As has been the case in other settings recently, housing concerns dominated a good portion of the Greensburg/Kiowa County Public Square Steering Committee meeting Tuesday (November 27).


   As has been the case in other settings recently, housing concerns dominated a good portion of the Greensburg/Kiowa County Public Square Steering Committee meeting Tuesday (November 27).
    Carmen Stauth, head of the Recovery Action Team, devoted most of her time updating those present on her group’s recent activity and planning in regard to housing strategy, including their conclusion of needing to fill a full time position.
   “It’s our feeling we could really use a housing resources director and need to establish a housing resources office,” Stauth said.  She later said she plans on bringing a progress report on developing a job description for the post to the next steering committee meeting slated for December 11.
   Darin Headrick, USD 422 Superintendent, indicated his support for creation of such a position, saying, “It’s hard to keep track of what all resources are coming into town.  If people had a place, a person they could go to in order to get questions answered, that could be a big help.”
   Kim Gamble stressed the importance of the position being full time when she added, “We need to have someone full time, even if there are days they don’t see anyone because they would be available on a regular basis for when people need information.”
   Steering committee director Terry Woodbury echoed the sentiment of several when he indicated the role of a housing resources director would be “more of an information coordinator to direct people to where they can get the help or information they need, rather than a case manager.”  He also indicated the position might involve other-than-regular hours.  “This job may not fit a normal work day schedule,” he said.  “This person might need to meet with people between 5 and 10 p.m. when people have time off from work.”
   Several possible sources of funding the salary for the position were named, such as Americorps, Kansas Housing Resources Corporation (KHRC) and funds currently held by South Central Community Foundation (SCCF).
   Stauth also raised the need for holding a resource fair covering housing financing, asking if the need could better be met with a one-day forum, or arranging to have appropriate agencies “come into an employee’s location and do consultation with them and their spouse.”
  Headrick suggested such an event, in whatever format, be held after the first of the year, because of the time crunch facing people during the holiday season.
   Stauth also said that her group had met “several times” recently with such organizations as SCCF, KHRC, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Mennonite Housing and USDA, coming away with a consensus for needing a screening process to “identify the truly needy in terms of housing assistance.”
    In other matters…
nMarvin George, head of the Youth Action Team discussed the possibility of using youth on all the action teams currently making up the steering committee.  Woodbury asked Headrick if there would “be a way to incorporate the youth’s experience as part of the curriculum” at Greensburg High School.  Headrick responded, “Kids have to work through their schedules as best they can” to attend meetings in which they feel they have a stake.
   GHS student Taylor Schmidt said such several high school students feel “intimidated” and less than welcome at such meetings and expressed hope such sentiments could be eased in the future.
nIn regard to community conversation dealing with the advisory group relating to development of the proposed community media center, Mitzi Hesser reported Dee Corns, Gene West, herself and others having recently discussed the possibility of the center sharing space with the new public library and historical museum.
   “We need to meet again to decide our next move and how best to relate to them (individuals from Kansas State’s Huck Boyd Foundation such as Bert Biles),” Hesser said.  “We need to begin deciding what we want to see happen with the media center.”
   Woodbury interjected his belief that the value of the public square process is found in “not just having persons with a vested interest” weigh in on such matters, saying the matter easily “becomes politicized” when input is received only from those having a stake in the venture.
   “You have a much more open community decision if the general public is represented as well,” Woodbury said.
nErica Goodman of the Can Do Action Team reported that despite a successful Make-a-Difference-Day experience the last weekend of October, some “loose ends” remain to be addressed, including finishing erection of the playground equipment at the FEMA settlement.  She also mentioned a sizeable amount of curbside debris still needing to be removed—a task she said will be attempted with help from youth groups in March.
   Another concern to which her group has turned its attention is providing several “family fun night” events in January and February.
    The Well-Done Campaign is still being organized to celebrate what she termed “successes of locals” in rehabilitating the town.  A plan is being devised whereby local residents can be nominated to receive the award, which will likely be accompanied by some sort of “permanent marker” to identify winners.
   Goodman also reported plans are proceeding between the efforts of the tourism committee and housing developer Jack Manske’s connections with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to bring the group to Greensburg next spring for a benefit concert.
   Plans to hold an outdoor event this fall fell through when the band’s studio commitments interfered with finding an open date before cold weather set in.  Goodman said efforts are being made to hold the concert on or around May 4, the one-year anniversary of the tornadic destruction from which the town is recovering.
nSteve Kirk mentioned the possibility of holding a celebration signifying the moment Greensburg’s pre-May 4 population is reestablished. 
   While establishing precisely what that magic number might be remains a challenge, Kirk suggested the awarding of a cash prize to the individual or family that reaches that plateau.
  “If the population before were, let’s say, 1,425, then we’d try to collect $14.25 from as many people as we could,” Kirk said.  “Then when the one thousand, four hundred, twenty-fifth person moves in we could give what we’d collected as a prize.”
  Kirk also indicated plans are underway for the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, which might be held in Haviland at the facilities of Barclay College.  Headrick suggested using the practice gym at the temporary school, now that the kitchen facilities have been complete.  Toward that end, he reported students received their first hot meal on campus the previous Monday, November 26.
nHeadrick referred briefly to ongoing plans for the new school site, saying attempts are being made to include “outside-the-box” thinking.
    One such possibility would be building modest housing in connection with the school, such as several one-bedroom apartments whereby student teachers could have a ready residence for a semester.  Such arrangements, according to Headrick, could increase the opportunities for hiring and retaining such individuals as full time members of the faculty once their student teaching stint was finished.