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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.

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.

Reminder: Unique Entity Identifiers (UEI) from Needed for Many Grants

Many State and Federal awards require entities to have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) assigned by the Federal System for Award Management website (

“The State has been rolling out new funding opportunities that have a short application window. All applicants are required to have a UEI# at the time of application,” said NCRPC Community Development Director Bri Beck. “If you think your organization will ever pursue State and/or Federal funding you should register for a UEI# as soon as possible. While the process to register for a UEI# is typically simple it can take a while to receive.”

The Unique Entity ID is a 12-character alphanumeric ID. The Federal government transitioned from using the DUNS Number to the UEI in 2022. If you already have your UEI#, make sure you are also fully registered in SAM and, that once you are registered, you do not let your account go inactive. Registration at the official SAM website is free. Do not be confused by look-alike websites offering to register on your behalf.

Recent changes have been made to enhance system security and deter fraud. has partnered with to implement multi-factor authentication for registered users. When users go to and log in, they will be asked to create a account. During initial registration, users will be asked to enter an email address. Be sure to use your existing SAM email address to create the account. Access to a working phone number (mobile or landline) is also needed to register as will send a security code.

For more information, contact the NCRPC or visit our website for assistance.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

New Clinic in Beloit Offers Health and Wellness Services

Loan Programs Assist Start-up Business

image of Astra Healthcare & Wellness, LLC

Astra Healthcare & Wellness, LLC, located at 116 E. Main Street, Beloit, Kansas, recently opened. (Courtesy Photo)

Starting a new medical clinic in rural Kansas was a project that owner Alan Curtis had thought about for some time. That dream became a reality with the opening of Astra Healthcare & Wellness, LLC located in downtown Beloit, Kansas, in January.

The clinic offers a comprehensive range of primary care services to patients including routine wellness exams, urgent care, and assisted medical weight loss. It also provides specialized services in aesthetic procedures including botulinum toxin injections, facials, and medical skin peels. A medical grade skincare line is also available.

Alan Curtis is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). He most recently worked as a Surgical Nurse Practitioner at Mitchell County Hospital. Prior to becoming licensed as an APRN, Curtis worked for more than 15 years as an ICU nurse in larger cities including Lincoln, Nebraska; Las Vegas, Nevada; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Denver, Colorado. Raised on a farm near Smith Center, Kansas, a desire to return to his rural roots are what led him to move to Beloit in 2019.

This start-up business project was made possible through assistance from the NCK Business Down Payment Assistance Loan Program, Mitchell County E-Community Loan Program, bank financing, and investment by the owner. As a result of the project, two full-time positions were created including the owner and another full-time licensed medical professional.

Learn more about the NCRPC Business Finance program.

This article appeared in the Quarter 1 2023 NCRPC Newsletter.

Banquet Celebrates Past, Looks to Future

image of Doug Griffiths during the keynote address at the NCRPC 50th Anniversary Banquet

Keynote speaker Doug Griffiths shared his perspective on community challenges and successes.

NCRPC capped off the year with a 50th Anniversary Banquet on November 10 in Beloit.

Approximately 120 people from throughout the region attended the event, which was also hosted on behalf of affiliate North Central Kansas Community Network, Co. (NCKCN).

One of the evening’s highlights was the keynote address by Doug Griffiths, community strategist and author of two best-selling editions of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.” In his presentation, he outlined seven of the 13 ways in which he said communities may undermine their success — sometimes without even knowing it.

  • Forget the water – quality and quantity
  • Don’t attract businesses
  • Don’t engage youth
  • Deceive yourself (Don’t assess your community’s need or values)
  • Live in the past
  • Don’t cooperate
  • Don’t take responsibility

He shared brief anecdotes and lessons learned through his work advising and consulting with communities. Regarding engaging youth, he shared that the nature of youth is to go off and explore. The goal is not to keep them from doing that, but to give them a reason to want to return.

“We have to stop being so negative about our communities,” Griffiths said. “We also need real engagement. It is not a matter of how you’re going to be effective but how you’re going to stay relevant.”

Griffiths closed by challenging the audience when it comes to taking responsibility. “If we want a solution, we have to go back to community building and helping each other,” Griffiths said.

NCRPC Executive Board Chair Tom Claussen (left) presented John Cyr with the inaugural NCRPC Lifetime Public Service Award.

Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the inaugural Lifetime Public Service Award to John Cyr. He dedicated his career to the region, much of which was spent as NCRPC Executive Director, and he is passionate about rural development and North Central Kansas. The NCRPC Executive Board plans to present an award annually to an individual, group or organization that has been distinguished by contributions to communities in the region over many years.

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

On-the-Job Training Program Provides Opportunity for Workers and Employers

Employers may be eligible for reimbursement to help cover job training costs of candidates meeting certain criteria.

On-the-Job Training offered through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers up to a maximum of $3,000 per year for two years to compensate employers for the cost associated with training and loss of production for newly hired employees.

Adults meeting certain priority categories such as veteran status, low income, or basic skills deficiencies may qualify for training assistance. Programs are also available for dislocated workers and youth ages 16-24 who are not attending school.

Potential examples of occupational skills training for adults may include on-the-job training for city water operators or local businesses training new hires in a skilled profession.

“I feel like On-the-Job Training is the best type of training because it is generally hands on, very company specific, and an earn and learn model that works,” said Tucky Allen, Business Services Director with Kansas WorkforceONE. “The end goal is a career/good job for participants.”

To learn more about WIOA On-the-Job Training and to determine eligibility, contact Tucky Allen at Kansas WorkforceONE at 316-303-2906 or by email at

This article appeared in the Quarter 4 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.