Vol. 1, Issue 3                                     March 2019
Time flies when you’re having fun, huh? One constant question over the past 9 weeks has been, “How are you liking your new role?” And my response … I LOVE IT. I have not learned this much, in such a short time, ever in my life. Well maybe I have but the amount of information coming at me daily is overwhelming at times but for the most part, AMAZING! And the best part about this role is the amount of support and encouragement that continues to come. This community has really embraced me, which was completely unexpected so for that I’m forever grateful.

One question I continually ask is, why is everything in government so complicated? I mean, really? The amount of information that is thrown at me is insane. And I guess I’m crazy because I’m loving it. And while it’s no surprise that I’m new to government and the learning curve is, to say the least, STEEP … I work hard. And when I don’t understand something I’m not afraid to ask.  

SO what am I working on, you ask? 

As the representative for the 4th District, it is very important to me that you know what I’m working on. I’d like to utilize this edition to give a brief update on what I’ve heard from constituents as to the priorities for this district:

  1. Behavioral and Mental Health Facility for Adults – It is extremely difficult to express the breadth and depth of the impact that mental health and behavioral health concerns have on individuals and families throughout our community. 70% of all cases in our courts right now are related to drugs and/or alcohol. Almost 30-40% of people in our jail right now have a diagnosed mental illness. We have got to come up with a solution to get people the help they need. As the Board of Health, we have a responsibility to find solutions to the problems that are plaguing our community. Over the course of the next few months, I will be traveling to Topeka to meet with our State Legislators to work on finding the funding to make this work. I will also be working to find private partners and examples of facilities already established in our county that we can duplicate. Mental and Behavioral health has got to be taken as seriously as a heart attack or other physical illnesses. With suicide, domestic violence and crime rates on the rise, we have to act and we have to act now as behavioral and mental health issues play a huge role when looking to reduce these numbers. 
  2. Senior Services – For the past 12 years my life has been devoted to senior services. I guess you could say I have a heart for seniors. One thing I must do is fully understand how our Department on Aging works and let me tell you, it is complicated. From funding streams to all levels of services there is a lot to learn. I have made it a priority to dive in and figure out all the nuts and bolts of how this department is spending money. The last thing I want is for any senior citizen to go without needed services if we are able to fulfill their need. Now I don’t want to give the impression that our Dept. on Aging is doing anything wrong, I just want to say that, for me, the department is complex and it takes time to fully figure it out. I am a firm believer that things can always be improved and if we are not constantly looking to make things better… well, then, what is the point? My goal, as a senior advocate, is to make sure the seniors in our community know what services are available and have access, should they need help. 
  3. Opportunity Zones – ”The Opportunity Zones incentive is a community investment tool established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide. Opportunity Zones provide a tax incentive for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into dedicated Opportunity Funds.” Completely easy to understand, huh? Nope. Not for me anyway and I’m not even afraid to admit it. This stuff is complicated. I like to break it down like this … there is land, in Wichita and mostly in District 4 (see map below) that fall in these zones. There are funds created by people with loads of cash who have sold stuff and to defer paying their capitol gains (i.e. tax that is owed when you sell stuff) they can put that money they made in a fund to help fuel revitalization efforts. There is a whole lot more to this but in a nut shell, there are funds out there. It’s just matching ideas with dollars. And we all know at least 3 people with incredible ideas in this community with no way to fund it. SO … as you can see, I have a lot to learn about this complicated process but I am doing the work and gaining more and more knowledge each day about Opportunity Zones. And because I don’t like to keep all this glorious news to myself here is a website that really explains how this program works. 

My work is totally cut out for me but I am very much engaged and up for the challenge. As always, my door is open. If you have questions, concerns or IDEAS, please feel free to share them with me. I am here to represent you. Please reach out. Your voice matters. 

Don’t forget about the Citizens Advisory Board coming up on April 8th at Connie’s Mexican Café. 

Lastly, thank you again for your continued encouragement. I would like to close this edition with a quote from Wayne Dyer, “If you believe it will work out you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.”

I believe. Do you? 

Have a great weekend! I’m here if you need me.

Burn ban to be enforced in April
Sedgwick County Fire District 1 reminds residents that a burn ban imposed by the state of Kansas will be in effect in Sedgwick County during the month of April.

New open burn permits will not be issued during the month of April and no current permit holders will be allowed to conduct open burns after March 31, 2019. Open burns can resume after April 30, 2019.

The ban includes all open burning of any waste, including vegetation and wood waste, structures, or other material on any premises.

The following counties will be affected along with Sedgwick County: Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Cowley, Elk, Geary, Greenwood, Johnson, Lyon, Marion, Morris, Pottawatomie, Riley, Wabaunsee and Wyandotte.

Exceptions to the open burn ban include pasture, crop, range and wildlife or watershed management. The allowed burning operations will still require a valid permit from Sedgwick County Fire District 1. Burn permits may be requested online at www.sedgwickcounty.org or by calling 316-660-3473.

