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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.