The Marshall County American Rescue Plan Subcommittee presented its recommendation for the remaining funds to the County Commissioners during their meeting Monday morning.
ARP committee members are Commissioner Stan Klotz as President, with council members Jesse Bohannon, Tim Harman, and Nicole Cox. The committee met last week and worked on a draft for spending the remaining funds in the amount of $2,153,552.75. Initially, the county received $8.9 million.
The proposal was for $1,386,627.75 for the highway department, $75,000 for United Way, $75,000 for the Regional Sewer District, $16,925 for County Attorney Jim Clevenger’s fees for working on the Regional Sewer District, $100,000 as an OCRA grant match for new fire stations for both Polk and Tippecanoe Townships and $500,000 for the creation of a Sewer Relief Fund to be handled by the Marshall County Community Foundation. Committee member Tim Harman said if adopted by the commissioners that would budget all the remaining funds.
Harman explained the Sewer Relief Fund as a way for the county to help those who can’t afford to connect to the Regional Sewer. He said, “The Sewer Relief fund would help those folks forced to hook up to a sewer that they can’t afford, or it will cause a hardship. When we adopted the sewer district plan last year, obviously there were some differences of opinion but regardless the sewer district has been formed. Basically, we are trying to correct an unfunded mandate.”
Harman said the Sewer District sought $30,000 in ARP Funds for engineering, $25,000 for attorney fees, and $15,000 for a municipal advisor or $70,000. Harman said the committee opted to give them a $5,000 cushion too.
Linda Yoder from the Marshall County Community Foundation spoke about the half a million dollars in sewer relief funds that would be administered by the foundation.
Linda Yoder said the funds would be put into the foundation as a non-permanent fund. A separate committee would be created to determine how you determine the illegibility of receipt of the funds. She said it is similar to the work they do all the time for the Community Foundation and United Way and they have folks who work regularly on determining how to set up the needs basis for receiving assistance.
Commissioner Klotz said, “The idea behind the ARP committee standpoint was to encourage people and to help them hook up because this project is going to need ratepayers to survive.” He also said the fund should last past the hookups for the lake community and be able to assist as they move on to other areas.
The most recent ALICE Report numbers from 2021 show Marshall County with 29% of the country’s population living paycheck to paycheck and 12% living in poverty. That means 41% of the county’s population would face the hardship of having to connect to the regional sewer.
Councilman Harman said they would like to put in some strict parameters making sure it is need-based. He said the Baker-Tilly analysis showed the minimal monthly payment of $95 although it was commented that the monthly rate could go as high as $200 if additional grants are not secured to assist with construction costs and such. Tim said, “When we force something on the people, we have an obligation I think to help out the people. There is a good case for sewer but obviously there is a good case for septic too.”
Commissioner Mike Burroughs explained that there is a waiver process and that all of Marshall County isn’t being forced to hook up even if it goes in front of their home. An inspection is required for the waiver and would be paid by the homeowner.
Tom McFadden, Chairman of the Regional Sewer District. He commended the board for creating the Sewer Relief Fund and said it was an excellent idea. He said, “It’s not only good for those individuals, it’s good for Marshall County. The more people on the system, the better off we will be.”
Marshall County Commissioner Mike Burroughs motioned to approve the ARP Plan as presented, it was seconded by Commissioner Klotz and the vote was 2 to 0 with Commissioner Kevin Overmyer absent from the meeting.