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Crafting the American dream

PAOLA — For Jesse Hoehn, 2020 wasn’t highlighted by a global pandemic. Instead, it was the year he finally launched his own business and welcomed his first child into the world.

“2020 was the best year of my life,” Jesse said.

Jesse recently opened Timbercraft Cabinetry & Woodwork at 1005 Baptiste Drive, the former location of Paola Cleaners.

Jesse is a 2007 Paola High School graduate, and his new business allows him to pursue a passion that was first cultivated during woodworking classes at PHS.

He said he learned a lot from his instructor, Doug Walker, and he later went to work for Walker’s woodshop in Osawatomie.

He then spent several years gaining experience in different positions while working to help support himself and his wife, Ali.

He worked on some high-end cabinetry projects for the Mission Hills area while employed by Superior Woodcraft in Kansas City, Mo., and he gained additional experience at Timberline Cabinetry and Millwork after moving to Manhattan while Ali was attending Kansas State University.

“The end goal was always that I wanted to open a shop,” he said.

The couple eventually moved back to Miami County, and last April they welcomed their baby boy, Jace. Jesse said it was Ali who convinced him to follow his dreams.

“She said, ‘why don’t you start a woodshop?’” Jesse said.

Knowing that he was going to need help putting together a plan, Jesse turned to the Small Business Development Center at Johnson County Community College.

There, he worked with officials to develop a business plan, including financial projections for the first three years. He also worked closely with Miami County Economic Development Director Janet McRae, who helped Jesse become the first Miami County new business owner to utilize an E-Community loan.

The E-Community loan worked in tandem with a traditional loan Jesse acquired from Landmark National Bank. Jesse said the bank loan helped him purchase the equipment he needed to get started in the shop, while the E-Community loan gave him money to spend on working capital for startup costs like insurance, utilities and the first month’s rent.

McRae said the E-Community loan can’t happen without there already being a bank loan, and it is designed to strengthen the stability of the financing process.

“The E-Community program doesn’t make a bad loan good, but it does make an iffy loan possible,” McRae said.

In the summer of 2019, Miami County became an E-Community, and the program was placed under the direction of the Greater Miami County Economic Development Corporation. Through its partnership with NetWork Kansas, the group facilitates a locally-controlled revolving loan fund to supply entrepreneurs with capital.

More information about the loan program can be found online at www.thinkmiamicounty.com.

After six months of planning, Jesse finally set foot inside the home of his new business on Baptiste Drive in December, and he got to work tearing up the carpet and turning the spacious building into a workshop.

He’s now up and running, and he said he’s already getting more jobs than he ever hoped for. Some of his work orders include bookcases, vanities and cabinets, in addition to the work he is doing on his father-in-law’s kitchen. He’s also getting quotes from local contractors.

“The remodeling and building industry is booming,” he said.

For more information about Jesse’s business, visit his website at www.timbercraftwoodwork.com.

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Health department plans more vaccine clinics this week
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PAOLA — More than 2,700 people filled out the Miami County Health Department’s online COVID-19 vaccination interest survey in its first week of operation as the department prepares to host more vaccine clinics in the coming days.

“We are at 2,721 who have filled out the interest form,” Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Whelan said early Monday, Feb. 8.

To ensure the county is getting as many residents vaccinated as quickly and orderly as possible, the Miami County Health Department announced Sunday, Jan. 31, it had launched a platform that afternoon for residents to complete the interest survey at: https://miamicounty-miami-county-ks-health-dept.app.transform.civicplus.com/.

Completing the survey does not create an appointment or reserve a vaccine, but it will help the health department streamline the notification and scheduling process.

The health department reported Friday, Feb. 5, it is planning two vaccine clinics Thursday, Feb. 11, and Friday, Feb. 12, which are expected to vaccinate about 340 individuals eligible in Phase 1 and 2 for their first dose. The appointment-only clinics will take place at the health department office, which is located at 1201 Lakemary Drive in Paola.

