City leaders in Jackson County say their pandemic needs were ignored by commissioners

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JACKSON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNT) – The state of Kansas was given $1,250,000,000 from the CARES Act in the spring, and it can be difficult to understand how your county is spending the money it’s given if the leadership is not sharing those figures with the people it serves. Some local city leaders in Jackson County believe their money isn’t being used fairly.

Johnson County and Sedgwick County were given specific sums of money for its large populations from the federal government: $116,311,034 and $99,636,917, respectively. The rest was distributed to the counties in Kansas based on population.

Jackson County for example, was given $2,933,239.60 as part of Kansas’ funding.

The three school districts in the county (USD 335, 336, 337) received $531,362.20, which is about 18% of the total funding.

Another major place the funding went to was the quarantine isolation chamber for the sheriff’s department to safely bring in prisoners during the pandemic, and remodeling the county attorney’s office, priced at $550,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Another big fee was $221,896.65 was given to the Holton Community Hospital, the only hospital in the county, while $226,860.00 was given toward NEK Multicounty Health Department which serves Atchison, Brown and Jackson counties.

All towns in the county received a total of $40,000 combined. Holton received $25,000 as the largest city in the county with a population of 3,248, which calculates to roughly $7.70 per person.

Hoyt has 638 people and received $5,000, which translates to $7.84 per person, which the president of the Hoyt City Council, Nathan McAlister said is not enough.

“It’s very insulting if you think about it,” said McAlister.

Jon Banaka is the mayor of Netawaka, a town of less than 150 people. The community center building is the heartbeat of the town.

“There hasn’t been a lot of transparency in terms of what projects they’re funding and what they’re not,” Banaka said.

All of the counties have breakdowns of how they spent their money on the SPARK website. You can find that by clicking here.

When Jackson County asked what its municipalities need from the CARES Act funding it received, they asked for about $30,000 to fix a building they say was plagued with mold after a summer in the pandemic, and staying closed in the heat.

They were given only $1,000.

“To receive such a proportionally smaller amount, it just seemed like they had other plans for it already,” Banaka said.

The commission said it believes the mold in both the Hoyt and Netawaka community centers existed before the pandemic began.

“In Hoyt, we did meetings down there, and we were told we could only use part of the building because there was mold,” said Janet Zwonitzer, Jackson County Commissioner for District Two.

Zwonitzer said the things they spent their money on are still the needs of this community.

“Everyone in the county, every city, every individual in this county benefits from the sheriff’s department the jail and the district attorney to keep them safe and to keep those departments going,” Zwonitzer said. “It’s not like we are keeping someone from a service it’s on the contrary it’s making sure those services continue.”

The commissioners said none of the leaders of the municipalities within Jackson County reached out to share their issues with the way the CARES Act budget was created.

Official documents from the governor’s office indicate the money was used properly, as determined by the state SPARK task force, “Based on the documents provided by Jackson County, it appears they have a good understanding of the eligibility requirements relative to CARES Act funding and have appropriately followed this process.”

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