At its October 19 meeting, the Clay County Commission heard and granted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding requests from department heads. All the requests presented received preliminary approval from the CARES committee which initially reviews all ARPA funding proposals. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 became law on March 11, 2021. Clay County’s allotment of ARPA funds is $12,455,461.
Citing the backlog in court cases due to Covid-19 and the pandemic-related time when courts were closed or working at reduced capacity, Clay County Attorney Brian Melton requested the use of $118,088 in ARPA funds to hire a contract attorney to assist existing staff. The 13-month contracted attorney will be assigned a caseload to assist in reducing caseloads numbers for existing staff. The office intends to offer the contracted position to a currently licensed attorney beginning December 1, 2021.
Clay County Facilities Director Joe Olson requested the use of $80,000 in ARPA funds to remodel the County Commission’s former board room to create a sixth courtroom and a small back-chamber bathroom for the judge. Construction will begin November 21, 2021. County Attorney Melton added his support as he explained that due to Clay County’s growth the new courtroom will be able to accommodate visiting judges.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed how meetings are held. The Law Enforcement Center (LCE) provides training rooms but the rooms, as they are currently configured, lack the equipment to safely hold public meetings or provide video-conferencing capability. Clay County’s Information Systems Director Mark Sloan requested $25,860 in ARPA funds to purchase additional equipment. This request adds twelve wireless microphones and the components required for installation with the goal of enhancing the conferencing capability of LCE’s training rooms to the level of the new County Commission Boardroom. It will allow for social distancing and remote attendee participation in trainings and meetings for all the departments that utilize this space. Installation will begin when all the equipment has arrived. Commission Chair Kevin Campbell joked, “Showing my age, I asked why we can’t just go down to Radio Shack and buy these things for $50 but apparently it’s a little bit more sophisticated than that.”
Commissioner Jenny Mongeau added her support saying, “We first talked about making sure we changed the way Clay County functions so there was not a disruption in how citizens can do their business.” She added, “We have had a significant amount of county and small city meetings in those rooms. We’ve also had an inter-governmental retreat in the LEC. It will really be helpful for us to conduct business and have meetings that are accessible for the public and so they can hear what is going on. This will help justify that it is not just a one-department request but it will be for our citizens and all the government departments as well.”
Sloan presented a request to purchase additional Microsoft licenses. As pandemic numbers increase, so does the use of Microsoft Teams for training Covid contact tracers. Other departments have increasingly used this platform as well. The $1580 funding request will provide extra licensing until February 1, 2022 when the licensing agreement renews. Sloan said, “We have seen an increase in remote work and remote meetings throughout this entire year.”