The County’s ARP committee discussed two requests for ARP funds during their meeting Tuesday.
The committee make-up is the President of the Commissioners, Stan Klotz, and three representatives of the County Council, Nicole Cox, Tim Harman, and Jesse Bohannon. This committee meets to hear requests for funds from the American Rescue Plan money the county received after COVID. The initial amount was $8.9 million, and County Auditor Angie Birchmeier told members on Tuesday that there is $653,000 left in the fund.
The first request discussed was for $150,000 from United Way. They were seeking assistance to help “Fund the Essentials 2” which would give additional help to their non-profit network of organizations for food and utility assistance.
Linda Yoder, Executive Director of United Way said the campaigns have fallen extremely short the last few years with the COVID pandemic, and now with people changing jobs more frequently and not getting the ask when they are hired on and for businesses, and industries who are too busy trying to keep up to have a presentation with their employees.
Yoder said the local food pantries have seen a 40% increase in need this year over 2022 and with fewer funds available there aren’t as many mobile food pantry opportunities in Marshall County.
During the discussion, Nicole Cox said she had met with United Way and talked with several food pantries. She said, “The thing about the mobile food is there is no information taken, anyone can use the food. I don’t know how I feel about that. It could be illegal. The people coming up from Texas being dumped into our communities. I don’t know how I feel about that yet.”
Commissioner Stan Klotz said, “No child in Marshall County should go hungry. There is no excuse for a child in Marshall County to go hungry. You may not get what you want but that’s not the child’s fault. In some cases, the parents don’t make good choices.”
Klotz said while the United Way does have non-profits that assist with utility assistance, the Township Trustees can help out with utilities. He said, “Unfortunately, in some cases, they are not doing what they should be doing. They’ve got the funds, they just don’t want to give it out to people.”
Councilman Jesse Bohannon said, “That is something we can continue to work on. The court of public opinion and as part of our statement we say we going to pick up the food and ask the Township Trustees to be willing to step up more aggressively and help out with utilities.”
The motion was made and passed to send a favorable recommendation to the commissioners to support the request of $150,000 to Fund the Essentials 2 with the stipulation the funds are earmarked for food and United Way will provide a plan on how the funds will be used for accountability.
The second request came from Tom McFadden, the newly appointed Chairman of the Regional Sewer District.
McFadden presented a request of $125,000 for start-up costs that will include $40,000 for engineering, $25,000 for financial assistance, and $35,000 for an attorney. It was noted that County Attorney Jim Clevenger has assessed a bill in the amount of $16,925 on work for the creation of a Reginal Sewer District. The amount is from work from December 2021 through May 2023.
Councilman Jesse Bohannon said, “I’ll be frank. When this was approved in December, the board was created by a ‘lame duck’ council. If this vote had taken place in January instead of December, I don’t know that it would have passed. Part of what the discussion was, is that taxpayer money would not be used for this project.”
Bohannon discussed the other sewer districts in the county, Lake of the Woods, two at Lake Maxinkuckee, Pretty Lake, and Koontz Lake, and how they were created without receiving money from taxpayers. He said, “They relied strictly on funding through their bonds and their ratepayers and that’s what I think auto happen here.” Bohannon continued, “It might be more difficult. But I can’t see making somebody in Tyner give up some of their ARP money when they opposed this project. As you are looking at folks out at the lake, probably a good number of those folks are people that have second homes, and they are not even necessarily even Marshall County taxpayers.” He said he didn’t think he could support ARP funds for this project.
Commissioner Klotz said, “When we formed this project, I’m just speaking for me. My opinion was and still hasn’t changed, that we set up the sewer district so everybody can tag on, so they all don’t face the initial costs and then we were done.”
Mr. McFadden suggested the possibility of being able to reimburse the county once the district has its bond issue.
Commissioner Klotz and Councilman Bohannon said they would be in favor of reimbursement in the sewer districts rate structure.
The Regional Sewer Board hasn’t had a formal meeting but, in a discussion, they did feel that hiring these three professionals that have worked together would be in the best interest of the district.
Klotz said he is more comfortable when proposals are taken before the selection process although he commented, “That’s your call and not ours.”
Bohannon said he would be comfortable with an interest-free loan from the Rainy-Day Fund.
The ARP Committee told Mr. McFadden that would be their opinion.
Auditor Angie Birchmeier then asked the committee how they want the attorney’s bill paid.
Bohannon said, “They have a $40,000 professional services budget.” He continued, “They made the decision, let them pay it out of their budget.” He went on to say to Mr. Klotz, “Press your board, they made the decision to do this. They didn’t ask us for permission. We control the money and obviously, they’ve got a pot of money they can pay it out of. That’s my suggestion.”