I attended the April 7, 2022 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.
All commissioners were present.
It was a pretty full room for this meeting.
No Public Comment portion was offered to the audience. I don’t know why.
The first agenda item was Road and Bridge bid openings.
The bids were for trucking services and asphalt.
The Road and Bridge Administrator recommended the Commission accept all of the bids.
The Commission approved this unanimously.
The second agenda item was the March tax abatements.
This item was tabled for further review.
The third agenda item was an abandoned well that was capped and sealed on Horseshoe Bend.
Commission approval was needed for DNR rules.
The commissioners approved it unanimously and signed the paperwork
The final agenda item was BKD. BKD is the consulting firm the Commission hired to assist with its expenditure of federal ARPA funds. Camden County received just under $9,000,000 in ARPA funding. BKD sent three representatives to the meeting and they presented a slide show. They also took questions from the Commission and the audience.
The regulation that provides guidance for the use of ARPA money is the Department of the Treasury’s Final Rule. It’s over 400 pages long. The Final Rule was released in January 6, 2022 and the Final version of the Final Rule was made effective on April 1, 2022. This is why it’s probably not a good idea to start assigning ARPA money until you have a final decision from the Department of the Treasury regarding what it can be used for.
BKD’s role for Camden County is to discuss ARPA eligibility and allowance considerations. They will review the county’s expenditures to check for eligibility and allowability under Treasury guidelines. They will also prepare financial reports based on the Compliance and Reporting Guidance issued by the Department of the Treasury.
The initial rules allowed ARPA money to be spent on:
- Water and sewer infrastructure
- Broadband infrastructure
- COVID related expenses
ARPA money cannot be spent on:
- Payments for debt service or stockpiling of reserves.
- Satisfaction of settlements or judgements.
- Offsets of a reduction in net tax revenue from a change in state law.
It can also be used to replace lost public sector revenue. Camden County is eligible to take the “standard allowance” because they received less than $10,000,000 in ARPA funds. If they choose the standard allowance, Camden County does not have to provide a detailed description of these losses. In effect, the lost revenue is just presumed to have occurred.
By claiming the standard allowance, the county is allowed much more flexibility to spend the ARPA money. It can be spent on anything that would qualify as government service: road maintenance, government administration, public safety, etc.
ARPA money can also be used to give premium pay for eligible workers who provide essential work. The premium pay can be no more than an additional $13 per hour and no single employee can receive more than $25,000 in premium pay.
ARPA money can be given to non-profit organizations as long as they experienced negative economic impacts or disproportionate impacts from the pandemic. Medical Missions for Christ appears to qualify under this rule. The catch is that it would be the responsibility of Camden County to ensure that the non-profit spends the ARPA appropriately and documents the expenses.
The commissioners discussed the issue of premium pay.
Commissioner Gohagan wanted to propose a $2,000 one-time premium payment to all non-elected county officials. Commissioner Williams agreed but he stated they needed to figure out what the total costs in employee benefits would be. ARPA money can’t be used for pension and medical plan expenses. Commissioner Gohagan made a motion to approve the premium pay for the employees. Commissioner Williams declined to second the motion until they knew exactly how much money the county would have to pay out of county revenue for the employee benefits.
There were quite a few questions from the audience also.
According to BKD, if Camden County spends ARPA money on something that gets rejected by the federal government, they have to pay back the money and could potentially get less funding on the next round of relief money. Camden County will be subject to ARPA auditing for the next 7 years.
The ARPA money has to be obligated by 2024 and spent by 2026. Compliance with the Davis Bacon Act (regarding prevailing wages) is not required. (Although it could be required if ARPA spending is mixed with other federal funding on a project.)
ARPA money can be used for interior and exterior renovations on government buildings on a case by case basis. This could include improving the handicapped access on all floors of the courthouse building.
And that was that.
After the meeting, I went up and talked to the BKD people. I asked their lawyer a few questions and she commented on how articulate I was when I was asking questions during the meeting. She seemed a a bit surprised.
I think the Gadfly might need to upgrade his wardrobe a bit.