County commissioners to evaluate Rescue Plan funding requests

25 entities submit applications for piece of $1m in funds

CENTREVILLE — Twenty-five entities in St. Joseph County have submitted requests for a piece of the county’s remaining $1 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.

Now the question of whose requests will get filled and for how much will be answered by the county commissioners themselves.

On Friday, the executive committee of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners discussed what the process for evaluating each request would be, as well as received an overview of the submitted requests and the results of a community survey on funding priorities.

Commissioners determined they would be the ones scoring the different funding requests before handing off their scores to the county’s steering committee to make a final determination on what to fund. That process, they say, could be done by the end of the year.

Tim Dempsey, vice president of Public Sector Consultants, the firm assisting the county with allocating ARP funds, said there were 28 applications in total from the 25 entities, totaling $3.2 million in requested funds for projects costing a projected $24.9 million. The requests were submitted between June 30 and July 31 of this year.

Nine of the submitted requests deal with emergency services, such as fire and ambulance services. An additional five deal with road or other public works projects, while a few nonprofits have made requests for different projects. Two different school districts have also made requests, Nottawa and Mendon, and other municipalities have made funding requests for various different projects or services. A full list of the requests accompanies this article.

With the community survey results, Dempsey said the top five ranked priorities for funding were public safety, infrastructure, affordable housing, mental and behavioral health, and childcare capacity and quality. As for community priorities, respondents listed infrastructure projects, parks, and affordable housing as their top three, and as for specific projects or categories, youth programs, roads and student debt relief were in the top three.

“A lot of these items are ones that we are seeing elsewhere across the state,” Dempsey said.

To kick off discussion on evaluation of the requests, Dempsey proposed a rubric for how different requests could be scored. The rubric includes screening criteria, such as eligibility and the program’s description, and scoring criteria, which are meeting community priorities, leveraged funding, population impact, addressing long-term needs, and project sustainability. Each scoring category on the proposed rubric has a maximum of 10 points for a total of 50.

Because the total amount of requests exceeds the amount the county is able to give, Dempsey said decision makers should consider whether to provide full or partial funding to projects when making decisions on what to fund.

“The $1 million, obviously, doesn’t meet all the needs of the requests, so do we think about awarding only full funding for a request that people had, or do we think about partial funding so we can spread dollars to more projects,” Dempsey said. “If we do that, we’ll want to make sure those that get partial funding can still do their project.”

Fifth District Commissioner Ken Malone asked how the county can make sure requests can be fulfilled, noting that some requests don’t have dedicated funds already. Dempsey said one of the things that will “have to happen” is the county entering into a contract with the entities once awards are made, and that one of the stipulations could be project timeframe, but also could request people confirm if they can execute on the funding before requests are awarded.

Fourth District Commissioner Dan Czajkowski said county commissioners should be the determiners of who receives the funding.

“That’s where the buck ends, right here with us,” Czajkowski said. “We proposed putting this $1 million out there for this project, and I think it’s the responsibility of this group, and we’re going to have to answer to people.”

Commission chair Kathy Pangle said in terms of scoring the requests, the county has a steering committee they could use for that purpose, which Czajkowski said he was fine with. First District Commissioner Jared Hoffmaster opined that if he was on the steering committee, he would prioritize requests that have “skin in the game” already for funding.

“There’s a lot of these, where the project is $150,000 and we want the county to pay for every penny. I would err towards more of, this project that’s $500,000 with $350,000 towards it already and they just need the other $150,000,” Hoffmaster said. “A lot of these we have, they don’t have it.”

Ultimately, commissioners decided, after more discussion, that the scoring criteria was alright to them, and that they would have commissioners score the requests before bringing it to the ARP steering committee for the county. If there were questions about clarity, County Administrator Teresa Doehring suggested bringing in the requestors in-person to get clarification on details. Overall, Doehring said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the requests that came in.

“I thought there were some creative ideas and some much-needed things,” Doehring said. “I think it’s going to have an impact on the area on a lot of these requests.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

Submitted funding requests for county ARP funds

  • Burr Oak Township: Additional truck bay for fire department, requesting $60,000
  • City of Sturgis: City of Sturgis paramedic training, requesting $180,000
  • City of Three Rivers: DDA/Main Street small business grant program, requesting $50,000
  • City of Three Rivers: City of Three Rivers neighborhood revitalization, requesting $100,000
  • Colon Community Fire and Rescue: Education and recruitment, requesting $23,500
  • Colon Township Library: Library furnace and HVAC improvements, requesting $20,000
  • Community Healing Centers: Hope House - Recovery Housing, requesting $45,000
  • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Southwest Michigan, Inc.: Requesting $15,000
  • Daughters of the American Revolution and Old Centreville Cemetery Committee: Old Centreville Cemetery restoration project, requesting $35,000
  • Florence Township: Constantine Fire Department new extrication equipment and CPR system, requesting $54,231.54
  • Flowerfield Township: Building new Township Hall, requesting $33,000
  • Habitat For Humanity of St. Joseph County MI: St. Joseph County housing initiative to build three homes in county, requesting $500,000
  • Leonidas Fire Department: Two EMS equipment requests for CPR machines and AEDs, and one fire department Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) funding request, requesting $104,286.30
  • Mendon Fire Department: SCBA pack replacement, requesting $185,560
  • Mendon Township: Mendon Township Fire Hall construction, requesting $150,000
  • Mendon Township/Mendon Community Schools: Mendon Daycare Start-up - Before and After School, requesting $50,000
  • Mottville Township: Re-addressing portions of Riverside Drive and village road infrastructure improvements, requesting $156,000
  • Nottawa Community School District: Cooperative Park Expansion, requesting $42,245
  • Nottawa Community School District: Nottawa Stone School museum restoration, requesting $85,000
  • Nottawa Township: Nottawa Township ambulance subsidy, requesting $35,000
  • Nottawa Township: Building Hope Free Store/Old Centreville Cemetery/Nottawa Township Library improvements, requesting $55,000
  • Nottawa Township: Upgrades to township cemeteries, requesting $40,465
  • Park Township (with Lockport and Fabius Townships): U.S. 131/M-60 corridor water/sewer infrastructure collaboration project, requesting $375,000 ($125,000 per township)
  • Schaeffer Counseling Center: Preventing mental health problems related to COVID, requesting $25,000
  • St. Joseph County Grange Fair: Connecting Our Community, requesting $30,000
  • St. Joseph County Human Services Commission: Housing Coordinator position, requesting $170,000
  • Sturgis Township: Emergency services, requesting $50,000
  • Village of Centreville: Road project (W. Main St. from 425 W. Main to village limits; S. Clark St. from M-86 to village limits; N. Clark from M-86 to village limits), requesting $375,000
  • Village of Constantine: Electronic water meters, requesting $180,000

Three Rivers Commercial-News

124 North Main Street
Box 130
Three Rivers, MI 49093

Telephone: 269-279-7488
Fax: 269-279-6007
General email: info@threeriversnews.com