County continues to mull over LCHD/EMS project funding

USDA won't authorize bids until county shores up its contribution


LEE COUNTY – Lee County officials took a closer look at the proposed Lee County Health Department/EMS facility now that an additional $2.1 million in funding from a USDA Congressional appropriation was approved.
The county found out last week that a grant that was applied for through Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ office in 2023 was awarded to the project.
The funds would be last-in funding after the county’s contribution is used up. The county’s contribution would come from ARPA funding and the North Lee County Community Foundation.
Then a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant would kick in followed by the $3,074,000 in USDA grant funds. Currently, those funds total $5.2 million of a $5.5 million proposed project.
“As a recap, the funding we currently have is $1 million in ARPA funding, $500,000 of North Lee County Community Foundation committed with possibly more coming. A CDBG of $600,000, the USDA Emergency Rural Health Care grant of $974,000, and the USDA Congressional funding of $2.1 million,” Seyb said.
“We were lucky enough to be awarded funding for the Lee County Health Department - without a reduction, I might add.”
The Board of Supervisors on Monday discussed getting the project started in the wake of a petition that still exists, executed by the Lee County Farm Bureau, to make the county put borrowing for the project in front of voters.
Bidding can’t begin on the project until the county can show the USDA it has its contribution, which with the Miller-Meeks' appropriation is at $1.3 million. Once the funding program is approved by the USDA, then the project can go out for bids.
“We’re estimating $6 million because we engineered this a year and half ago at $5.5 million. We need to secure the full $6 million before we go out to bid on the project. But, until we have all that funding secure, we can’t go out to bid without putting the USDA funding at risk. I want to make that clear,” Seyb said.
“We have to be up and up and fully transparent, and that’s where we’re at.”
Seyb said he’s reached out to the Farm Bureau at five times in texts and phone in the last three days with the new information to make their board aware of what’s transpired.
Supervisor Chuck Holmes said the community foundation can’t make a guarantee in writing for the project because it turns the donations into pledges which becomes problematic with the IRS and how contributions are handled with regard to taxes.
Seyb said the devil’s in the details. He said they didn’t want to put the Community Foundation in that predicament. However, foundation funds would still be available once the project gets underway.
He said the county’s bond counsel believes the county would still be able to bond for the $975,000 it has authority for under new property tax laws. Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise said there is still a petition out there that says any bonding has to go to voters.
Supervisor Tom Schulz and Seyb said they believe that additional funding that came in creates a material change in the funding situation which would allow the county to bond for those funds.
“My understanding with bond counsel is, the petitioner could make an argument about the bond because their petition indicated any amount up to $6 million, but it would be up to them to file that complaint,” he said hinting that the Farm Bureau may not challenge a smaller bond to finish out the project now that the county has officially been awarded the additional $2.1 million appropriation.
“Im still talking with them to see where they are at with this now. Right now, we have to come up with an extra half million. That’s one aspect, and that gets messy.”
Seyb said the county needs to move forward with the project because it is ultimately in the best interest of the county and its health care provider services.
“There’s no way we can get a health department building and ambulance (building) for less than $800,000 in this county,” Seyb said. “We’re spending $90,000 a year just on rent.”
Schulz said the bond payment to make up the rest of the project would cost less than what the county would pay on the bond.
But Seyb said the county needed to be cognizant of the fact that more than 1,200 people signed the petition with the idea that the county was going to borrow $6 million.  Pflug said there is still a sentiment that the county is spending too much.
“People are so angry right now, even a bond for $10,000 they’ll vote no, that’s my opinion,” Pflug said.
Schulz said the county health department cannot continue to function in the current facility.
“It’s just not an option.”
Seyb said the county could potentially commit an additional $500,000 out of the general fund to the project which gets it past the $1.2 million contribution requirement in the event the county could get the Community Foundation to forward the $500,000 it has already committed to the project.
He said the county currently has about $4.6 million in general fund after committing to $1 million for the Keokuk EMS facility. He said that number will swell with March tax payments, but then will shrink until September when the second tax payments come in.
The discussion was tabled until next Monday when the county’s budget numbers will be closer to being finalized.

Fort Madison, USDA, news, Lee County, Supervisors, Lee County Health Department, EMS ambulance, services, congressional funding, appropriation, grant, project, Farm Bureau


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