By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
After many years of work, a date has finally been narrowed down for the small town of Plains to get its first grocery store since 2001, and the foundation that will operate the store recently received more funding for the project.
The Community Enhancement Foundation of Plains has been awarded $220,000 in Kansas Community Service Tax Credits to support its Grand Avenue Market Project.
The foundation is one of 25 non-profit organizations in the state that will share $4.13 million in tax credits from the Kansas Department of Commerce.
CEFP applied for the maximum of $250,000, and the $220,000 was equal to 70 percent of the money raised by the organization, a little more than $300,000.
More than 65 applications were received by the KDOC, and foundation president Jeanne Roberts said the local application was the second in the number of points received.
CEFP leaders will go to Wichita on Aug. 14 for a training session with the KDOC.
“They’ll give us the rules and regulations for these tax credits and go over any funding gaps and help us in that area,” Roberts said. “We’re looking at anything and everything that would help us out.”
The president added the application was about two to three inches thick by the time it was completed.
“It was quite tedious,” she said.
“We told our history and the need to be addressed,” said vice president Cheryl Rickers. “For all of these questions, we did a lot of research into Census data.”
Roberts said CEFP likewise had to prove Plains is a community in need and why the project would work.
“It required a lot of statistics,” Rickers said.
“How we plan to implement the process of building a grocery store, organizing it, building it and then running it,” said foundation member Jennifer Miller.
Roberts called the application process unique.
“We had to tell them what all the store was going to incorporate and how it was going to be run, how the employees were going to be managed,” she said. “We had to go into detail.”
Miller said the time he spent on everything he needed to know to get the type of grocery store the foundation wants added up to years.
“It took a year, year and a half to get it non-profit status,” she said. “It’s years in the making.”
Roberts said the application process for just the tax credits, alone, took several months.
“We’d been working on it since before the first of the year,” she said.
Miller said the non-profit model for a grocery store is what CEFP feels is the best possible solution for Plains.
“This avenue that we’re taking may not work for every town,” she said. “It’s going to be the best solution for Plains.”
Roberts explained how a non-profit grocery store actually works.
“The foundation actually will own the grocery store,” she said. “The foundation will hire the managers. The foundation will oversee the managers, but the managers will take care of the everyday operation of the store and the employees. The funds will go to pay the employees, keep the grocery store stocked, any upkeep or any updates. If there is any funds left over, it goes back into the foundation. They can use it for other projects in town.”
Roberts said as part of the application process for the tax credits, the foundation had to state a completion date for the project, and she told the Leader & Times last Wednesday, the store would be up in August of 2016.
“There is no question now,” she said. :We are going to have a grocery store.”
Miller said the store will create 12 to 14 full- and part-time jobs, and it will likewise bring another economic boost to Plains.
“We have not had a grocery store since 2001,” she said. “The sales tax loss that Plains has seen has been around $150,000. The sales tax will be brought back here, so it’s not going to other communities. If we don’t have a sales tax, the city has to get the money some way, so property tax usually goes up. We’re hoping with the grocery store and the sales tax, we can hold those property taxes down.”
Miller said the sales tax, as well as funding for the foundation, could also make other projects possible in the Meade County community.
“There’s lots of things Plains is needing,” she said. “They’re needing a new water tower. They’re needing new sidewalks. It’s an ongoing thing. Every small town goes through it.”
Roberts said the foundation is looking for other loans to help with the project, and CEFP will host its second annual walk-a-thon from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Southwestern Heights track, with the proceeds benefitting the Grand Avenue Market Project.
The entry fee is $15 per person and comes with a water bottle. Entry fees are free with a minimum of $15 in pledges.
“We are encouraging teams,” said a press release from CEFP. “This is a great opportunity for friends, families and co-workers to raise money for an excellent cause while having fun together.”
Team registration cost is still per person. A team can have a maximum of six people on a team. Teams can wear the same color shirts, headbands or hats to differentiate their teams from others.
“We strongly encourage the collection of pledges for the Grand Avenue Market Project,” the release said. “A prize will be awarded to the individual that collects the most money.”
The Hispanic Ladies will provide the community with a homemade lunch. Cost of the meal will be $5 for choice of burrito, nacho grande, Frito chili pie or two tacos.
“Even if you are not able to participate in the walk-a-thon, you are more the welcome to enjoy the color finale at noon followed by a great meal,” the release said.
Visit www.cefopks.org for more information about the event and to print off registration forms and pledge sheets.
“Come join us for a morning of fun healthy activity,” the release said.
Roberts said CEFP has actually had a commitment from a pharmacist to bring prescriptions to the grocery store.
“The grocery store will be the pickup point,” she said. “The pharmacist will not drop it off. They’ll have somebody there for a window of 30 to 45 minutes that the person could come in and pick up their prescription. They’re not having to drive to Meade or Liberal.”