Blog Archives

Project Spotlight: Vermillion Water Project

Residents Enjoying Clean Water with Completion of First Phase of Project

image of sludge filled/corroded pipes

A two-phase project in the City of Vermillion is working to resolve many water issues, including the presence of sludge filled/corroded pipes. (Courtesy Photo)

While many take access to clean water for granted, residents in the small town of Vermillion, Kansas, located in eastern Marshall County, are celebrating the recent connection of a new source of water supply.

The original water source and systems circa 1934 were plagued with increasing concerns in recent years. The City of Vermillion (population 80) had a water well source with high concentrations of iron and manganese. To mitigate the issues, the system was flushed regularly to try to rid it of the odorous colored water. Some residents even adjusted laundry around the flushing schedule to ensure that their white laundry stayed white. More importantly, the water quality was poor and the EPA deemed it unfit for infants to drink.

The city did what it could to maintain and improve the water system and increased water rates incrementally several times. The needs, however, were great. Eventually the city turned to outside funding sources beginning with a USDA SEARCH grant to complete preliminary testing for new well sites. The city then decided to take a two phased approach to address its water needs. For Phase 1, the city was awarded $252,000 through the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. The City of Vermillion secured additional funds through a combination of a USDA Rural Development loan of $415,000 and grant of $1,890,000.

image of water being flushed

A comparison of water being flushed before (left) the new water source supply and after (right). (Courtesy Photo)

“Improving the water quality is a critical need for a community — and it was impacting Vermillion’s growth overall,” said Amanda Horn, NCRPC Community Development Representative.

A new well has been the primary focus of Phase 1 and the new source of supply is now connected in Vermillion. A new hydracone water tower is nearing completion. This first phase will also include tearing down and disposing of the old water tower.

The NCRPC, with Horn as the project lead, provided planning assistance, grant writing and project administration. Other non-funding key partners involved with the project — all from Kansas — were engineers CES Group, Inc. of Marysville, and contractors J&K Contracting of Junction City, Jadwin Construction of Hiawatha, Gerard Tank and Steel of Concordia, and Terrane Resources of Stafford.

The project has not been without challenges. Original cost estimates for the project were pre-COVID, but the cost skyrocketed with the surge in prices and material availability issues. This could have jeopardized the project, but partners worked together to find solutions to keep things moving forward.

“Huge credit goes to everyone who has assisted with this project,” Horn said. “I feel like each entity has gone the extra mile for the town in order to make things work.”

There is more work to be done and a second phase is planned, but first residents are celebrating the recent connection of the new source of water supply. “I washed a load of white clothes the other day and they came out looking as white as they did going in,” one resident commented. “I never used to buy white clothes because they would come out yellow.”

“Everyone has been wanting this for Vermillion for years,” another resident said. “Good water is a must, and now we have it!”

Next up in Phase 2 is to focus on the distribution infrastructure to ensure the community can grow and prosper for the next 100 years.

“I call Vermillion my “miracle” city,” said Horn. “They have gotten a lot right that not many cities could. They are an example to any small town that big things are possible.”

This article appeared in the Quarter 2 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

There are many great things happening in North Central Kansas. Project Spotlight shares stories from communities around the region and how they solved challenges. To view more Project Spotlights, visit

Setting, Evaluating Goals Important to Community and Organization Success

image of goal setting conceptDreaming big, setting goals, making bold plans for the future — these actions all can play an important role in community or organization success.

NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor Deb Ohlde facilitated a recent goal setting session with Republic County Economic Development board members. This was the second session that Ohlde had facilitated for the group.

“Making goals is one thing, but we really try to make them and utilize these goals,” said Jenny Russell, Republic County Economic Development (RCED) Director. “In the last year, RCED has taken the goals from these sessions and put them into our work plans to measure success each month.”

Routinely setting goals is beneficial for communities, local governments, and nonprofit organizations. Stepping back to review and update goals regularly is also needed.

image of Republic County Economic Development goal setting session

Republic County Economic Development hosted a goal setting session on April 17, 2023 facilitated by NCRPC staff.

