It’s not as easy as it would seem to spend the $43.7 million the Jefferson County Council has agreed to accept over the next two years under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Council members spent the first $4.95 million of that ARPA money in February after they approved a budget amendment in June to accept the funds, with half coming this year and the other half in 2023.
Through April 11, the council has approved another $1.93 million in grants.
Businesses and nonprofit agencies have been invited to apply for reimbursement of COVID-related expenses under terms of the federal stimulus program.
County Executive Dennis Gannon said figuring out exactly what those terms are, as defined by the federal government, has been the holdup.
“It’s true we have been deliberate,” he said. “But we are not alone in this. If you look at other counties around the state, you’re seeing the same thing. We don’t want to spend this money in the wrong way.”
Gannon said the ARPA funding is different from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a stimulus package that brought $26.4 million to Jefferson County.
“The rules on ARPA are a little less rigid than they were for the CARES Act,” he said.
For instance, he said, ARPA allows local governments to recover revenue lost during the pandemic.
Some of the other goals of the act are to boost pay for essential workers and encourage water, sewer and broadband infrastructure improvements, as well as public health and safety initiatives.
Businesses and nonprofits
Owners of businesses and directors of nonprofit agencies have until Saturday to apply for reimbursement on COVID-related costs, including the cost to buy personal protective equipment; the costs to disinfect or deep clean buildings; the cost to reconfigure business to meet recommended health and safety guidelines; signs; Plexiglas barriers; touchless menus and safety training for staff; and marketing and other one-time expenses associated with reopening or resuming normal operations.
Reimbursements are capped at $5,000 per applicant, although Gannon cautioned that the awarded amount may be less than applied for.
“We may not approve everything in every application, but we will consider everything,” he said.
Some businesses that already have been awarded money include Pegg’s Italian American Restaurant, Sorelli’s Italian Restaurant, High Ridge Family Diner and the Pasta House Co., all of which received the maximum amount.
Nonprofits that have been awarded money include the Disability Resource Association, Jefferson County Hunger Task Force, Disability Resource In-Home Services and the Festus American Legion, all of which were awarded $5,000.
Details and application forms may be found on the county’s website,
The County Council approved 13 requests for ARPA funds at its Feb. 28 meeting.
The county’s Public Works Department had $3.47 million in requests for parts of four projects.
Up to $2 million will go toward relocating water main lines for the project to realign Old Lemay Ferry Road at both East Rock Creek Road and Spring Forest Drive.
“This area has a main distribution line for Public Water District C-1 to get water to the Seckman valley,” said Public Works Director Jason Jonas. “Because of where the lines are with right-of-ways, the county would have to pay about half of that to relocate the lines, and the water district the other half. Without the ARPA funds (which emphasizes public works projects such as water distribution), this project would not have been done for a long time. The water district doesn’t have $1 million or more just lying around.”
Another $500,000 will be used to build a new vestibule at the Jefferson County Administration Center in Hillsboro.
Jonas said windows of the Collector’s Office are in the main lobby inside the building, and during certain times of the year, there can be many people crowded in with no way to maintain social distancing.
A new, 600-square-foot vestibule that will extend outward from the main doors of the building will allow separate entrances for those doing business with the Collector’s Office from others entering and exiting the building, Jonas said.
Another $579,199 will be used to replace heating and air conditioning controls at seven county buildings, including the Administration Center, Annex and Courthouse.
Jonas said some of the old controls are no longer made and cannot be replaced. “Because this is an upgrade for energy efficiency, this qualifies under ARPA,” he said.
Also qualifying for federal funding is the completion of a project to replace the motors that regulate doors at the County Jail.
“We’re in the third and final phase of replacement of the motors, which are the original ones installed when the jail was built 27 years ago,” Jonas said. “We had been seeing one or two go out a year, but now it’s a lot more. These are the motors that regulate the solid metal doors on the cells and in the corridors.”
He said if the motors are not replaced, the jail would have to go to a system where the doors are opened by keys rather than electronically through a central location.
“That would be a huge safety issue, and you would have more person-to-person contact, which also is a problem,” Jonas said.
He said the motors for 100 doors would be replaced with $388,784 in ARPA funding.
Among the health-care applicants approved to date for ARPA money were Crystal Oaks ($286,500), Pony Bird Inc. ($121,500), Festus Manor ($225,000), South County Nursing Home LLC ($229,500), Fountainbleau Nursing Center ($159,000), My Place Residential Care ($66,000) and My Place Two Inc. ($75,000).
Jefferson College President Dena McCaffrey said the college will use its $750,000 grant as part of a $3.9 million project to expand the Arnold campus to accommodate the Law Enforcement Academy and Emergency Medical Technician programs, which are now housed at its campus at 4400 Jeffco Blvd.
Nine school districts also have received money: Crystal City ($35,198), Grandview R-2 ($48,045), Fox C-6 ($72,771), Dunklin R-5 ($59,470), Windsor C-1 ($64,934), Jefferson R-7 ($47,430), De Soto ($62,136), Hillsboro R-3 ($64,603) and Festus R-6 ($64,510).
Gannon said that while cities in the county are getting money directly through ARPA, there are discussions about collaborating with municipalities on possible water projects.
He said he hoped that at least some of the ARPA funding would be used to build a forensic crime lab for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
“That’s the one I’m really excited about,” he said. “Rather than having to send evidence away, it can be analyzed here, and that will speed up law enforcement efforts.”
To that end, on March 28, the council approved $857,000 for the Sheriff’s Office, including money for equipment like a fingerprint imaging system, plus a tactical response vehicle and premium pay for officers.
“At the end of the day, once all this money is spent, I want to see that Jefferson County is a better place,” Gannon said.