Darren Doyle, story:
More than two million dollars in federal funding are headed to Edmonson County within the next two months; however, guidelines for the use of the funds have not yet been made clear, according to Judge Executive Wil Cannon in today's Edmonson County Fiscal Court meeting.
The funding is part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which is the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan that was signed into law on March 11th. The plan earmarks $350 billion for state, local, and tribal governments for the purpose of lost revenue and other financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
District 2 Magistrate Corey VanMeter asked who gets to decide where the money goes and where the spending will go.
Judge Cannon said he and county treasurer attended a virtual meeting with state officials on Friday to discuss the funding; however, he said those questions have yet to be answered.
"It can only be spent certain ways," Cannon said. "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."
Cannon also said that some of the uses discussed were water and broadband utilities but that broadband services are getting separate funds, and that money from this grant would not likely go there. If anything, broadband funding would only be complimented by the county's spending.
Cannon also said it was unclear whether or not the spending would be decided by himself, which was the case in previous CARES funding, or if by fiscal court vote or other means. Cannon said even if left up to the Judge Executive's discretion, he would likely bring it before fiscal court for discussion. He also noted that he welcomed any magistrate to discuss the funding possibilities with him at any time.
"It's so broad, the way they threw it out there, that nobody really knows the answers to these questions that you asked," he said in reply to Magistrate VanMeter. "Those same questions were asked Friday and not a single conclusive answer was given."
County Treasurer Whillhite said the county is to receive 50% of the total funding within the next 60 days and then the remaining balance within the next 12-18 months. She said this was guaranteed money to the county without an application process and would not be reimbursement. The funding has to be spent by the end of 2024 or the remainder would have to be refunded to the federal government.
Road Report: County Road Supervisor Greg Carroll said that crews had completed repairs on bridges and other flooding damages throughout the county and that he was applying for aid from FEMA for those costs, which are estimated to be around $3.5 million from over 300 separate incidents. He also reported that county crews plan to begin paving projects for this year beginning on April 5th.
Judge Cannon updated the court with a jail report that showed 19 county inmates currently housed in the Hart County Jail.
Sheriff Report: Sheriff Shane Doyle reported several drug arrests over the past week as well as capturing a fugitive out of Illinois. He also discussed the need for another vehicle to replace one that was beyond repair. Magistrates voted later in the meeting to allow the purchase of a patrol truck, similar to what the officers currently use. Funding will come from previously granted CARES Act money.
County Clerk Kevin Alexander had no report but announced to the court that his office would be closed on Friday, April 2nd and Saturday, April 3rd for Good Friday and Easter, respectively.
In an item tabled from the last fiscal court meeting, magistrates voted against the county sending funding to WKU's Small Business Development Center. Treasurer Willhite contacted surrounding area county governments and discovered that eight other counties decided against the funding.
No one from the court had any evidence regarding how the SBDC assisted any Edmonson County business in any way. Magistrate Edd Rich made the motion to decline funding and stated that anytime the fiscal court approves to spend taxpayer dollars, those dollars should directly benefit Edmonson County. He said he didn't see any benefit here. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.
Blake Williams, with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, provided the fiscal court a report that outlined funding from the state for rural secondary road projects in Edmonson County for the next fiscal year. He provided the following information:
The fiscal court also voted to:
The next Edmonson County Fiscal Court meeting is scheduled to be held virtually on April 12, 2021.