“There is turnover in board members or elected officials, a new business comes to the area, staff retires, or a new community key issue crops up,” Ohlde said. “Things change and it is important to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands what the community or organization is working toward.”

While goal setting approaches may vary, consistency is key.

“I think a formal, longer session with some additional gathering of feedback such as through a survey or a community meeting should happen at least every three years,” Ohlde said. “In between time, the board should be reviewing and tweaking goals at least quarterly to make sure they haven’t strayed from their work plan and to make adjustments for new circumstances.”

Another bonus of goal setting is increased readiness for possible grant funding. As funding sources are rolling out fast with short turnaround times, having projects identified and moving forward is helpful.

Contact the NCRPC Community Development staff to learn more about goal setting meeting facilitation and other customized solutions to meet your project needs.

This article appeared in the Quarter 2 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Initiative Aims to Address Rural Housing Challenges

Pilot program offers financial assistance for moderate-income housing rehabilitation, demolition

image of home renovation conceptA pilot program intended to strengthen housing in rural communities recently launched its second year. NCRPC is administering the program — called the NCRPC Housing Initiative — through a partnership with the Dane G. Hansen Foundation of Logan, Kansas.

The initiative includes financial assistance for moderate-income housing rehabilitation and demolition of dilapidated residential structures. The Demolition Pilot Program offers reimbursement grants of up to $5,000 per property for removal and cleanup of structures. There are no income qualifications for the demolition program. The Moderate Income Housing Rehabilitation Pilot Program offers reimbursement grants of up to $10,000 to homeowners in eligible counties to complete minor housing upgrades. Households must meet moderate income guidelines outlined in the program application to be eligible to apply. Homeowners must also provide a 10% match and pay any costs above and beyond the grant.

The 2023 service locations include the following Kansas counties: Cheyenne, Decatur, Gove, Graham, Republic, and Rooks. Assistance is available to income eligible residents on a first-come, first-served basis with funding limited per county.

“Housing is just like any other infrastructure in that without maintenance it becomes deteriorated,” said NCRPC Housing Director Keegan Bailey. “We are grateful for the support of the Dane G. Hansen Foundation helping to make the Housing Initiative possible.”

The first pilot programs for the NCRPC Housing Initiative launched in 2022 in Cloud, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Russell, and Smith counties. The first-year funding helped make possible 70 rehabilitation projects and 57 demolitions across the six counties.

“We were thrilled with results of the first year of the initiative,” Bailey said.

For more information or to apply, visit the NCRPC Housing Initiative page.

This article appeared in the Quarter 2 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Project Bundling Workshop

image promoting project bundling workshop hosted by North Central Regional Planning CommissionNCRPC hosted a Project Bundling Workshop in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration, Build America Center, and Applied Research Associates on June 1, 2023 in Salina, Kansas. The objective of this one-day workshop was to understand practical application of project bundling between local public agencies to solve infrastructure needs.

Meeting Materials/Resources:


Final Report – DRAFT (PDF, 6.13 MB)

This report draft highlights the NCRPC Project Bundling Workshop sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Every Day Counts round five (EDC-5) Project Bundling team. The workshop was held in-person with several virtual presentations.


For questions, contact the NCRPC Community Development team at 785-738-2218 or email Deb Ohlde, NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor, at

Federal Transportation Funding Announced for North Central Kansas

image of Federal Transportation awards announced graphic

North Central Regional Planning Commission has been named an awardee of two different programs offered through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We are fortunate to have received both awards in a highly competitive process at the federal level,” said Debra Carlson Ohlde, NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor.

Based in Beloit, the NCRPC serves as the rural economic development district comprised of 12 counties with 83 towns in North Central Kansas.

The first award is through the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program. Through its SMART Grants Program, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded tech demonstration projects across the U.S. focused on advanced smart city or community technologies and systems to improve transportation efficiency and safety.

