The Pottawatomie County Commission adopted a resolution Monday to accept more than $4.9 million in coronavirus aid, a portion of which will be distributed to cities within the county.
The federal funds, approved under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are being distributed by the state to Kansas counties, based on population.
The county, in turn, intends to redistribute the funds to cities within the county (based on population), and retain a percentage based on the population in non-incorporated areas.
Municipalities, however, must have a plan in place by Aug. 15, detailing how the funds will be spent — specifically, on COVID-19-related expenditures as specified in the CARES Act.
“There’s a lot of work to be done between now and Aug. 15 on this project,” Administrator Chad Kinsley told commissioners.
Kinsley said he has alerted city officials and given them a deadline of July 30 to submit plans for use of the funds.
County and city officials are expected to meet within the next three weeks to finalize spending plans for the CARES Act funding.
In other business Monday:
• Public Works Director Peter Clark announced at 11:05 a.m. that he had just received an email announcing receipt of a state grant to fund construction of a stoplight at the intersection of U.S. Highway 24 and Columbian Road, just west of Wamego.
A few minutes earlier, Clark told commissioners he was “positive” the grant would be awarded in the next two weeks, although nothing was official.
The grant, through the Kansas Department of Transportation, will pay for installation of a stoplight, as well as construction of turn lanes on westbound Highway 24 and the north and south legs of Columbian.
The county and city of Wamego have agreed to split the cost of engineering and inspection, estimated at a total of $45,000. Clark anticipates the project to begin in August or September of 2021.
• Commissioners got a first glimpse of a proposed budget for fiscal year 2021.
The draft, presented by Heather Gladbach, finance officer, proposes decreasing general fund spending by about $292,000 (from $34.4 million to $34.1 million) and proposes a general fund tax levy of 27.429 — slightly lower than the current levy of 28.021.
Of the 41 line items in the general fund, the draft proposes increasing spending in nine, reducing spending in 19, and leaving 13 the same as 2020.
Commissioners are expected to approve a proposed 2021 budget for publication later this month.
• Commissioners reflected on their unanimous decision last Thursday to “opt out” of the governor’s executive order requiring masks in all public places where proper social distancing is not possible.
“I’m glad we got this done because I received more calls Thursday than I have since I’ve been up here,” said Commissioner Pat Weixelman.
“We got it done, and I’m not sorry for what we did,” Weixelman said. “Since I’ve been up here I’ve pleased 100% of the people, but just 50% of the time.”
Commissioner Greg Riat agreed, saying the decision to opt out of the governor’s order was a difficult one.
“We need to watch the (COVID-19) numbers to see if our decision was correct,” he said.
Commissioner Dee McKee said she is still receiving comments on the issue, noting that owners of public places have the option to require masks.
“Everyone should take responsibility for their own actions,” McKee said.