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County could join new extension district

Staff writer

Marion County’s extension program could become part of a two-county extension district that includes Dickenson County.

The new district, if approved, would be created July 1.

Extension agent Rickey Roberts explained the growing popularity of multi-county extension districts to county commissioners Monday, and told them how being part of a district would benefit the county. In Kansas, 55% of counties are part of extension districts, Roberts said.

“What I can say with certainty is that this is where the state is going,” Roberts said.

Dickinson County has three extension agents and a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program educator, who would work cooperatively with Marion County’s two agents. That would allow Roberts and agent Tristen Cope to delve more deeply into programs they now cover in less depth.

Marion County’s two extension agents have educational priorities on livestock production, cropping and horticulture, natural resources, youth development, caregiving/aging, food safety, family relationships, financial management, healthy eating, physical activity, and the Pride program. They also teach residents how to best work with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“We consider ourselves generalists,” Roberts said. “We do a little with each. If we combined with Dickinson County, we would have those areas covered by five agents.”

However, merging the offices into a district is not a money-saving action because extension districts spend their budgets on people, Roberts said.

Forming a district isn’t about cutting people.

If a district is formed, each county would appoint four board representatives to start with and board members would be elected afterward. Each county would also appoint six or more people to an advisory group. The new district would have taxing authority.

An operating agreement would need to be forged between the counties, and voted on by the commissions. Then the agreement would need to be published twice in the newspaper and a 60-day protest period allowed before the agreement is submitted to the state attorney general.

Commissioners voted unanimously to have Roberts find out whether an extension district with Dickenson County would work. Roberts said he will return to report to commissioners in January.

Last modified Dec. 18, 2019

 

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