The SMART award for North Central Kansas funds a pilot program focused on drone use to inspect transportation assets. The data gathered from the drone inspections will be integrated in a prototype GIS-based platform that catalogs local infrastructure assets for innovative data management, monitoring asset conditions, and utilizing technology to inform solutions for infrastructure management and maintenance.

“We are excited to begin work on the SMART grant with member counties and with other partners across the state,” Ohlde said. “This project will enable the NCRPC to bolster GIS capacity in the region as well as pilot a system to use drone technology to manage transportation asset inspection and data capture.”

Although this first 18-month project is a pilot and has a limited number of participating counties, there is opportunity to grow the project to the entire region in the future.

The second award is through the Thriving Communities Program, also offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This award will provide no-cost, intensive technical assistance services for NCRPC and its project partners to build resilience and better position the region to access funding for future transportation projects. The project is anticipated to get underway in late spring/early summer and continue through 2025.

“The application to the Thriving Communities program was a natural fit for the NCRPC,” Ohlde said. “We have always tried to engage our region in new programs and this one offers the opportunity to learn from other similar regions and to access additional technical support for our counties. It is challenging for rural areas to capitalize on federal funding programs and we know we will be better able to do that as an organization and region through this opportunity.”

Community Connection 2023

Zoom Session Resources

NCRPC recently hosted a virtual Community Connection event to share more about the organization and funding opportunities.

April 12, 2023  |  Zoom Recording (MP4, 820 MB – 1:03:35)

Presentation Slides – PDF, 791 KB


A virtual NCRPC Community Connection event April 12, 2023 gave stakeholders in the region another opportunity to hear about the latest in grant funding opportunities.

Two in-person events took place in Beloit and Ellsworth earlier in March.

“We had great feedback from those who participated in our previous Community Connection events and we wanted to make that information available to others in the region who were not able to attend,” said NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor Deb Ohlde.

In addition to discussing funding options, there was conversation about how North Central Regional Planning Commission can partner with local communities and organizations to help them achieve goals.

The NCRPC provides assistance to a variety of sectors including cities, counties, non-profits, rural water districts, schools, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

More Information

For questions or to discuss project ideas, please contact the NCRPC Community Development team at 785-738-2218 or send an email to Deb Carlson Ohlde, NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor, at

Rural Voices Youth Contest 2022-2023 Scholarship Winners Announced

image of 2022-2023 Rural Voices Youth Contest theme and logoCongratulations to the 2022-2023 Rural Voices Youth Contest winners!

About the Contest

The NCRPC sponsors the Rural Voices Youth Contest each year to engage high school seniors in North Central Kansas in thoughtful reflection on rural Kansas and to promote a discussion among citizens based on their insights. The 2022-2023 theme was “Rural Kansas…Working Together.”

Rural Kansas: Cooperation and Dedication

By Jane Letourneau

“What’s your load of limestone?” This seemingly odd, yet relevant question for the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish, has been asked over this past year because of a restoration project that began in 2022. A little over one hundred years ago, the same church in the small, rural community of Beloit went through a similar process; but the parishioners had to hand-quarry limestone to build it. Since the beginning of the recent restoration, parishioners of the rural community have come together and are asking themselves and each other what their contribution, whether a financial gift or one of physical labor, will be.

In the year 1900, construction began in the little town of Beloit to build a better, more beautiful Catholic church. Restoration efforts were led by Monsignor Hietz, and his lofty dreams may have seemed like outlandish tales to some. With determination, his dreams were eventually
fulfilled, but it was not by his own drive and determination. The whole community of St. John’s Catholic Church put their heads together, and got to work. It was no easy task as the church was built with limestone that was quarried from nearby farmland. “ Tools and equipment in the early 1900s were primitive. Imagine quarrying thousands of loads of stone with hand tools and hauling stone and sand in horse-drawn wagons over trails and dirt roads” (Duskie). As was stated in an article about the project, “Anton Eilert assisted in the construction by hauling rock from a quarry eight miles northeast of Beloit. He hauled not only the thirty loads, stipulated by the pastor, but, because of his age, he was unable to quarry rock, so he compensated for this by hauling eighty loads”(Duskie). In the year 1904, the massive church was finished. Sacrifice, grit, and teamwork were major influencers and direct contributors to the success of Monsignor Heitz’s lofty dreams. Without the strong community of Beloit working together, it would have been impossible.

