearly programmed, I am working on training our new transportation planner. His education and desire to learn means that, conversely, I will be learning a lot from him! I have been working on five EDA grants, due at the end of January. One of those will be for regional trail planning for Kaysinger. With ARPA funds and the new ILJA bill, there is a large number of broadband dollars circulating, so we are working on a regional broadband plan so that we can ensure funds will be used in a targeted fashion resulting in comprehensive broadband coverage across our region. This week I met with Jana Rosier and the CEO of Osage Valley to work on a Re-Connect broadband grant and to discuss our planning efforts. I also met with Professor McCarty at MU extension to talk about joint planning efforts and WON communications to talk about funding deployment in Hickory County. Last month I was a guest speaker at the USDA RUS Reconnect grant workshop, where I highlighted the resources that RPCs bring to bear when it comes to broadband planning and implementation. In all broadband planning instances, I am advocating for very direct, pragmatic planning that results in service across the state of Missouri-we no longer have the luxury of allowing the deployment of broadband to be caught up in unnecessarily lengthy and bureaucratic processes. I turned in a proposal to the city of Butler for Kaysinger to write their comprehensive plan and will be speaking to their city council about that next week. I met with the city of Clinton this week to discuss some of their priorities and look forward to working with them in the future. It is a busy but fun time to work at Kaysinger- I am stretching some staff to their limits but trying to challenge each of them in good ways. I am proud of the organization that we are becoming and am looking forward to the new year!

Ashley Swartz, Assistant Director

Spring will be here before we know it, and with that comes lots of grant opportunities. Check out the Funding Opportunities page on our website to see some of the open opportunities, and follow us on Facebook, where many of those opportunities are posted. CDBG regular cycle applications are due January 31. I am working on an application for the City of Osceola for street repairs. In Deepwater, the engineer’s contract was approved and signed, and they are working on the design phase. We are looking at spring construction. There are 70% tax credits for sale for Lily’s House in Adrian and Friends of the Hickory County Health Department. If you know of any businesses interested in purchasing these tax credits, please send them my way. Both of these organizations really need our help. I am assisting on a grant application for the Clinton School District to get them ball fields through the Land Water Conservation Fund with the Missouri State Parks. That application is due next month. We are in the process of updating our website. The firm that wrote our communications plan is developing a new website for us. I am currently working on the site map for the new site and writing new content. If there is something you’d like to see on our website, let me know, and I will try to incorporate that. We look forward to having a great website that represents us well. Keep a lookout next month for the February Kaysinger Newsletter. If you would like to sign up for the bi-monthly newsletter, you can go here: http://eepurl.com/hDby4D and register. You can also follow along with all things Kaysinger by “liking” us on Facebook and following us on LinkedIn.

Teresa Heckenlively, St. Clair County Economic Development Director

Within the County, I have been working with a gentleman from Polk to establish a gravel road route connecting the Frisco Trail in Bolivar to the Katy Trail in Clinton. During the course of these tri-county meetings, we have established the Osage Hills Connection Route. I have been and will continue working with entities involved in looking for funding for trail signs. St Clair County Economic Development applied for and received on behalf of the City of Osceola the Community Walks Grant. This grant will provide $1500 for wayfinding signs along the Osceola Livable Streets Plan Main Route, Water Route, and Historic Square Route. Through a partnership developed with the Healthy Places for Healthy People Grant in 2018 and MOPAN Grant in 2019, we were able to establish the need for wayfinding signs directing pedestrians to everyday destinations like Carney’s Grocery Store, Library, shopping on the square, etc. I am currently working with the City of Osceola and Osceola Community Chamber of Commerce to design and placement of wayfinding signs. There will be a public announcement of the award in the coming month. St. Clair County Economic Development helped the Lowry City Police Department with a Public Safety Grant for a new radio. A new radio for the Lowry City Police Department is not in the budget, and finding funding will increase officer and public safety. I am happy to announce that they were also funded. I provided resources to a potential business in Lowry City, working with both the potential business and the City to work through zoning. I have provided resources and assistance to one new business that was able to open in December within Osceola’s town square.
I have helped partners at West Central, and New Growth plan their annual Farm to Fork Summit to be held February 22, 2022. This event will be held in Osceola and will bring 100 farmers and growers together to learn how we can better support our local foods system. In Appleton City, I have been working with local businesses and the City to come up with a solution for nuisance properties. I’ve also provided resources to two established businesses. As always, I’ve attended regular City Council meetings, Chamber Meetings, Commission Meetings.

