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Would extension district benefit county?

Marion County Extension Executive Board favors district with Dickinson County

Staff writer

Marion County Extension Executive Board — and its Dickinson County counterpart — wants to form a two-county extension district, agent Rickey Roberts told Marion County Commission on Monday.

The Kansas Legislature voted to allow extension districts in the early 1990s, and the first district formed in 1994, Area Extension Director Dale Fjell said.

There are nine districts in the state, representing 25 counties, Fjell said. The largest districts include up to four counties.

Commissioner Bob Hein asked the advantage a district would provide. From an agent’s perspective the biggest advantage would be to allow specialization, Roberts said. Marion County has two extension agents, which doesn’t allow specialization.

“I have to be all things to all people,” Roberts said.

By combining with Dickinson County’s three agents, one could specialize in crops while another specializes in livestock, he said.

An extension district would have an elected board of four members from each county, with elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. The first board would be appointed by the two county commissions, Fjell said. An extension district has taxing authority, he added.

Marion and Dickinson counties are a good fit for each other, because both counties spend about 1.2 mills worth of tax money for extension, Fjell said. That means neither county would see much of a change in tax rate.

Each county will always have an office and agents, Fjell said. In fact, each of the 25 counties that have joined a district still have an office in the same place they had one before.

An October or November decision would put the process on track for approval by the Kansas attorney general in July, when the office considers such districts. The attorney general hasn’t yet denied a request to form an extension district, Fjell said.

Roberts said he was in favor of forming a district now, because the counties can do it on their own terms. He had looked at a map of extension districts in the state, and one county was surrounded on all sides by districts. If that county ever wants to join a district, it will have to do so on the terms of one of the adjacent districts.

Dickinson County Commission hasn’t voted on forming the district, but it encouraged its extension board to pursue the idea, Fjell said after the meeting.

Last modified Oct. 22, 2009

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