Fast forward nearly 119 years later, and a peaceful Sunday afternoon in Beloit was disturbed by the wailing of fire truck sirens. The upstairs church library was on fire, and a curious and anxious crowd had gathered in the parking lot across the street. Thankfully, the fire had been discovered before spreading to the rest of the church, but the damage had been done. Smoke had filled the space, and the stairs leading to the library and beautiful choir loft were charred. The emergency was, of course, unexpected and sudden. But it fueled a series of discoveries about the state of the more than one hundred-year-old church. And the question loomed: should the parish patch up the damage, or begin again and work together as their ancestors had years ago?

The decision was made to tackle complete restoration of the beautiful building rather than do a temporary patch-up job. Fundraising began, and a significant amount of money was needed for the project: three million dollars. But St. John’s parish community was ready for the challenge. Shae Johnson, the Communications Director for St. John’s Parish stated, “…when we started the campaign in May of 2022, we started with around $300,000 from the fire fund that rolled over into the restoration fund. With that in mind, we got to the 2 million mark in August of 2022, so it took 3 months to get there. It took 7 months to raise $2.9 million… from May 15 to December.” Working together was not only demonstrated in that of financial giving, but also physical labor. Needing a temporary location for the church, an old Dollar General store that had been out of business for several years was selected. Though it was not ideal, the space was large enough and it was decided to move all of the old church pews into it for seating. The job was completed in just one afternoon, and Shae Johnson again stated that, “Approximately 140 helped with the Dollar General move.” It has been inspiring and encouraging to watch the small parish community in Beloit, Kansas work together in such a way by their donations, physical labor, and campaigning efforts along the way.

This event is only a glimpse into the generosity and hard work of rural Kansans. As a whole, we are determined, strong, and ready to help each other in times of need. I have witnessed several instances where someone new has moved to my community, and a huge amount of help comes pouring in to make their transition from one place to another as pleasant as possible. Whether it be moving furniture or making meals, the generous support to those who are new in town is often overwhelming. Rural Kansans also are ready to help a neighbor with their work; especially when harvest is in full swing. With generous hearts and a willingness to serve, Kansans can be seen supporting one another in many instances, and welcoming one another with gracious attitudes.

My community of Beloit, and more specifically my parish community of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church has done an inspiring job of working together in the past year and a half. Without the love for our church and cooperation with one another that has occurred, the financial support and physical labor that has come pouring in would not have been possible. Rural Kansas was seen working together in the early 1900s when Monsignor Heitz decided to restore St. John’s church for the first time. The labor that has gone into our restoration looks different now than it did one hundred years ago. But it is obvious that Kansans are still working together in many inspiring ways as St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish works toward complete restoration. Not only our parish community, but all of rural Kansas can be seen helping one another when support is needed in instances such as helping a community member move in, and assisting a neighbor at harvest time. The restoration of St. John’s Church is only a glimpse into the ways that Kansas can be seen helping one another and building strong communities around cooperation and dedication.

Work Cited

Duskie, Rev. Monsignor John A., P.A., J.C.D. “Our Church A Mighty Fortress: The History of St. John the Baptist Parish, Beloit KS 1869-1982

Rural Kansas… Working Together

By Kady Toole

I wrote a book. In fact I have written and illustrated two children’s story books. As a self-published author for the last three years, I have been marketing and selling these books on my own, without the help of a traditional publisher. Currently I have sold over 2,000 books, and all but a couple hundred have been direct sales, not sales from online places like Amazon, or other online dealers. Although I’m not making millions, I am making enough to cover all my publishing expenses and put away some money for college. Overall, I consider this experience of creating and marketing children’s books a success. I want to share with you why I think this success has been possible: because of the support of my North Central Kansas community.

