County may lean toward grant process with $1m in Rescue Plan funds

CENTREVILLE — St. Joseph County may have figured out how to spend the $1 million of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for “external funding.”

During Tuesday’s St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners meeting, commissioners instructed County Administrator Teresa Doehring to continue researching options with Public Sector Consultants (PSC), the county’s consulting firm for ARP funding, mainly the feasibility of a competitive grant process for the funds.

Doehring said in an interview Thursday the county will collect data and responses from the community survey that has been going on for the last month, and then work with PSC to figure out a “Request For Information” plan so that any agencies or municipalities interested in applying for the money can apply with the request.

She also said Thursday a proposed plan that would’ve distributed the $1 million equally to all county townships and municipalities is not on the table at this time.

“We’re going to at least see what the RFIs look like, and then from there, it’ll be the board’s decision, but we thought it’d be best to work through the process, see what we receive from these external agencies, and then the board will make a decision at that point,” Doehring said.

Doehring said there were public comments suggesting using the $1 million for a number of things, with one advocating for working with Habitat For Humanity on housing issues and another advocating for using the money for infrastructure needs.

Commissioners have previously expressed both sides of using the $1 million for grants and the other option of splitting up the money. One of the pitfalls expressed of the grant plan is the time commitment for sifting through grant applications and selecting which ones to go with over another. However, other commissioners saw splitting the $1 million among the municipalities and townships as additional ARP funding to what those local governments already received.

An official decision on how to use the funds is expected within the next few months.

In other business…

  • Commissioners approved a contract for ABM Industries to perform work on the St. Joseph County Jail as part of Phase II of the county’s energy saving project. The project, which is not expected to exceed $4,454,080, will replace the boiler and hot water heater in the jail’s gym, replace the main water heater system, decommission the solar thermal, insulate hot water piping, upgrade HVAC controls, replace the jail’s roof membrane and recommission and expand the jail’s existing solar system. The project will be paid for by bonds the county will borrow, and the project is expected to start in late fall.
  • Commissioners approved capital requests for handicap ramps at the Commission on Aging’s Rivers Enrichment Center in Three Rivers, as well as asphalt sealing and sports court work at the center, a total of $42,067 of budgeted fund balance.
  • Commissioners approved an addendum to the COA’s lease of the Oaks Enrichment Center in Sturgis, which would see the COA’s commitment for 30 percent of road repair costs on the drive off of North Franks Avenue go only up to the first driveway into the center’s parking lot.
  • Commissioners heard annual reports from the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department and Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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