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County updates CARES Act rules

by Patty Cheffey

Upon the recommendation of the county’s CARES Act Committee, Marion County updated some of its requirements for funding for entities to apply for CARES Act funding.

Chris Kempke who is heading up the committee, reviewed the new requirements with the Marion County Commission during their meeting Monday morning, at which the county also approved a planning and zoning request, met with school superintendents concerning the CARES Act funding, heard a concern from a citizen and opened a bid. They also approved the tax rate (see related article).

Changes to the requirements include requirements that are unique to Marion County which were originally approved.

New changes include:

• all applications will be judged on a first come, first served bases. There would be no amounts of funds set aside for only public/private entities;

• public entities shall not be prioritized by their type (county/city) or the population they serve;

• businesses or non profits no longer must have under 30 full time equivalent employees to qualify for assistance;

• businesses or non profits no longer need a physical building in Marion County; and

• businesses and non profits must still be in good standing with licenses and permits.

In addition, Sam Diffenderfer with the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments will now have the applications for a week to review and they will then go to the commissioners for a week to review. Approval or denial would come the following week.

Kempke also shared a new list from the federal government on ways the county can spend CARES Act funding, including locally-targeted training programs for unemployed or furloughed workers; funding economic recovering planning, broadband accessibility and affordability programs to facilitate distance learning and telehealth and healthcare costs associated with testing, tracing and PPE.

In related business, the commissioners met with the school superintendents from Palmyra R-I, Hannibal, Lewis County and Monroe County R-I schools.

Kirt Malone and Susan Johnson were present to make sure if there were any more questions concerning their applications they could provide the answers.

Malone, Palmyra R-I Superintendent, also asked and got an affirmative that Palmyra could go ahead and order some floor scrubbers for the schools. Those items are covered under the act. 

“It’s a big ticket item and we don’t want to order it if it’s not going to reimbursed,” he said. “We realize we can’t do everything to protect students and staff, but we do what we can.”

Johnson, Hannibal School superintendent, provided the necessary information for the recent Chromebooks purchased for students.

John French with Lewis County and Tony DeGrave with Monroe City, are in a different position in that only a portion of their students are in the county.

Upon the advice of Diffenderfer, those schools will resubmit their applications and provide a breakdown on what percentage of Marion County students are included in those schools.

“For simplicity sake, I would suggest you apply to Lewis County and then, if you are not fully funded, to apply to the other counties,” Diffenderfer said.

In other business, the commissioners approved a planning and zoning request from Casey and Keely Ragar to rezone 12 acres along County Road 402 from agriculture to commercial.

The Ragars are working on an event venue at that location.

Commissioners also met with Jim Lowe, who stressed he did not feel the county is paying the sheriff deputies enough for the job they are doing.

“We are demanding more from our local law enforcement, but I think they are grossly underpaid,” Lowe said, noting a first year deputy makes about $15 and hour. “I think you need to take a look at what we are paying them.”

Lowe added he believes the commissioners do an excellent job of keeping track of the county’s money, but noted it is also their duty to keep the citizens of the county safe.

Western District Commissioner Steve Begley said he agreed, especially considering the biggest concern in the county is drugs, but that there are other people, including highway department personnel, who are risking their lives too.

Lowe noted that yes, during bad weather or operating heavy equipment can be dangerous, the highway department people are not being asked to strap on a 9mm gun to protect others.

“The foundation we live in is safety,” Lowe said. “Especially safety for our kids.”

County Clerk Valerie Dornberger also suggested Lowe contact the state to try to get them to keep up with prisoner reimbursements.

The commissioners also opened two bids for video and audio recording equipment for the courtroom at the Palmyra Courthouse.

Bids were received from Audio Acoustics from Springfield, Mo., for $29,440 and from Electronic Office Systems from Lee’s Summit, Mo. for $40,366.85.

Teya Stice, county improvement coordinator, said she and Valerie Munzlinger, circuit clerk, and probably Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd will be reviewing the bids before making a recommendation to the commissioners at next week’s meeting.