UG Commission plans to change way it distributes a half-million dollars in casino grants

The Unified Government Commission is working on a plan that would change the way it distributes $500,000 in community charitable contributions from the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.

Under the proposed changes outlined at a recent UG meeting, UG commissioners would handle the grant applications directly, making decisions on them, according to UG officials. The selection committee no longer would make recommendations to the commission on the grants. A UG Commission subcommittee developed the proposed changes.

The focus of the grants, on community health programs in Wyandotte County, would stay the same, according to Joe Connor, assistant UG administrator, who described the changes at a recent meeting.

Commissioner Mike Kane was one of those who were in favor of the changes, as he noted last year that the 5th District was not receiving funds from the casino grant program.

Formerly, the maximum that could be distributed to any organization was $50,000 and the minimum grant amount was $10,000, but under the proposed change, there will be no minimum and maximum.

Each commissioner would have access to around $45,000 to distribute to nonprofits in Wyandotte County, according to the proposed plan. Previously, the selection committee selected the programs that would receive grants, and the UG Commission had the option of approving them all in total, or rejecting them all together.

Under the proposed plan, the commissioners will review applications, select recipients for about $45,000 that they will each control, and then their selections will go to the entire UG Commission for approval. The commissioners would be allowed to approve grants to agencies outside of their district, according to the plan.

The applications will still go through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, to verify whether the applicant is a legal entity in good standing with the state, and is either a nonprofit agency under the 501 (c) 3 rules or is a partner with a nonprofit, according to UG officials. Then the commissioners will review the applications.

Formerly, other local governments such as school districts were not allowed to apply for casino charitable grants, as the commission had reasoned that the schools already were receiving casino charitable grants under another program. However, under the new proposal, schools and governments will be allowed to apply for grants.

Commissioner Tarence Maddox said at the meeting that he was glad the commission has made a move in this direction. He thought the smaller groups formerly had been left out.

Smaller organizations that do not have nonprofit status could partner with larger organizations that are nonprofits in order to apply for grants, according to Commissioner Ann Murguia.

“This is going to create a lot more funding opportunity for the small grassroots organizations that make such positive impacts in their areas,” said Commissioner Murguia, who supports the change. “I think it will be really positive.”

The plan will come back before the commission for a final vote in a future meeting. The plan has the support of about seven commissioners, with Commissioner Jane Philbrook and Gayle Townsend expressing some doubts. Mayor Mark Holland also has previously expressed doubts about the changes to the funding distribution method.

Wyandotte County Democratic Breakfast planned Jan. 17

The Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic Breakfast will meet Saturday, Jan. 17, in a new location, the cafeteria of Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Ave.

The cafeteria is in the lower floor of the Jewell Building at KCKCC.

The guest speakers at the meeting will be state Sen. Anthony Hensley, Democratic leader of the Kansas Senate, and state Rep. Tom Burroughs, newly installed Democratic leader of the Kansas House.

The breakfast buffet is available at 8:15 a.m. and the forum begins at 9:15 a.m.

The cost for the buffet is $10; the cost is $7 for students and those on limited incomes.

The meeting is open to all Democrats. Reservations are requested by Jan. 16 to scottmackey08@yahoo.com. While reservations are requested, they are not required to attend.

New officers for the Wyandotte County Democratic Central Committee were elected on Dec. 7. They are Norm Scott, chair; Gwendolyn Thomas, vice chair; Crystal Watson secretary; Barbara Ikerd, treasurer; and Victor Harris, sergeant-at-arms.

State Reps. Tom Burroughs and Louis Ruiz were recently elected Democratic leader and assistant leader for the Kansas House of Representatives.

Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore was recently elected chair of the Wyandotte County legislative delegation. Sen. Pat Pettey was elected vice chair.

Area faces bitterly cold temperatures today

National Weather Service graphic
National Weather Service graphic

Wyandotte County faced bitter cold at 9 a.m. today, with the temperature at 9 degrees and the wind chill at minus 1.

The National Weather Service said flurries were possible late tonight and Wednesday, but no accumulating snow is expected.

Today’s high will be near 24, the weather service said. Tonight, the low will be around 17.

Wednesday’s forecast calls for a chance of flurries between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., and a high near 34, according to the weather service. Wednesday night, the low will be about 19.

Thursday, it will warm up to a high near 41, the weather service said. Friday’s high will be near 51.

According to the weather service, Saturday’s temperatures will reach 52. Sunday, the high will be 49.

On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, the high will be 48 with mostly sunny skies, the weather service said.