Itemizer-Observer

DALLAS — Plans to evenly distribute American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds throughout Polk Couty drew praise from the Polk County Commissioners at their meeting on Aug. 10.

Greg Hansen, County Administrative Officer, laid out an initial plan to spend $16.8 million that includes regular updates as new guidelines develop. Hansen said Polk County has already received half the amount with the second half expected in May of 2022.

“Plus interest, you’ll probably have $17 million worth of moneys that are available to spend on COVID-related items, sometimes not COVID-related, but whatever fits within the bill rules that are applied,” Hansen said. “Those rules are always changing, we’re still in interim rules. We’ve had the money now 4-5 months. My guess it will be a working document. Within this proposed budget, or proposed spreadsheet, there are things that I hope will be eligible aren’t eligible at this time. They may become eligible down the road, who knows. Which requires us to shuffle the deck on some of these items.”

Commissioner Jeremy Gordon was happy with the comprehensive list.

“I’m excited for the range of support for hard infrastructure, social services, child care/work force support, pandemic support, broadband, emergency service support, housing, transitional housing,” Gordon said. “I’m very excited for the water resource and planning and service planning. I don’t know if there will be a lot of improvement before 2024, there are ARPA funds that can be devoted to that as things progress. I really like this first pass at the list.”

Hansen explained his list is “by no means the gospel” but will more like be a moving type of target.

“My guess there’s more money coming, at least through COVID dollars through public health,” Hansen said, adding the only guarantee is the money has to be spent by Dec. 31, 2024. “They’ve already hedged a little on that. If you had a construction project or something like that underway, you could push it a little further than 2024 deadline.”

County Commission Chair Craig Pope said as a person involved in these conversations on where projects are, his objective has trying to get to a place where the county can spread this one-time, windfall money in the broadest possible way to benefit everybody that lives in Polk County.

“We’re trying not to spend the money on things that in some cases where we’re only benefiting county government. It’s not. It’s county government making the investment in county government facilities for the benefit of nearly 88,000 people that live in Polk County,” Pope explained. “I think we’re going to find, generally, that our constituents out there are going to say, yep, that’s what we want you spending our tax money on. That’s a good investment for the long haul.”

Hansen said the expenditure plan will span 3 ½ budget cycles for Polk County, with the balance of it incorporated into the 2021 budget as someplace to have a beginning fund balance. He then broke down the various categories within his spread sheet.

Revenue Replacement, $600,000: Earmarked moneys for Public Works and the Polk County Fairgrounds, the two departments greatest impacted curing the pandemic, with $450,000 going to Public Works and $150,000 for the fairgrounds.

Building improvement fund, $2.5 million: Upgrade to all HVAC systems in the Academy Building, Courthouse complex, jail and Public Works. The second project is the current remodel at the Academy Building to convert the gym into a conference rooms and meeting centers.

Broadband, $300,000: Hansen said Polk County is supposed to be receiving $1.7 million from Sen. Brian Boquist’s allotment given by Legislature. “We don’t know if that project is going to cost $2 million. But we’re beginning groundwork for that project to provide better connectivity for people living outside urban growth boundaries,” Hansen said.

County Emergency Communications, $1.5 million: This project would upgrade the county’s emergency communications system. This would benefit all public safety (law enforcement, fire, ambulance) along with enhancing all departmental communication (Public Works, Community Development, Public Health, etc.). “We’re always playing catchup with emergency communications,” Hansen said. “It would be nice just to get over the hump to take it to a maintenance mode.” He added he’s checking with county legal council if this qualifies and may also be going to the cities to contribute to the fund because they’re going to benefit from the expenditure.

Polk County Family & Community Outreach building, $4 million: Moving the resource center out of the Academy Building to free up space for mental health and public health.

Childcare/Resource Center, $1.7 million: Potential moneys to build a new center in the Monmouth/Independence area. “It’s not enough for the entire project, but would be enough to get it rolling,” Hansen said.

Grand Ronde Sanitary District, $1 million: For long overdue improvements. Will also ask Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to contribute, also.

Falls City wastewater improvement, $500,000: It is overall about $4.1 million, the city has secured a Community Development Block Grant for $2.1 million.

Fairgrounds, $550,000: Another $200,000 for HVAC system improvements and $200,000 to improve bandwidth and Internet capabilities so fairgrounds can be used as alternative mass vaccination site.

Additional services, $1.45 million: To be used for additional personnel for MRCT, school based mental health and suicide prevention.

Cybersecurity, $650,000

Transitional Housing, $800,000

Water Resource Planning, $400,00: County wide water study.

Public Works Infrastructure, $1 million

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