The Marshall County Council conducted its March meeting last Thursday evening, March 9th in the second-floor meeting room of the County Building.
Faith Freed, Administrator of the Marshall County Health Department appeared before the council seeking approval to apply for an immunization and vaccine grant for children.
Freed told the council she wanted to apply for the IDOH Immunization renewable grant which they have several years before. She said the request was for $237,046. The funds will allow the Health Department to keep bringing all childhood immunizations to the county.
Councilman Faulstich asked if the requested funds are the amount the county will get and Freed said they won’t find out until the end of May or early in June the exact amount the state will provide because the current grant cycle ends June 30th and the grant she wants to apply for will begin July 1st. Faulstich also asked what the average awarded amount is and Freed said last year she believed they received $160,000. He then asked about the proposed budget and Freed confirmed that the various budget items will be modified once the grant is awarded.
Councilwoman Nicole Cox said in reviewing the grant, the Health Department was to apply for the funds no later than February 15, 2023. She discussed this concern with the Health Department Administrator before the meeting and learned that Freed had applied for the grant prior to seeking Commissioner and Council approval. Cox then asked their legal counsel, Marcellus Leppin if there were any legal issues with applying for a grant before going through the proper chain. Cox also recommended sending a letter of intent to the council about intentions to apply for a grant so they are aware and in the application stipulate that the application is pending board approval.
Freed said they have operated like this in the past and if they are denied the ability to apply for state grant funds they don’t sign the contract when it comes through and don’t accept the funds.
Councilwoman Cox said there is a county ordinance that has been approved for grant applications and departments should follow the proper procedures.
The council’s attorney said this action would be an obvious violation of the county’s ordinance. He also had some concerns that if the State Health Department learned the grant application was submitted without the required approval they may not award the grant. Mr. Leppin recommended having department heads provide the council with a list of grants they intend to apply for and those can be worked into the meeting agenda prior to their deadlines. He said many are annual, so they know when they are coming up. The council’s attorney also suggested the use of a special meeting if necessary to meet a deadline.
Councilman Will Patterson told the County Council he works with grants all the time and many times there is a short window to apply. He said he sends a letter indicating his intention to apply for a grant, but it was pending board approval.
Freed said she was willing to take their recommendations for future grant applications.
Patterson suggested a review of the procedures for applying for grants to make sure there isn’t a violation of a county ordinance.
Councilman Cox said the work plan for the grant was 20 pages long but detailed the budget. She said the majority of the funds would be used to promote the HVP vaccination and the Health Administrator said the grant it to promote all vaccinations.
The budget included $100,000 to TJ Media Group which will be creating some of the media ads and managing the Health Department’s social media and website. TJ Media Group will also be placing the media buys and thus receive a commission for their services. Nicole Cox said she figured the state or national health departments would have access to TV and radio announcements so the counties wouldn’t have to spend funds to produce them.
The motion was made to approve the grant application request from the County Health Department but before the vote, the question was asked if the Council would be violating the county policy.
Council President Jesse Bohannon commented, “Pending the outcome of the vote I would support $40,000 from the General Fund to cover the portion of that that went to direct cost for immunizations.” He then asked for the budget number from the grant work plan.
Travel and Education, conference fees, lodging, per diem, mileage $15,246; fuel for the mobile unit $5,000; supplies, medical supplies, $3,600; office supplies $1,200; educational materials $2,500; speaker fees $4,500; facility rental fees $3,000; and printing $2,500. This is a total of $38,046.
Under Contractual was TJ Media Group for $100,000; TV time $50,000; radio time $10,000; newspaper ads $10,000; vaccine administrative assistant $22,000; and driver for the mobile unit $5,000 for a total of $199,000.
Bohannon said the essential items to conduct the work were about $60,000 excluding the media costs of approximately $170,000. Bohannon then said he would increase the General Fund offer to $60,000 pending the vote of the motion to approve to support the execution of the vaccine campaign.
Bohannon then called for a vote. The result was 2 yes votes and 5 no votes to apply for the grant funds from the state health department. Bohannon then motioned to support a $60,000 additional appropriation request should the County Health Department was to continue with the vaccine clinics. Bohannon said the funds would support the core functions of the vaccine campaign the grant request was for. The motion received unanimous support from the council.