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County talks of relief funds, OKs jail repair

by Patty Cheffey

The Marion County Commission briefly discussed the new American Rescue Plan funds and what it could mean for the county during their meeting Monday morning.

Also Monday, the commissioners approved an emergency work on the fire suppression unit at the Marion County Jail  and heard an update on the auditor’s report on the previous CARES Act funds.

According to the Missouri Budget Project, the county could see as much as $5,533,218 from the American Rescue Plan.

Those funds would come in two installments, including possibly as early as May of this year, according to Steve Begley, Western District commissioner, who had discussed the issue with the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments.

The remaining 50 percent of the funds would come 12 months after the original installment.

The county would have until December 2024 to use the funds.

Since regulations for what the money can be used for are still under consideration, Begley said the MTRCG suggests banking the money until those regulations are in place.

He also suggested the county consider working again with the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments to distribute the funds out, but the county would have to pay more than the .04 percent of the total they paid to MTRCG the first time.

“We might have to bid it out, depending on what is decided,” he said.

While the county is looking at around $5.5 million, the city of Palmyra could receive around $662,890 and the city of Hannibal, $3.19 million.

The schools will also be getting their own funds, according to Larry Welch, Eastern District commissioner.

Allowable uses for the funds are pretty broad at this point, and include 

• respond to the COVID pandemic or the resulting negative economic effects;

• provide “premium pay” to essential public workers (up to a maximum premium of $13/hour or $25,000 per worker);

• provide services (equivalent to the amount of revenue loss due to the pandemic); and

• invest in improvements to water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

The commissioners indicated they are interested in possible broadband infrastructure, but will not make any decisions until later.

In other business, Sheriff Jimmy Shinn reported the fire suppression system was not working at the jail.

While the alarms go off if there is smoke detected, the system will not turn on the sprinkler system.

Shinn had received a bid for $34,000 for the work, and seeing as it is an emergency situation, the commissioners approved the bid.

Work will be paid for partially out of one of the jail funds and partially out of the jail renovation emergency fund.

Teya Stice, county improvement coordinator, reported the auditors said the CARES Act documents looked good, and they offered her suggestions to make the audit go smoother with the next set of funds.

The commissioners also:

• approved a letter of support of Project Container for a grant application for the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments Household Hazardous Waste and E-Waste program;

• asked Stice to check into a possible gun range being erected in the county to see if it needs to go to planning and zoning;

• learned the Sheriff’s Department will be losing a deputy, who took another job; and

• asked Stice to talk to the two applicants for the planning and zoning field representative position.