RC&D thrives in glacial hills

by Clarke Davis

The Glacial Hills Resource Conservation and Development Region Inc. has undergone many changes in recent months, but is still carrying out its core function — working to improve the economic, social, and environmental health of northeast Kansas.

The RC&D has left Valley Falls and the federal government has left the RC&D.

Gary Satter, executive director of the Glacial Hills RC&D, at the business development center in Wetmore.

Gary Satter, executive director of the Glacial Hills RC&D, at the business development center in Wetmore. Photo by Clarke Davis

No longer is the Natural Resource Conservation Service the driving force behind the RC&D, which stopped federal funding in April.

One thing that is the same is Gary Satter, the original program coordinator, is back as the executive director leading the program for the board of directors.

The office has moved to Wetmore from Valley Falls where it has been located since it was founded 20 years ago.

Wayne Ukena, formerly of Valley Falls and Effingham, was the driving force behind getting it funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The first organizational meeting was held in 1989 and funding was approved in 1991. Satter was named the coordinator and the program got under way in May of that year.

Satter said that funding was always difficult, but Congress always came through except this last time. The first RC&Ds began under the old Soil Conservation Service in 1962 and there were 375 of them in operation when Congress cut the $52 million that once helped fund them.

Many closed up shop, Satter said, but some, like Glacial Hills, continues to operate and function as well or better than ever. Of the nine RC&Ds in Kansas, one has shut down and two are struggling, Satter said.

The Glacial Hills office moved to Wetmore because it owns a building there where it carries out its business development program in conjunction with Washburn University.

The personnel who used to work out of the Valley Falls office have scattered. Patty Brown, an office assistant, has retired, while Denise Streeter works four days a week for the NRCS in Manhattan and one day a week for Glacial Hills. Forester Dave Bruton will move his office to the Wildlife & Parks office west of Valley Falls.

Satter, who was an NRCS employee when he took the job with Glacial Hills in 1991, retired in 2009 after 34 years with the government. Jessica Bowser became the coordinator in December 2009 and she had left for another position before funding was cut. Satter worked for the nonprofit side of Glacial Hills in the interim.

Glacial Hills continues to be directed by a board of directors. The bylaws, which have not been changed, call for up to five directors from the original counties that comprised the RC&D — Jefferson, Jackson, Atchison, Nemaha, Doniphan, and Brown. Marshal was added later.

But Satter said the territory now is not limited to county lines, but takes in all of northeast Kansas and membership on the board is open.

“We have 12 to 15 dedicated people who meet once a month to direct the program,” Satter said. Those serving from Jefferson County are Diane Heinen and Mercedes Taylor-Puckett.

He indicated there were vacancies on the board, room for anyone else who wishes to serve. The board meets at 1 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Wetmore.

Satter said they revisited the mission statement and decided not to change it.

One area he believes needs more emphasis is the social or human aspect and said they are considering a leadership develpment program and maybe something for senior citizens.

“Some of these needs have not been addressed,” he said.

Satter is proud of how well they have done, unfettered by the government.

“We might have had $1,000 in the bank when we were left on our own,” Satter said. “We now have an annual budget of $2,080,000.”

One of its missions is business development and expansion. Teamed with the Washburn Small Business Development Center, they provide an “incubator” for start up businesses in the Wetmore building.

Three offices are available along with on-site assistance and help with legal, tax, and licensing issues and creation of a marketing plan. Providing technical assistance is Mary Ann Riederer.

A revolving loan fund is also available to start and grow a business for those unable to get loans through banks or other sources. Currently, the program has $900,000 on loan to 20 businesses.

Open house will soon be held at the Glacial Hills Food Center in Horton. This is a commercial kitchen that has been donated by the hospital in that community and will now be available to anyone who wants to produce and market specialty foods.

“This is for someone who bakes bread or makes jellies and wants to ramp it up and sell to larger markets that need a licensed facility,” Satter said.

The largest programs under the RC&D sponsorship are three Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy programs in the Tuttle Creek, Missouri River, and Delaware River watersheds. These all have their own coordinator and are funded through the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health and Environment for soil conservation and improvement of water quality.

The Delaware River Streambank Restoration Program is funded for eight sites at $333,000 this year. Next year it will expand to 18 sites with a budget of $760,000.

Some other projects include a stormwater stabilization project at Holton for $208,000 and a USDA specialty crop project funded at $42,000.

Most of the business development programs and loan program are financed through donations from businesses who receive tax credits. A company’s contribution qualifies for a 75 percent dollar-for-dollar credit to reduce the Kansas income tax owed and the full amount can be deducted on the federal tax return.

Satter, 63, is a Logan farm native. He and his wife, Julie, have three children and one granddaughter. Julie is a speech pathologist employed by Keystone Learning Center that serves Jefferson County schools.

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Posted by on Aug 15 2011. Filed under Featured, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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