Political shift seen on Sedgwick County Commission after first meeting of the year

WICHITA, Kansas – The Sedgwick County Commission turned away a state grant of $580,000 Wednesday morning at the first full commission meeting of the year.

The grant would have funded programs at the county level aimed at addressing health problems, including obesity and diabetes that residents here suffer from.

The money for that grant would have come from the federal government, something three commissioners were hesitant to do for a program they didn’t see as a top priority for the county.

Dr Donna Sweet with the Kansas University Medical Center is disappointed the commission turned down funds to help in areas of health she feels are in dire need.

“We need money like that to help our population to get healthier, Wichita has more obesity, more diabetes and more coronary artery disease than the rest of Kansas,”

The grant was aimed at educating people about health risks and give them tools to make better decisions.

Commissioner Chairman Richard Ranzau was against taking federal funding and believed the grant wouldn’t be effective.

“I am overweight because I eat too much and don’t exercise enough, society is not to blame for my problem and society isn’t going to solve my problem,” said Ranzau.

The grant was shot down by commissioners Ranzau and Karl Peterjohn, as well as, new commissioner Jim Howell.

Since the election of Howell in November, some have termed this as a new majority for the county commission.

“I think our votes today would lean more conservative than last years commission,” said Peterjohn.

Commissioner Peterjohn even pointed to the appointment of Ranzau as chairman as a reason for the voting shift.

“His election as chairman has indicated a shift here in Sedgwick County,” said Peterjohn.

But some, like Dr. Sweet feel the shift to what she sees as an ideology more focused on small government, might not be a positive in the long run.

“Small government can hurt a lot of people if we don’t take advantage of what we can take advantage of to make our population healthier,” said Sweet.

The commission also voted to trim the yearly funding put toward Project Access.

Project Access has donated services of more than $170 million from doctors and hospitals in Wichita to give people who have no insurance the healthcare that they need.

Sedgwick County decided to fund the program at the same level the city of Wichita does, at the tune of $175,000 for 2015.

 

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