The department also announced Friday it will partner with Lakemary Center on Monday, Feb. 15, to host a clinic for over 700 individuals eligible in Phase 1 and 2 for their first dose.

“If you have filled out our survey online or have called in to fill out the survey, please keep your phone handy (this) week as we begin to invite those eligible to schedule an appointment,” according to the department.

The department also reported it provided second-dose vaccinations for 310 individuals from Lakemary Center, those eligible in Phase 1, and a few local first-responders on Friday.

The health department has partnered with Auburn Pharmacy, Vohs Pharmacy, and Auten Pharmacy to host clinics specific to the school and childcare categories within phase 2.

Miami County licensed childcare providers and employees with the Paola, Louisburg, Osawatomie school districts, as well as Holy Trinity and Queen of the Holy Rosary schools, will be targeted for these vaccinations.

“We will provide them enough vaccine to vaccinate school employees and childcare providers who would like to be vaccinated,” according to the department.

People can email covidmchd@miamicountyks.org with any questions or concerns.

As for the online survey, “it’s working perfect,” Whelan told county commissioners during their Feb. 3 meeting.

“It’s very seamless. It takes under five minutes to do,” Whelan said. “Not a whole lot of questions, but the questions we do have will help us set appointments based on priorities and health conditions. That’s been a really nice addition.”

The County Commission has made vaccinating residents its top priority.

“All of us collectively, that’s our goal right now to get that vaccine available for everyone,” Commissioner Phil Dixon said.

Dixon told commissioners he visited the health department during a recent vaccination clinic.

“There isn’t anybody better than our health department at taking care of people,” Dixon said. “They do a wonderful job.”

Dixon said most of the people receiving the vaccination that day were retirement age. People ages 65 and older are eligible for the vaccine during Phase 2, which is underway in Miami County.

“It was like Christmas morning for a little kid. I’ve never seen so many people so happy, getting their vaccine,” Dixon said. “It was really neat to witness.”

Madilyn Melton and Luke Faulkner were crowned Louisburg Wildcats homecoming king and queen during halftime of the boys varsity game against Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 5.

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Legislators talk tax transparency, budget debate ahead
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LOUISBURG — A property tax transparency bill, SB 13, has been approved in the Kansas Senate by an overwhelming 34-1 vote and is now in the House Committee on Taxation.

The bill was a key topic of discussion during a legislative coffee hosted by the Louisburg Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, Feb. 6, in the middle school auditorium.

Republican Sens. Caryn Tyson of Parker and Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg are two of the cosponsors of the bill. They joined Rep. Samantha Poetter, a Republican from Paola, at the coffee attended by about 40 people, with another nine people watching online.

“We have a shell game with our property taxes,” Tyson said. “The valuations go up, and then the governing body may or may not increase the mill levy. They may even lower it. But we’re writing a bigger check.”

One portion of the multi-part bill would establish notice and public hearing requirements prior to a governing body voting to exceed its revenue neutral rate for property tax purposes.

“So what this transparency bill does is the governing body would have to vote if they are going to increase your property taxes that year,” Tyson said. “It would just be transparent. It wouldn’t be an automatic increase because of the valuations.”

Tyson said the bill is modeled after several states, including Utah, Tennessee, Minnesota and others. Some states have had the measure in place for more than three decades, the senator pointed out.

“It’s a program that works,” she said. “We are about taxation with representation.”

Tyson said a notice that will be mailed to each property owner lets them know how much in property tax they would be paying to the county or other taxing entity. Schools and colleges are exempt from the bill.

In addition to the property tax amount, the notice will include the time and date of what is being referred to as a truth in taxation hearing.

“So that way the public can go and comment at the meeting,” Tyson said. “They (local governing body) have to vote at that meeting but they can take input prior to that meeting too. It’s very flexible and it has worked in other states.”

Tyson estimated the cost of the notices would be about $1 per property owner.

