Alva Review-Courier -

New businesses speak to WCEDC

• Two new board members approved

 

Marione Martin

Representatives of new Alva business Faith Hospice spoke to the Woods County Economic Development Committee Tuesday noon. From left are Sonja Williams, WCEDC director; Darin Slater, outgoing WCEDC board member; Tabitha Talley, RN with Faith Hospice; and Sasha Brooks, patient care coordinator for western Oklahoma for Faith Hospice.

Hospice is not just for people who dying. That's the message Sasha Brooks, patient care coordinator for Faith Hospice for western Oklahoma, wants people to understand. Brooks and Tabitha Talley, RN, case manager, spoke during the Woods County Economic Development Committee (WCEDC) meeting Tuesday noon. The pair provided literature and cookies as they explained how hospice works.

"We have a great team in Alva, and we are so excited to get started here," said Brooks. Faith Hospice recently opened at 919 Oklahoma Boulevard in Alva, the former location of Human Performance Center.

"Hospice is a Medicare-funded benefit that a lot of people are missing out on because there's just no community education on hospice, and there's a misconception that hospice is only for patients that are actually dying," Brooks said. She said their services provide support spiritually, emotionally, and physically for patients and their families. In addition to nurses and aides, there are chaplains and social workers to meet patient and family needs.

Brooks said hospice is a way to keep patients in their homes as long as possible. They help with pain management, medications and patient prescriptions. Talley added that services don't end with the death of a patient. They continue to provide support for relatives for about a year afterward.

WCEDC Chair Darin Slater asked staffing numbers and service area. The women said they provide service within 60 miles of Alva and are available 24 hours a day. They have eight to ten employees in Alva right now.

To qualify for hospice service, patients must meet Medicare criteria. These include having a terminal illness such as cancer or heart disease that is no longer being treated. Although many patients are homebound, that is not a requirement. Some patients are still active. Hospice patient services are also extended to those in nursing homes.

Brooks encouraged those with questions to contact Faith Hospice. Their office number is 580-748-8060. They have consultants who can talk to people or even visit in their homes to explore the options and criteria.

Invenergy

Near the end of the WCEDC meeting, board members talked with representatives of Invenergy, a wind energy company, about projects in Woods County. Representing the company were Vicki Ayres-Portman, senior manager for government and regulatory affairs; Demi Gastouniotis, associate in renewable development; and Emily Brumit, associate in renewable development. The company is based in Denver, Colorado.

Portman explained that Invernegy has purchased Trade Wind Energy projects including Sundance and Freedom.

Portman said the projects are "really fluid at this point." Although many land leases have been acquired, they are looking at other options on leases. She said they would let the committee know when the leases are finalized. The Sundance project is located north and east of Waynoka. The Freedom project is located south and east of Freedom.

The projects are still in the early stages. WCEDC board member Alan Poe wanted to know the chances of the projects actually being built. Portman said a lot can change or go wrong but she guessed it would be 50 percent currently. When the company has completed engineering and financing and contracted for construction, the odds are more like 75 percent.

She said tax credits and incentives are disappearing so wind energy companies are pushing to finish projects quickly. Oklahoma's incentives have disappeared but there are still federal production tax credits (PTC). However, those federal PTC's are declining at a rate of about 20 percent per year and will soon go away. There is a rush to get projects online by the end of 2020.

Board member Kay Decker asked about the size of the work force expected for the projects. The women said the construction phase would employ about 200 people and last around 10 months. During that time, there will be a need for RV parks for the worker housing. Once constructed, there will be about one job for every ten wind turbines. They said around 60 to 80 turbines are possible with these two projects.

The Invenergy representatives expected to stay in Alva to talk to Avard Rail Authority later that evening.

WCEDC Business

After approving the minutes of the last meeting and the financial report, WCEDC board members heard an update on goals and objectives. WCEDC Director Sonja Williams said Avard Rail is woking on phase two of a project and she is finishing a grant application to be submitted this month. Regarding water resources, she said, "We have plenty of water!"

She asked Dr. Kay Decker about the downtown Alva area and signage. Decker said she will be submitting a grant request to the city soon.

Williams said she has not worked on tourism through social media because she has been so busy with other projects.

Under business recruitment, Williams mentioned Faith Hospice as a new business. She said the company did the legwork needed themselves before deciding to locate in Alva. A couple of new supply businesses have been opened in the county. Poe reported the Waynoka Incubator building is now occupied.

New Goals and Staff Needs

The board was asked for any new goals and objectives the WCEDC should address during the next fiscal year. The WCEDC fiscal year begins Sept. 1. Decker suggested tourism be taken off the list. She said the individual communities in the county need to step up and handle tourism promotion.

She also suggested that housing be taken off the list as currently there seems to be enough housing in the county.

Decker said the committee should consider adding the census to their list. She said the census often influences the number of grants available. She believes some areas of the county could qualify as "opportunity zones" due to low population. Decker said preparation for the U.S. Census gears up five to six years out, but the next census is in 2020. She said there are some ways the WCEDC can help to make census figures benefit the county.

Some interns, possibly from NWOSU, could be helpful in the census process, Decker said. She also recommended the board have OEDA (Oklahoma Economic Development Authority) from Beaver come speak to them about the census impact.

Board members passed a motion to remove tourism and housing from goals and objectives and add census support. All members were present except Sandie Olson.

The board also passed a motion approving the budgetary needs for the next fiscal year.

Next the board discussed staff needs. Decker said she believes Williams needs a support person in her office with the addition of the census item. Williams is already spending a lot of time on the Avard Rail project and the Alva Arena project. However, there is no money budgeted for additional personnel. They discussed several options. Board member and Woods County Commissioner Randy McMurphy suggested the county might be able to help with providing pay for a helper specifically tasked with county-wide projects.

A motion was passed tasking Williams with investigating options for finding an assistant and paying for one.

New Board Members

Marione Martin

Invenergy representatives talk to the WCEDC board Tuesday in Alva. From left are Emily Brumit, Demi Gastouniotia and Vicki Ayres-Portman. Dr. Kay Decker, WCEDC board member, is in the foreground.

Two board members have maxed out their terms and need to be replaced. Dr. Steve Lohmann, who has served nine years on the board, recommended Dr. Bo Hannaford, NWOSU vice president, as his replacement. Darin Slater said Jeremy Heaton, new assistant superintendent at Northwest Technology, has agreed to be his replacement. Hannaford was present for the meeting, but Heaton was out of town on Northwest Tech business. The two were approved as new board members.

With new members, reorganization of the board was required. McMurphy, as vice-chair, presided. Matt Tucker nominated Poe to be chairman. Decker suggested McMurphy continue as vice-chair. Tucker made a motion nominating Poe as chair, McMurphy as vice-chair and Decker to continue as secretary. The motion was approved.

Poe presided over the remainder of the meeting. There were no further updates and no new business so the meeting quickly adjourned.

 

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