PRINCETON — Gibson County Commissioners don’t yet know all the ground rules for spending it, but they do know the county will receive $6.53 million over the next two years in federal American Rescue Plan Act relief funds.
Commissioners adopted a resolution Tuesday pledging to follow guidelines for spending the money, once they get more details on what those guidelines might be.
The funds will be received in two distributions, the first on May 11 and the second on May 11, 2022.
Board of Commissioners President Warren Fleetwood said the county should assemble a team to gather input on how to use the money.
Commissioner Mary Key said the money must be spent before Dec. 31, 2024, and a spending plan should be general enough that the county doesn’t have to consistently go back and amend the plan.
“All we have are general parameters,” she said. “It’s just coming out of Congress, so remember, you’re going to have changes.” Key said commissioners will need to work with the Gibson County Council and Gibson County Auditor’s Office on how to plan for spending the funds.
The resolution adopted by commissioners pledges to use money for one or more purposes:
• To address the public health emergency of COVID-19 or its negative economic impact, including assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits, or to help affected industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality sectors.
• To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers of the county who are performing essential work, or by providing grants to eligible employers who have eligible workers performing essential work.
• To provide government services to the extent of a reduction in revenue for the county due to the COVID-19 public health emergency impact on revenue collected in the most recent full fiscal year for the county prior to the emergency.
• To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
Gibson County Council on Aging’s Senior Center Executive Director, Julia Rahman, asked commissioners to consider using some of the recovery fund money to help the center pay for replacing its air conditioning/heating system, and saving its parking lot.
Rahman said the facility is used by seniors for meals and social activities and transportation, among other resources — especially as a social outlet that is necessary for seniors in the pandemic. She said it’s an important resource to the senior population, and the donations the facility receives haven’t been sufficient to fund all of the major repairs needed. “We need a warm building in the winter and a cool building in the summer,” she said.
The facility’s HVAC system is more than 20 years old, and the transportation department office hasn’t had functioning air conditioning for five years.
Rahman said she’s concerned the center’s parking lot is crumbling to the point the base will be lost. She said even the handicap parking spaces are in bad shape, causing some people to stumble.
“We need to look into what can qualify with some of this new money we’re receiving,” Key said.
Former Patoka Township Trustee Bruce Fisher said the facility is used by the entire county, and suggested GCCOA also seek out township trustees as a resource for donations. “It’s well within the perview of the townships to give a donation to something like that,” he said.
“We’ll definitely put you on our list,” Fleetwood said.
In other business addressed at the regular meeting Tuesday night
• Gibson County Health Department Nurse Administrator Diane Hornby said that while COVID-19 vaccinations and testing have kept the department busy, staff are also dealing with some communicable disease activity, which requires more monitoring and vaccines. And, she said the department’s server went down. While a new server is in place, the process of copying the data from the old server is a long one, she said.
“We’re spread pretty thin,” she said.
• Commissioners took two bids for purchase of a new ambulance under advisement. Bids opened Tuesday were from Crossroads Ambulance Sales of Middleburg Indiana ($183,810 bid amount with $5,000 trade-in allowance or $191,810 without trade); and Fire Services Inc. of Indianapolis ($214,620 retail, or $207,620 with a $4,000 Chrysler discount and $3,000 trade-in allowance).
• The board voted unanimously not to continue a COVID-19 paid leave benefit for employees. County Auditor Mike Watkins said commissioners voted in January to extend the benefit through March, and without action it would lapse. He said the county doesn’t have any employees on COVID-19 leave, and said other counties are opting to discontinue the same type of benefit.
Employees can still use sick time benefits if needed.
• Commissioners authorized Sheriff Tim Bottoms to spend $15,627.57 from the jail’s plumbing and electrical maintenance budget line items for a new water softener.
Fleetwood and Key said it would be best to spend out of the jail budget rather than use money in the county’s Economic Development Income Tax budget. “At this time our EDIT funds are super tight,” said Key.
• The commissioners granted Gibson County Chamber of Commerce use of the Gibson County Courthouse lawn for the Sept. 17-19 Golden Heritage Days Festival, and agreed to allocate four parking spaces on each of the four sides of the square (16 total spaces) to allow vendors to move in vehicles to get their booths set up on the lawn.
Chamber Executive Director Patty Vanoven asked whether the courthouse basement-level bathrooms would be available. Key said she believes the facilities would be available, providing the chamber pays for cleaning the restrooms. The only access to the bathrooms will be from the south entrance to the basement.
• Commissioners unanimously approved an appeal to the Gibson County Subdivision Review Committee regarding Straub/Whitten property, which was discussed at length two weeks ago.
Fred Kuester, whose firm surveyed the property, initially asked for a waiver. Key said commissioners cannot grant a waiver, but based on review of the section monument and the monument referenced in the survey, commissioners could approve an appeal. “The issue at hand is the plat, not section corners,” said Key. “Commissioners have no say on section corners.”
• Phil Reinbrecht of Reinbrecht Homes asked the commissioners to consider a subdivision plat approval for Southern Hills Crossing subdivision, but Key said the commissioners don’t yet have documentation from the subdivision review committee.
The review apparently awaits documentation of a state approval of plans for a commercial-grade septic system for the subdivision.