County creates panel to oversee stimulus money

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – A five-person committee will oversee the spending of an estimated $6.5 million in federal stimulus money that the county is tentatively expecting in the next 80 days.

The American Rescue Plan stimulus package signed into law on March 11 by President Joe Biden, provides funds to almost every incorporated city and county local government in the country.

At Monday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, Chairman Matt Pflug recommended appointing supervisors Ron Fedler and Garry Seyb Jr., to the panel, along with County Auditor Denise Fraise, County Budget Director Cindy Renstrom, and Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Mike Norris.

Fedler said the panel should be kept to just five.

“I would recommend we keep it to five. I don’t want to have a real large committee and not get anything accomplished. I know it’s a large amount of money, but anything the county comes up with will still need this board’s approval,” Fedler said.

Seyb suggested that Lee County Economic Development Group be included in the panel, but the board kept the group to five, saying Norris would be plugged into the same discussions as economic development officials.

He also said language of the law is still being analyzed.

“The other thing is that this is changing day to day,” Seyb said. “We need to slow it down and really let the rules be defined,” Seyb said.

Pflug said he wanted the taxpayers to know that the county will be very prudent with the funds.

Supervisor Rick Larkin said Community Action of Southeast Iowa has been having discussions in their meetings about governments getting the stimulus funding, and have offered to help with housing information in the region.

“They’re not asking to be on the committee, but they have experience with that and are willing to help.”

Fraise said there has been talk among state legislators of not accepting the federal stimulus money at the state level, which would eliminate any pass through to the local governments.

In other action, the board:
• approved a $9.2 million budget amendment to account for bond proceeds and expenses.
• heard from Lee County Health Department administrator Michele Ross, to continue to wear face covering and be cautious and not spread the virus. The county’s 7-day positivity rate is now at .2%, but she said there are variants out there and with spring break, everyone still needs to be vigilant in fighting the spread.

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