County doles out ARPA funds

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The destination of about one-third of Monroe County’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funds was determined during a meeting of the Monroe County Board on Friday.

The board met Friday rather than last Monday  due to commissioner schedule conflicts.

As part of ARPA, the federal government released $350 billion as Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The funds have been provided to state, county and municipal governments to address economic impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds must be “spent or obligated” by the end of 2024.

At the meeting, the county solidified plans for what Monroe County Commissioner Dennis Knobloch termed “phase one” of disbursements. Of the $6,727,831 total funds Monroe County will receive through ARPA, $2,262,670 is now earmarked for use by various departments.

The board had previously allotted $753,455 to county levee and drainage districts for repairs, inspections and required work for certification.

The levee districts requested $941,806, but the total was approved for 80 percent reimbursement with total cost to be reviewed when repairs and replacement work is finished. 

Most recently, the Monroe-Randolph County Regional Office of Education was given $70,016 for costs to establish COVID testing programs for area schools. The program allows mobile testing and prevents unnecessary student and staff absences for testing. 

Randolph County also provided  ARPA funds for this program.

The largest part of the $1,439,209 assigned Friday  went to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department for updates to the jail facilities. The MCSD was granted a request for $601,583. The amount for repair and upgrade of the jail plumbing system was $329,700 while repairs and upgrades to locks and gates was $223,883 and the cost for a Stanley Security system was $48,000.

The Monroe County Emergency Management Agency was given $487,310. The largest allotment for EMA was $338,000 for county generators. Another $58,310 and $42,500 were granted for purchasing a three-quarter-ton and half-ton truck, respectively, to “improve COVID response.”

Another $48,500 was provided for the existing emergency operations center to improve “response to all emergency situations.”

The Monroe County Courthouse will also be the recipient of funding in the amount of $117,600 to complete an existing project replacing HVAC equipment. The work and fund disbursement will be spread out over four years, with scheduled completion of the entire project in 2024.

Also at the courthouse, $27,891 was granted to replace the facility’s computer server system.

The Monroe County Health Department was given $90,000. A total of $65,000 will be used for a truck, trailer and equipment for COVID response and $25,000 for non-reimbursed COVID-related expenses.

The Monroe County State’s Attorney’s Office was given $60,000 for Prosecutor by Karpel, a software system that will allow court-related activity to be performed remotely.

A total of $39,825 will be disbursed to the Monroe County Circuit Clerk’s Office. Of this, $29,226 will be used for a case management server to facilitate remote court-related activity. The remaining amount will go toward a microfilm reader and supporting equipment.

The Monroe County Zoning and Building Department requested funds for mapping and platting laptops and tablets, but after discussion it was determined the department would use its existing budget to cover the expense of the items. 

The department was given $15,000 in ARPA funds to purchase “cloud permitting software” that allows for remote processing of permits and other computer-based zoning operations.

Other county department requests that were not addressed in this “phase” of disbursement included replacement of a maintenance building near the Monroe County Jail in Waterloo. A  new structure would become a shared-use facility that would provide climate-controlled storage and other use for multiple county departments. 

Knobloch later told the Republic-Times that commissioners are exploring details about a new building, including appropriate size and how much of the building would need to be climate-controlled.

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger asked about loss of revenue reimbursement from lower motor fuel tax receipts due to COVID, but Knobloch said that would also be addressed during a future fund disbursement phase.

The board also acted on two county-operated roads in the Waterloo area. Read more about the changes to Country Club Lane and Rogers Street by clicking here.

The board meeting began with a report from Oak Hill interim administrator Kim Keckritz about the county-owned senior care and rehabilitation facility. 

Keckritz noted that while resident census numbers are “slowly going up,” the facility is currently “not profitable” because of the low numbers.

Keckritz also expressed concern over staffing shortages. The state requires a certain percentage of registered nurses to be on duty, but it is becoming more difficult to keep the required level, especially on weekends, even with bonuses being offered. 

She said there is a waiver process that can be used to substitute licenced practical nurses for RNs, but not for the total “hours” of staffing requirement. 

Keckritz noted that if the facility is fined occasionally it will not make a major impact, but multiple fines would add up quickly. 

Fines incurred for staffing shortages are charged at 120 percent of the regional average of hourly wages.

On a positive note, Keckritz noted she believes new Oak Hill Director of Nursing Shandra Goersch is responsible for attracting a couple of new employee recruits at the facility.      

Keckritz also reported Oak Hill has two qualified applicants to fill the administrator position. Knobloch expressed a desire to begin the interview process once a few more candidates submit resumes.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein told commissioners that two-thirds of property tax payments have been received and reminded county residents that the second installment of property tax payments is due Nov. 5 for any outstanding balances.

Other action at the meeting included the appointment of Mark Altadonna to a five-year term on the Monroe County Public Building Commission. 

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