Panel wants to stay the course with ARPA funds

Chairman says no final decisions have been made with $4.3 million remaining


FORT MADISON – Community Action of Southeast Iowa made a pitch to a Lee County panel overseeing the county’s $6.5 million America Rescue Plan Act funding.

Executive Director Sheri Wilson and Center Director Lisa Nafziger told the panel at Monday’s meeting that a lot of their funding now is going to repairs and rental assistance. The group has asked for $228,000 from the county’s allocation.

According the group’s website, Community Action continues to work toward that goal to help people out of poverty, assist them in obtaining decent and affordable housing, adequate nutrition, employment, affordable and quality childcare, education and training so they may become self-sufficient and improve their quality of life.

The group’s application focuses on rent and deposit assistance, home repairs, and relocation assistance for low-income individuals in need.

Lee County ARPA Administrator Chuck Vandenberg said compliance with U.S. Treasury rules requires that the funding be used in Lee County. Community Action of Southeast Iowa is one of 17 Community Action groups in the state, and they cover four counties including Des Moines, Henry, Louisa, and Lee counties.

“I’ll be the nerd in the room, but compliance under these programs requires you to show that all of that money is spent in Lee County. Would you be able to provide documentation that shows how the funds were spent only in Lee County?”

Wilson said the group would be able to provide any documentation the county would need to show the funding was used in the county.

Nafziger said the Community Action is trying to find a larger space in Fort Madison to help with temporary homelessness, but funding for that has already been established.

The county has committed $1.95 million to the Southeast Iowa Regional and Economic Port Authority for a $5.5 million broadband infrastructure project. The county has also allocated about $350,000 in county digitization projects in the Auditor’s, Recorder’s, and Engineer’s offices and some maintenance improvements. The KPlay Playground Association also got $15,000 as part of a $200,000 expansion to Bentley’s Playground including a splash pad.

That leaves about $4.3 million remaining from the allocation.

The final rules from the Treasury regarding APRA money allows counties to take up to a $10 million “standard allowance” for revenue loss. However, the rules stipulate that with that allowance the counties would be required to use the funds for traditional general county services, i.e. any expenditures that would in the past have been given consideration by the county.

The county would then be able to spend the money on projects that were submitted as long as they can show a past history of consideration of those expenses.

Vandenberg recommended that the Board of Supervisors consider an ordinance stipulating the county was utilizing the funds under the standard allowance for revenue loss.

Committee Chair Garry Seyb said the panel, despite some rumors around the child care applicants, has not made any more decisions on funding applications. He said there was some discussion among outside applicants that the county had decided to use the remainder of the funds on a new Lee County Health facility.

He said he was fine with the resolution, but didn’t want people to assume that meant the money was all going toward the facility.


“I want us to focus on staying the course of where we’re going right now,” Seyb said. “But I think taking that standard allowance. It sounds to me like it would help.”

Vandenberg said he didn’t think it changed how the county could allocate the funds because most of the applications are requests that could normally have come to the county. The county gives $200,000 per year to the Lee County Economic Development Group, library boards, and other entities to help with funding.

These requests would be in line with those annual requests for budget assistance.

The group also heard an update on the health care facility. The county is working on an agreement with the Glen Meller family for a donation of about nine acres of property where the former Iowan Motor Lodge sat.

Glen Meller said he would begin tearing the property down hopefully before spring planting season. Vandenberg said Klingner and Associates out of Burlington will be conducting an initial environmental study on the property. A steering committee for the facility also recently voted to hire Carl A. Nelson and Co. as the construction manager on the project.

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