Douglas County Commission approves funding for new student meal program

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Douglas County Commissioners Nancy Thellman, left, Patrick Kelly, center, and Michelle Derusseau, right, listen to public comment during their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19 2020.

The Douglas County Commission has approved $43,500 in funding for a new meal service for Lawrence students that was launched earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the Lawrence school district announced that several restaurants had stepped up to launch the new meal program, which replaced a former program operated by the school district that was halted last week. The meal service — which began Wednesday and is expected to operate through May 1 — provides free meals to all children under the age of 18 at several school sites.


Local restaurants to launch new student meal service for the remainder of April

Jill Jolicoeur, assistant county administrator, told the commissioners at their meeting on Wednesday that a majority of the funding for the program is provided by the school district and the USDA. But the Lawrence chamber of commerce and the Lawrence Schools Foundation asked the City of Lawrence and the county to provide a total of $87,000 to fill the remaining funding gap. The $43,500 the county will be providing is half of that amount.

Jolicoeur said the county may receive some of its funding back, as the schools foundation is conducting fundraising efforts for the program. Additionally, the city and the county are researching federal, state and private funding opportunities to reimburse their funding.

Jolicoeur said the new meal program is expected to provide a total of 2,600 meals a day. She said the program’s first operation on Wednesday went “really well.”

Commissioner Nancy Thellman said she was glad that the county is supporting the program.

“Besides the fact that this is a way to feed our kids in Lawrence, it’s also a way to keep our restaurants busy and helping them keep their employees working,” Thellman said.

The funding request was added to the commission’s meeting agenda late. County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said that unlike the city, she does not have a specific cash reserve to easily give administrative approval for funding the program. That led her to place it on the agenda on Tuesday, a day before the meeting, to get the commission’s approval.

In other business:

• The commissioners gave initial approval to the merger of the newly created Fire District No. 6 with Fire District No. 1, which serves the Lecompton Township, and Fire District No. 4, which serves the northern part of Marion Township. The action begins the second part of a two-phase plan to consolidate several rural fire departments into one.

With the approval, the county will publish the resolution outlining the merger later this month. In June, the commissioners will consider giving final approval, which would change the name of the newly created district to Consolidated Fire District No. 1.

• The commissioners authorized the county’s participation in a Neighborhood Revitalization Area to construct a mixed-use housing development at 800 Pennsylvania St.

The county, City of Lawrence and Lawrence school district all have the discretion to determine the rebate percentage and duration of the NRA for their taxing jurisdictions. According to a memo sent to the commissioners, the Public Incentives Review Committee requested that the county approve a total of approximately $463,000 of incentives for the project.

The Lawrence school board approved its portion of the program on Monday, and the Lawrence City Commission approved its portion on Tuesday.

• The commissioners approved paying about $150,000 to Killough Construction to repair the parking lots of the Douglas County Courthouse and the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. Plinsky said the project is expected to begin next week.

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