Montgomery County Courthouse

(Red Oak) -- The latest round of American Rescue Plan Act funded projects for Montgomery County will soon be set in motion.

Meeting in regular session Tuesday morning, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors approved the second installment of ARP funded projects for the county. The unanimous approval came despite the board hearing comments once again from the public raising concerns on the lack of public input for the projects.

Vicky Rossander, of rural Stanton, says with the second round of funding approved, nearly half of this year's county ARP money will be allocated for projects.

"I'm here to beg you to table the recommendations that are going to be presented this morning by the ARP committee," Rossander said. "If this recommendation is approved, 46 percent, or nearly half of this year's ARP allocation will have been spent with zero public input. This simply can not happen. Until the public has been allowed to attend a committee meeting and has been allowed to have input into this recommendations, no more money should be allocated and spent."

Barb Nelson, James Norris, and Jan Norris, also spoke to the board in hopes of tabling the approval of the COVID-19 relief dollars. Emergency Management Coordinator and a member of the ARP committee, Brian Hamman, said there are three main categories for the spending including the county and courthouse, Montgomery County Public Health, and Emergency Management Services. The first item bringing some controversy to the discussion is the digitization of auditor transfer books.

"The first one on the list is the digitizing of the auditor's transfer books, the second request with that is to add a computer station in the upstairs lobby," Hamman said. "So those researchers can go to that computer, search those documents all in house, they don't have to go into the vault, touch those historic documents, spread contaminants, whatever it may be."

The second item sparking public comment is the addition of garage space for the county which Hamman says will be able to serve multiple purposes for county agencies.

"This is a 24-by-24 foot addition onto the current detached garage at the LAC, this also includes electric, concrete, and all building materials," Hamman said. "While it does serve the purpose of storing the new pickup for those agencies, it also allows them to house the mowers, cleaning supplies, PPE for the courthouse, and other things that were using right now with COVID."

Other courthouse and county projects include replacing the courthouse windows. Meanwhile, public health projects include the purchase of a trailer to store supplies and ease the moving process of those supplies, a COVID testing pickup box, and the addition of fiber optics to the department building. Extra pallet shelving for storage of PPE products was the only spending on EMS.

Despite the public comments of dissatisfaction with the ARP committee's process, Supervisors Chair Donna Robinson says the takeaway from state officials, including at a town hall with State Auditor Rob Sand that Hamman attended, has been positive.

"From what I heard from him (Hamman) and from others that were in attendance, I think we basically got confirmation that this committee is handling things properly," Robinson said. "I think that we are following the rules, we are in compliance, and I think we are all comfortable with the decisions that have been made.

Hamman says the breakdown in cost for the projects include over $146,000 for the county and courthouse, public health is around $25,000, and EMS costs are just over $1,500.

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