Ben Vickers, Vernon County Economic Development Director

I have primarily been working on a prospective project with the state of Missouri known as Project Royal. In July of 2021, Vernon County hosted a site visit from the company and by December had submitted a completed incentives proposal including support from MO DED, our utility partners, the Vernon County Commission, and even a township board. While the company is still completing due diligence between Vernon and one other unknown county, if our community is chosen we are prepared to save the company over seven million dollars in combined incentives in exchange for the creation of over 50 jobs and a sixty-six-million-dollar investment. Even if Vernon County does not “get the win,” this is the closest our community has come to a new investment of this size in decades and showcases the potential of the community for future projects. In addition, I have been working with an existing local company that expects to create between 50-70 jobs in the next several years. Though the company has only just started the process, I have been coordinating with the state of Missouri to build any potential incentives available into the company’s projections. We are hoping to hear back in the next couple of weeks from the company regarding this expansion. An ongoing project I have been working on is the Nevada State Hospital, a facility that is owned by the state of Missouri and has been abandoned for nearly 30 years. I have been working with the EPA on assessing the property as well as plans for redevelopment in the case that an environmental cleanup on the property becomes a reality. This plan, which provides land-use concepts, focuses on the development of housing (400-600 possible units) and walkable neighborhoods near existing amenities. On Wednesday, January 12th, I was able to provide a first glimpse of the plans to a room of nearly 30 community stakeholders who seemed positive – or at least thoughtful – regarding the scope of the plan. Moving forward we can obtain more information and feedback from the community to ensure buy-in and engagement. I look forward to more of these meetings as well as the opportunity to integrate the plan as an economic development opportunity. On a more personal note, I am also pursuing a professional certification for economic development to better understand and utilize the concepts that can be used to improve my community. In April, I will be attending the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute. This weeklong course will allow me to test for the CEcD in June.

Jo Ann Lane, Benton County Economic Development Director

The power of partnerships and collaboration is thriving in Benton County. I’m grateful to work with some amazing organizations and individuals that help make Benton County Economic Development effective. Here’s a peek at what’s been happening. We began hosting “Unity in the Community” meetings in Warsaw. These meetings are a partnership with Benton County Tourism, Benton County Extension, Benton County Economic Development, Warsaw Chamber, and City of Warsaw. The monthly meetings are open to all business owners in the area. We’ve had some great discussion and determined what our business owners need and we are providing. Once the meetings are established in Warsaw will move to Lincoln and Cole Camp. After attending the CEC (Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities) Conference in Hannibal we decided to try to host a conference in Benton County. This is another of example of our partnerships. Benton County Extension, Benton County Tourism, and Benton County Economic Development teamed up to host a site visit for the committee. I’m pleased to announce Benton County will be the host site for the 2023 CEC Conference. This conference should take place in the fall of 2023. Last time I reported that Lincoln signed a contract with Co-MO to bring fiber to their town. I am pleased to announce that Warsaw City Council also signed a contact with Co-MO to bring fiber into their town. Benton County Presiding Commissioner, Steve Daleske and myself have been meeting with the 5 Rural Electric Cooperatives in the county to determine their plans for broadband. The First annual Benton County Boutique Crawl planning was extremely successful. Over 300 individuals visited the 14 required boutiques to be entered into the drawing. All local businesses were very pleased with the event. One business owner that’s been in business since 1988 (in different locations in Missouri) said this was her most successful 2-day total EVER! Planning is already in place for this year’s event. Benton County Economic Development website is up and running. Check us out at bcedevelopment.com. A big round of thanks to Southwest Electric Cooperative for the grant that funded the site. The luncheon for the City Clerks of Cole Camp, Lincoln, Warsaw, and Benton County Clerk was held in December. Much information was shared. A new chain restaurant (Taco Bell) opened in Warsaw with a ribbon cutting in November. Two other new businesses have opened in Warsaw, Land, Sand, and Sea Photography, and The Main Event Bridal and Event Rental. The Main Event will hold a ribbon cutting on January 28th. The partnerships with the “Start Here” Business Acceleration Network were key in one business opening. I continue to attend webinars and meet with the County and City officials regularly to keep them dated on my work and offer assistance and resources when needed. Keep watching to see what is new in 2022!

