BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – The infusion of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan into county coffers has spurred county officials to add a staffer to help not only manage those funds, but secure other grant funding.
At Monday’s Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisors voted to approve a recommendation from the panel overseeing the ARPA funding allocations to hire someone to coordinate ARPA funding in Lee County.
A portion of the funding for what Supervisor Garry Seyb said should be a salary of approximately $60,000, would come from the APRA funds themselves.
Seyb said at a meeting in Des Moines earlier this month officials clarified that 3% of the county’s share of ARPA funding, which was $6.5 million for Lee County, could be used to administer the funding. Three percent would represent $195,000 over the five years of the allocation period, which ends with all funds being spent by Dec. 31, 2026.
Seyb and Supervisor Ron Fedler sit on the allocations panel and presented two options to the board. The first was to hire a part time funding coordinator at 20 hours per week to just handle the ARPA funding for the county, including all required documentation.
The other option was to hire someone full time to handle the ARPA funds and in addition take on the responsibility of writing grants for the county.
“This would extend the opportunity for Lee County to look at grants,” Seyb said. “The Sheriff’s department has a lady that was really integral in their operations for filling out grants, but (Budget Director) Cindy (Renstrom) has picked up a lot of that reporting. With the extra work load, if we brought a full-time person on, that person would administer the ARPA grant that we have to track for the next five years, but also a person who could look at, manage and write additional grants.”
Seyb said that position in Johnson County carries a salary of around $63,000.
“The hope would be that that person writing the grants would be able to write and get approval for enough grants to at least cover the rest of their salary.”
Fedler said the ARPA funding could pay up to half the other salary, and if the position wasn’t generating enough revenue at the end of the five years to substantiate picking up the full salary, then the position could be eliminated at that time.
“When that person is hired, they’ve got five years to show they can do the job. If the person doesn’t pan out, when the ARPA funds run out, that’s the end of the position,” he said.
Seyb said he believes there are a lot of grants for law enforcement and for the county’s new ambulance service that can be secured that would help pay for things that the county will eventually have to buy anyway.
“So the benefit of that position goes beyond just the money that is gained in the grant. We’ve got five years and we will determine if it pays to have the grant writer or not.”
In an unrelated issue, the board also approved hiring two additional part-time staff, one EMT and one Paramedic for the Lee County EMS service.
EMS Director Dennis Cosby said the schedule with current staffing has about 72 hours in open coverage that has been being filled with overtime. He said hiring the two part-time staffers would be cheaper than continuing the pay the full time salary.
In other action, the board:
• approved hiring replacements for the Lee County Jail.
• approved a resolution to do a budget amendment for a new safety director budget. The board also approved hiring Mark Klesner, as the county’s new Safety/Risk Management Director.
• approved an application to be available to organizations applying for the county’s share of ARPA funds. The applications would go through Renstrom, then to the county ARPA advisory panel, and finally to the board of supervisors for approval. The applications would be available online or in hard copy at both the north and south Lee County courthouses starting next week. The first deadline to turn in those applications Sept. 30, 2021. But Seyb said he could see another round of applications after that deadline.