“I know that it’s a change. It’s a big change, so that stretches your comfort zone, but I think it’s a change that Kansas needs — in fact I know it’s a change that Kansas needs,” Tyson said. “If we look at our property taxes, we’ve gone up 154 percent statewide over the last 20 years.

“There are people who are being taxed out of their homes, literally,” she said.

Baumgardner and Poetter also expressed their support for the bill. Rep. Mark Samsel, a Wellsville Republican, was unable to attend Saturday.

Poetter said the bill is scheduled to be worked in the House tax committee the week of Feb. 8. She said there have been some suggested amendments to the bill.

“My goal is that we don’t have any amendments that will end up killing the bill because in my opinion this is extremely important,” Poetter said. “That notice that’s sent to you has a breakdown specifically of where each percentage is going and it gives you a dollar amount that’s going to the county, libraries or whatever (taxing entity) it may be.

“While initially, yes it’s a mailing that will cost a little more, but in my opinion it’s worth your ability to go and talk to commissioners and stay there and watch how they vote because you need to know how they stand on issues that our extremely important to you,” Poetter said.

Poetter also talked about an option to receive the notice by email.

“My guess is in the next five years it will cut down on mailing costs,” she said.

The three legislators indicated Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposed budget with a $1.9 billion spending increase will face heavy opposition.

“When the governor came out with her budget, it’s probably a good thing that her state of the state address was (made) alone in a room with a camera,” Baumgardner said. “Because I imagine if the House and the Senate would have been convened together as was the tradition pre-COVID to hear that, it would not have been well received.

“When as governor in March you essentially shut down our state,” Baumgardner said. “Think of all the jobs that have been lost. Think of the businesses that have been closed.”

The senator told the audience if they venture outside of the county they would see building after building closed as a result of the shutdown that the governor imposed.

“So at the time when folks are out of jobs — they’re still not getting their unemployment payments — that is not the time to burden them,” Baumgardner said. “We already are, I believe, in the top five as far as the highest taxing state in the United States. That’s not a list I’m proud for us to be on.”

An additional $1.9 billion increase is absolutely unacceptable, Baumgardner said.

Baumgardner doesn’t want to see that tax burden put on the shoulders of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS).

“We have worked long and hard — it has been almost 10 years the Legislature has worked to undue, to unravel the damage that was done by the Sebelius administration and the Parkinson administration because what they did year in and year out to make their budgets, they didn’t make the KPERS payment.”

Baumgardner said KPERS was almost bankrupt.

“The fact of the matter is one out of every 10 in our state population is actively contributing to KPERS or receiving KPERS,” Baumgardner said. “And so to use that as our ATM and to re-amortize it is not a good practice because we will not be able to dig out of that hole.”

The senator said now is not the time to backtrack, and the state must keep KPERS solvent.

“It’s time to do what we do at home, and that is to tighten our belt and wait until things settle down,” Baumgardner said. “We have to focus on what we need in our state, not just our wants.”

Poetter said the majority of the time she is against any type of tax increase and especially this year with businesses shutting down and people struggling to pay property tax bills.

“We need to make sure we get our businesses back going, get people back working and tighten the belt where we need to and not raise taxes on people that are hurting right now,” Poetter said.

Tyson noted the state can ill afford to legislate from the bench or via executive orders.

“The Legislature is going to have to step up. We’re going to have to see some intestinal fortitude to stand up, not just to the judicial but the administrative overreach and the federal overreach,” Tyson said, to applause from the audience.

Osawatomie coffee set for Saturday

For those unable to attend or watch Saturday’s coffee in Louisburg, Osawatomie Chamber of Commerce will host its legislative coffee from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, in the Osawatomie High School auditorium at 1200 Trojan Drive in Osawatomie.

Caryn Tyson

Jordyn Knecht of Paola puts an opponent on her back during the girls district wrestling tournament in Osawatomie on Friday, Feb. 5. Knecht won the 126-pound title. She was named the girls district wrestler of the year.