Always call 911 before you burn.  The Kansas Department of Health & Environment open burning regulations (K.A.R. 28-19-645 through K.A.R. 28-19-648) apply.

Questions regarding the burn ban, or fire safety in general, should be directed to the office of the Sedgwick County Fire Marshal at 316-660-3473.
Crews continue to work on the Kellogg/ I-235 interchange rebuild. This first phase is scheduled to be completed this year.
Update on Kellogg/ 235 interchange
Project updates can be found at www.235kelloggcentral.com and include:

  • All ramps are open but temporary lane closures are possible for regular maintenance chores or to complete minor items from the construction punch list.
  • Work will resume on bridge painting as weather moderates but traffic should not be affected.
Furry receives national recognition
At the County Weed Directors Association of Kansas (CWDAK) annual meeting on March 6, Sedgwick County Noxious Weeds Division Director, Mark Furry, was the recipient of the group’s Public Relations Award. To earn the award, Director Furry organized and worked the noxious weed booth at the Wichita Farm Show, set up and worked the noxious weed booth at the 2018 Kansas State Fair and gave several talks throughout the year on noxious weeds.

Furry currently leads the CWDAK board, serving as President. He has previously served as both the Secretary Treasurer and the Vice President of the organization. 

CWDAK aims to improve the noxious weed program in Kansas, improve the status of county weed directors, provide a forum to discuss common problems facing weed directors, and a general support of agriculture as well as noxious weed impacts on the agriculture economics in Kansas.
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Month observed
Statistically, more than 9,000 residents in Sedgwick County have an intellectual or other developmental disability. Our community is becoming increasingly aware that these disabilities do not keep individuals from realizing their full potential at school, work, home, or as members of their communities. Click here to watch a video about the Sedgwick County Developmental Disability Organization.

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers encourage everyone to focus on the abilities of all people. The most effective way to change attitudes and beliefs about the abilities of individuals with developmental disabilities is through everyone’s work and active participation in community activities and the openness to learn and acknowledge each individual’s contribution.

The Board of County Commissioners encourages all citizens to support people with intellectual and developmental disability and their families in all aspects of community life.

Click here for more information about the Community Developmental Disability Organization (CDDO) and services in our community. 

Featured photo is of the Arc of Sedgwick County and CDDO Director Dee Nighswonger.
Commission to gather public input on wind and solar energy
Sedgwick County Commissioners held a public forum for residents to provide input on land use related to wind and solar energy systems in the county on Thursday, March 28.

Residents still have the option to leave comments related to wind and solar energy systems in an online forum. Comments will be accepted now through Friday, April 26 at www.sedgwickcounty.org .

During a public meeting on February 7, Commissioners voted to temporarily prohibit applications for wind and solar energy operations through a moratorium. This action will allow staff to conduct additional research and study for the development, consideration, and potential establishment of specific standards or regulations. The moratorium will temporarily prohibit the acceptance and processing of an application for a commercial wind or solar energy system until August 12, 2019. There are no current applications for such systems in Sedgwick County.
Promotions and key changes to Sedgwick County administration
County Manager Tom Stolz announced a restructuring of the County’s leadership team that includes key changes and promotions.
Assistant County Manager Tim Kaufman has been appointed Deputy County Manager. Kaufman’s oversight over the County’s health and human services organizations will remain the same but he will provide organizational oversight in Stolz’ absence.
Tania Cole has been promoted to Assistant County Manager. Cole will oversee central services, County facilities and maintenance, courthouse police, communications, and the government lobbyist, among other functions. A 14-year County employee, Cole most recently served as Director of Facilities.
County participates in St. Patrick's Day Parade
Commissioners, Sedgwick County EMS, and Sedgwick County Fire District 1 celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with the Annual St. Patrick’s Day parade through Historic Delano on Saturday, March 16. 
Get rid of unwanted tires - for free!
Mark your calendars for the next Waste Tire Collection event! Sedgwick County businesses and governments may dispose of waste tires from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, April 18. Residents will be able to drop off waste tires from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20. Tires will be collected at the Sedgwick County West Yard, 4701 S. West Street. 
As the top outdoor family attraction in the State, the mission of the Sedgwick County Zoo is to inspire discovery, appreciation, and respect for animals and nature. It is home to 3,000 animals and nearly 400 species. The Reed Family Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit is the third largest elephant habitat in the United States. 
Exploration Place, Kansas’ premier science center, inspires a deeper interest in science through creative and fun experiences for people of all ages. Through its permanent and travelling exhibits, education programs, Digital Dome Theater films and special events, visitors can enjoy learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  
The Kansas African American Museum endeavors to make the Kansas African American experience resonate with EVERY Kansan. Located in the venerable Calvary Baptist Church, visitors may expand their knowledge and understanding of the Kansas African American story. 
Residents and visitors can gain an understanding of our community and cultural heritage at the Wichita – Sedgwick County Historical Museum. By collecting, preserving, and interpreting materials which reflect the area’s heritage visitors can experience different facets that shaped the community we live in today.  
525 N. Main, Ste 320, Wichita, KS 67203