The Mitchell County Commissioners met on Monday morning September 5. Community Development Director Heather Hartman discussed the Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) student loan repayment program. The program allows employers or local governing bodies to provide individuals with $1,500 per year, with a match from the state, for a total of $3,000 toward their student loan debt.
Eligible persons must be have moved into Mitchell County after July 2011. The program was initially introduced as a tool to recruit and retain employees in shrinking population areas. However, the program has since been expanded to larger and growing areas as well. Hartman gives us more insight into the programs purpose.
In Mitchell County there are 6 recipients that are sponsored by the county each year. In addition, there are over 10 employers that sponsor their employees. Hartman expects another 5 employer sponsorships this year. There are 21 people on the current waiting list in Mitchell County. There are 55 in total who have expressed interest in the program, but were either not approved or did not completed the application process. Hartman spoke about another offer through the state which she feels is a useful recruiting tool to bring people to the area.
She asked if the commissioners would like to increase the number of county sponsored spots from six. This is a rotating program where two people have exhausted their eligibility as of last year, and two more were added this year. There are a total of 10 individuals who have been sponsored by the county since July of 2011 through ROZ. Mitchell County was one of the first counties to participate in the program.
Commissioner Tom Claussen suggested to add another two sponsorships, through the county, for a total of eight. Commission Chair Jim Marshall officially moved to approve the suggested increase. The motion carried unanimously.
Claussen also commented to Beloit City Manager Jason Rabe, who was in attendance, about how nice he felt the landscaping and other work performed on the East Main Street project has turned out so far. Rabe said they are working on the finishing touches of the project which will be completed in the next few weeks.
Director of Public Works Dale Housh appeared to give his weekly report. Housh discussed road work projects. The county is currently chip sealing the blacktop road south of Asherville, and continuing work on a Tipton Blacktop bridge. He said he will present bids for a new backhoe to the commissioners next week. The county has also performed work to assist with water drainage in the area known as the “Lonely Mile” south of Tipton.
Housh also said they have plenty of gravel available at their current pit near Tipton, but there is the possibility of another source closer to Beloit. Housh said the potential pit is south of town off Highway 14, and he is pursuing the possibility of utilizing it.
The Mitchell County Commissioners are next scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, September 11 at the courthouse in Beloit.