Magistrates Approve $245K For New Ambulance, Meeting Scheduled To Discuss Further Funds
Darren Doyle, story:
The Edmonson County Fiscal Court was awarded $2.3 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March of 2021; however, when the county was first made aware of the funding, it wasn't immediately known as how the money could be spent.
In a fiscal court meeting on March 22, 2021, Judge Wil Cannon was quoted as saying, "It can only be spent certain ways. We're not positive, really on how it can be spent. We think it will be similar to the CARES Act money which will be emergency personnel-kind-of things."
At the time, Cannon also said that some of the uses discussed were water and broadband utilities but that broadband services would be funded differently, and that money from this grant would not likely go there. If anything, broadband funding would only be complimented by the county's spending.
He also explained how the wrong commitment to the funding could end up costing the county funds they don't have.
In a June 14, 2021 fiscal court meeting, Cannon explained a possible scenario where one resident that might live at the end of a road with no county water. The funds could be used to bring service to the resident; however, the county water company would have to use more resources to maintain that single customer than they would receive from the customer's use of their services, which wouldn't be cost effective.
In September of 2021, the fiscal court voted to hire Compass Municipal Advisors, LLC., a company that will help administer Edmonson County's handling of the funding received from ARPA. The company receives 1.5% for each transaction they make for the county. The purpose for hiring the company was to ensure the money was spent per government regulations; however, it now seems the company was not needed at all, according to the latest updates on those regulations.
Today, Judge Cannon told the fiscal court that the feds have now given much more freedom to county governments on how to spend the money.
"Now they've had their final ruling on the issue and they've decided that up to ten million dollars, which we got far less than that, you can spend on it on the purposes of general government," he said. "And that means you can just about do anything with it that we would normally do with out budgeted money. There's not very many restrictions."
Cannon then outlined where he thought the money should be spent after researching current needs from various county offices. He also reminded magistrates that $150K was already spent on premium pay for county employees, along with $67K for a new skid steer for the road department. His proposed plan was as follows:
The water project was laid out by Edmonson Water General Manager Tony Sanders who said the total $1.1M project would consist of improvements to multiple pump stations, new service to E Hack Road, and improvements on Luttrell Cemetery Road, Segal Road, Carl Ashley Road, and HWY 70. Sanders noted that Edmonson Water was recently awarded over $422K from the state, and if fiscal court voted to fund $650K, then they would be looking to make up around $200K to complete the project.
Cannon also said that the ambulance service was also in need of a new ambulance, which will cost around $250,000; since the original plan was to put a portion of funding to water and ambulance services, he felt like that needed to remain a priority. A portion of Edmonson County property taxes go directly to the ambulance service, the same as school, library, extension office, health department, and conservation district, and the water department also has it's own revenue stream; however, after the meeting, Cannon told the Edmonson Voice once the restrictions on how to use the funding became looser, he wanted to present ideas that he felt would help the most residents.
"We have to find ways to spend this money that will benefit the most people in Edmonson County," he said in a phone interview. "A new ambulance will be good for the whole county and the ambulance service has to borrow money for new ambulances. This was what some of this money was intended for back at the beginning, just like for the water service."
District 1 Magistrate Mark Meeks said that while he appreciated Cannon researching the various needs, he thought separate meetings were supposed to be held to discuss possible ways to spend the money, but that it sounded to him as if money was already obligated.
"We haven't obligated anything. This is what we're doing now," said Cannon. "This is the meeting we're having, to try and hash things out."
The court agreed to hold a special-called meeting to discuss these plans further and Cannon asked the court for approval on the ambulance purchase, as the ambulance service had a short window on when they could make the purchase, due to supply-chain issues.
Magistrates voted to approve the ambulance purchase and a meeting is scheduled to discuss more funding possibilities after the next fiscal court meeting.