Dillon Harness, Disaster Recovery Coordinator

Currently, there are no major updates on Hazard Mitigation to report at this time; however, both Hickory and Cedar Counties are due for updates within the next two years. As a result, I have taken the initiative to start work on both Hickory and Cedar Counties’ risk assessments, seeing as these are the most data-intensive chapters of each plan. These will be near completion in the spring as a rough estimate, though if more events and data come out in the summer, I will be sure to include these as the plans move forward. I would like to hold stakeholder meetings on each plan later this year with dates TBD. I am still waiting for the official Memorandum of Agreements from SEMA and Sheridan, so I have an authorized timeline of which to work each plan. As for Henry and Vernon Counties, I have not started these plans yet, as I wrap up the Hickory and Cedar County plans, then I will start on Henry and Vernon. Bates will see more action in late 2023, so I am a-ways from starting this plan, but you are on my radar. At this time, there are no funding opportunities for actions within those counties that have FEMA-approved plans that would use federal funding, so I apologize for that. However, if there are opportunities to take advantage of that do not need federal funding, by all means, those are fair game. Other tidbits to note to everyone, Sheridan and I will be starting on a regional broadband plan soon, using data we compiled during the speed testing sessions that were done not too long ago. I’m not sure what this plan will look like but it’s something that will ultimately help with high-speed internet around the region. Please contact me if you have any questions about broadband, hazard mitigation, or any related topics. Happy New Year to All!

Shannon Stewart, Grant Writing Specialist

This past year certainly painted a unique financial landscape, and has truly kept us ALL busy! I continue to assist communities in our region that have received their ARPA funding and need guidance on eligible expenditures, reporting procedures, etc. New reporting guidance was recently issued for Non-Entitlement Units (which applies to all cities/villages in the Kaysinger region), and I am working to ensure that guidance makes its way to all in our region. Additionally, the SLRF Final Rule will be in effect April 01, 2022, so I am also working to provide assistance with that ruling, and how it applies to ARPA projects within the region. I attended the Missouri Recycling Association Conference in November and learned a great deal about recycling programs and options within the state, and how they can be applied to the Quad-Lakes Solid Waste Management District. I have also attended training for Re-TRAC, the system the MO DNR uses for the district grants and sub-grantees, reporting, etc. I have been fortunate to be assigned a mentor that has helped me tremendously through the transition process, and great strides have been made to get the program elements in place and running efficiently. I issued a second FY22 grant call, and grants are slowly filtering in. I am hoping for a really great round of projects to fund, and then in late spring, we will be issuing the first grant call for the FY23 grant round. Additionally, I look forward to implementing some education programs that will inspire youth in our region to embrace recycling and upcycling. I continue to assist with local, foundational, and federal grant opportunities and have also been very active with the Farm to Fork committee by spearheading the sponsorship piece of the Summit. I look forward to a really robust Farm to Fork event in February, and the potential growth of not only the F2F focus but also of the local agricultural community and embracing the “Living Locally… Growing Together” movement. I am excited for 2022 and all the really amazing projects and growth that will enhance the region’s prosperity.

Ryan Peters, Regional Planner

As your new regional transportation planner, here’s a brief intro about me. I grew up in Warrensburg from 1995-2011 when I graduated high school. Shortly thereafter, I left Missouri for about a decade between volunteer religious service and obtaining my collegiate education: a BS in geography from BYU, and an MS in urban and regional planning from the University of Utah. After a brief stint as a data analyst for the Missouri Dept. of Health during 2020-2021, I took this position to return to the rough area I grew up in and pay it forward. I obtained my education so that I had the tools necessary to help rural Missouri be the best that it can be. It will take all of us to make that happen.
I am updating the organizational structure of our GIS database to remedy a fatal flaw in the backup/recovery structure, and to allow for 2+ people to work with the GIS data/maps at the same time. As ArcMap will be retired soon by ESRI, I am in the process of converting our old ArcMap files to ArcGIS Pro files. I am also converting/adapting my program from graduate school (that used GoogleMaps imagery to find/evaluate conditions of bike lanes) to help with an upcoming GIS sidewalk project for Hickory County; when completed, this should be reusable for future sidewalk projects throughout the region. I am also updating all of our general Kaysinger maps of the region with new MoDOT data released during December. As I start to learn what everyone does and their local areas need, I will also make more specialized maps for each county and the greater region on a regular basis. I expect it will take several years to work through my long wish list of other maps & GIS analyses to be completed for our region.
I reviewed the recent regional prioritization project documents, and have been attending meetings with various MoDOT and USBR-51 partners. We have been meeting as a region virtually to help demonstrate to the state that the federal funding we are receiving should add to, not replace, the regular state funding for infrastructure – as we have many needed projects in our region to be completed within the next few years. I started making a list of all the transportation infrastructure issues I have received thus far via complaints, so feel free to continue sending those my way at rpeters@kaysinger.com. As your new regional transportation planner, I am working on learning the nuances of this position and region here, including attending several virtual and online trainings to get up-to-speed on local requirements and priorities. There is still much to learn and so many of you to meet in the upcoming weeks and months. I am here for the long haul, and excited for what is ahead of us!