I wrote and illustrated my first book as a sophomore in high school in a project-based learning class. The encouragement I received from family and friends as soon as they saw my finished product motivated me to pursue publishing my book. The project was a high-school wide endeavor and finalists were chosen to present in front of the high school. Those finalists were featured in our local paper: The Washington County News. And that’s how it all started… Once the news got out, my book took off. I had people stop me in the grocery store, talk to me at ball games, catch me on the street when I was out walking my dog… All of them wanted to congratulate me and purchase my books.

Because of my books I have realized the beauty of living in a small community. We are a family. I am their native daughter. My success is their success. They talk about their neighbor, the girl from their school, their student, their friend’s daughter, the Kady Toole girl from their town, the girl from their county and even the girl from their state who wrote and illustrated the children’s books. They share my story with others and are proud of my accomplishments because I am “one of theirs.”

Let me share some specific stories of how my community has rallied around me in this process.

I have lived on the same street in Washington, KS since I was six years old. I have played on this street, shared cookies and treats, and visited with our neighbors all of those years. They have watched me grow up and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Down a few houses on my street lives my wonderful neighbor Patty and her husband. This 80-year-old fireball has been a pillar of our community for years. She is personally responsible for selling over 30 of my books. She has shared them with her daughter who jumped on the bandwagon and now shares books with her friends in her Arizona community. She’ll call or text me and say, “I need some more of your books.” Who needs a publishing house when there are Patty’s right next door?

Traci is our elementary school’s self-proclaimed “library lady.” She knows everyone, everywhere. Traci reads my book to her classes, keeps a plush doll of the dog in my book in the library, initiates asking the school board if I can sell my book at our Scholastic book fair, and tells people about me whenever she can. Because of Traci, I have my book in school libraries in Germany and all over Kansas. Because of Traci, I even ended up doing a school author visit at Hickok Elementary School and now over 40 kids in Ulysses – in the southwest corner of Kansas – own my book.

The stories aren’t just limited to people, local businesses have enthusiastically supported me as well. The Washington County Hospital purchased copies of my first book to put in their “new baby” baskets. The Friends of the Library club purchased books for prizes for the summer reading program. Styled by R, a local boutique, invited me to do my second book release in their shop downtown as it was a perfect location. The list could go on and on.

This community spirit of helping out one of their own goes beyond just my small town – it extends to my county and all of North Central Kansas. Marcy, the librarian from Marysville, KS – a slightly larger community just 20 minutes to the east, featured my book in the very first Story Walk presented by their library. Their local high school KAYS Club raised the funds to put in a Story Walk in the city’s park, and instead of choosing a classic book, they chose mine – because I am a local author that they wanted to support. What a blessing! And this blessing just kept on giving. Because of the Story Walk, I was asked to speak at the Marysville Rotary club and to give a presentation on creating and marketing my book. And because of that presentation, Blue Valley Technologies out of Home, KS – a tiny town just east of Marysville – chose my book to include in their Christmas Giving Tree baskets this year for over 100 families in the area.

I have visited over 20 public libraries, 6 schools, 6 day cares, 3 preschools, 7 area clubs, had 6 book signings, and even participated in a parade in the last two years. I have been in our local paper at least three times, been interviewed by local radio 5 times and been on the Topeka television station once. All because I am a local author and illustrator, and people are excited to share what is going on with my book. This is the beauty of our North Central Kansas community. They truly want to see me be successful.

Although big cities would have more people available to hear about and purchase my books, I do not believe that I would have experienced the success in those locations that I have had being a member of my small North Central Kansas community. The sense of family and being “one of their own” leads my community to share and promote my books with pride because I am one of theirs. In a big town I am just another person trying to make a go of it. I live in a town of under 1000 people and although there is no way of proving this, I am pretty sure most of those households own one of my books.

I hope others see what I am doing and realize that they can jump out on their own and try something unique, knowing they will be completely supported and encouraged by their community. Not just through their words but also through the enthusiastic purchase and use of their product or service. I truly believe that my success is directly related to being a member of my small, rural, North Central Kansas community.

I am truly blessed and honored to be a part of my community, and my goal is to do everything I can to make these wonderful people proud of the books I create. Their encouragement and support make me want to do the best I can, not for myself, but because I represent them. I represent what North Central Kansans can do because we do it together.

Check back in Fall 2023 for details on the 2023-2024 Rural Voices Youth Contest.

Results Positive for Home Ownership Pilot Program in Washington County

Financial incentives offered through the Washington County Home Ownership Pilot Program assisted in the purchase of 10 homes in the county from June to December 2022.

The program provided home buyers with down payment and closing cost assistance. The total value of the 10 homes purchased was just over $1.9 million, with $125,000 coming from the pilot program.

Grant funds for the program were provided through a contribution from the Patterson Family Foundation. Loan funds were provided by the North Central Kansas Community Network, Co. (NCKCN)-Four Rivers Business Loan Pool. North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) administered the program. NCKCN is an affiliate of the NCRPC.

“We were grateful to have the generous support of the Patterson Family Foundation helping to make this program possible,” said NCRPC Home Ownership Program Manager Keegan Bailey. “Strengthening rural housing is a key to success for our communities.”

Survey results of home buyers who accessed the program indicate positive local impacts.

“Employment was listed as the greatest reason for moving at 87%,” Bailey said. “We were also pleased to see a high percentage of young home buyers with 73% of home buyers under the age of 30.”

Other notable outcomes include 93% of home buyers reported the program was a factor in their decision to purchase a home at this time, 67% bought their first home, and 67% graduated from a high school in one of the counties in the NCRPC service area — including Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, Saline and Washington.

Similar pilot programs have been completed in Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, and Saline counties and the City of Marysville. Future plans include the expansion of pilot home ownership programs to each of the remaining counties in the NCRPC 12-county service area, pending the availability of funding. Results of these pilot programs will be used to develop a permanent regional relocation program.

Learn more about the Home Ownership Program initiative.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Peters Recognized for Service to Regional Homeland Security Councils as Fiscal Agent

image of Lisa Peters receiving Outstanding Service Award for 2022 from Kansas Emergency Management Association

Kansas Emergency Management Association President Kathleen Fabrizius (left) presented NCRPC staff member Lisa Peters (right) with the Outstanding Service Award for 2022. (Courtesy Photo)

NCRPC staff member Lisa Peters was presented the Outstanding Service Award for 2022 by the Kansas Emergency Management Association at the end of last year. Lisa is NCRPC Assistant Director and serves as Homeland Security Coordinator. The NCRPC is contracted to provide fiscal agent services to six of the Regional Homeland Security Councils in Kansas. This award recognizes exemplary service to the Homeland Security Program and the counties and communities it serves.

Homeland Security Program project investments address the planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs to help build local and regional response capabilities and encourage citizen safety and preparedness. Cybersecurity has increasingly become a focus for projects and became a major point of emphasis in 2022 for Peters and the Regional Homeland Security Councils she helps to administer.

“Unfortunately, the threat, frequency, and cost of cyber attacks for county and local public safety organizations grows every year,” Peters said. “A percentage of all of our projects are now earmarked to address cybersecurity issues. There was a learning curve as regional councils determined how best to approach the challenges, but projects are now underway with the goal of improving cybersecurity resiliency of the involved counties.”

The State and Local Cybersecurity projects are funded by grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Free Virtual Training Courses Now Available

Topics Cover Remote Work, Rural Grocery Stores, Nonprofits

NCRPC is now hosting free, virtual training courses covering a wide range of topics. Courses available on the training website include a remote work series and a comprehensive rural grocery training series. In addition, some recorded nonprofit board development trainings that were offered in 2021 and 2022 are also archived on the site.

These courses were made possible, in part, through a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded to the NCRPC.

Learn more and check out what is available by visiting the training site.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.