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County eyes federal funds for projects

County eyes federal funds for projects County eyes federal funds for projects

Taylor County is looking to tap into federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help fund a number of one-time purchases around the county.

Members of the Taylor County Finance and Personnel committee on Monday gave their approval to spending ARPA funds for radio equipment for the sheriff’s department and county fire departments as well as for boat landing replacement at Miller Dam and replacement of a parking lot at the Taylor County Education Center.

Under the ARPA funds, every county and municipality received the federal grants to help communities recover from the negative economic impacts of COVID-19. The county has a limited window of time to spend the money and is limited in how it can be spent with the preference for larger one-time projects.

The committee had previously approved spending the money for the radio equipment, but had formal resolutions to bring it to the full county board.

The two new requests came from the county’s buildings and grounds committee.

Buildings and grounds director Joe Svejda said the issues with the boat landing at Miller Dam have been going on for some time with the ramp breaking up and the gravel at the end of it washing out.

He said last summer he had looked into hiring an engineer to do a survey of the ramp to determine what the needs would be, but when he saw the costs involved put it on a back burner as there were other budget priorities. He has since revisited the project and has looked into the potential for securing state grant funds that could cover half of the project costs. “This would be a well qualified project for both ARPA and the grant,” Svedja said.

He estimated the cost of replacing the boat landing at between $254,000 and $325,000 and was seeking up to $150,000 of that to come from the county’s ARPA funds.

While supportive of the need to replace and lengthen the boat landing at the heavily used recreational facility, committee member Rollie Thums said he did not feel the county needed to go through an engineer to get the project done. He said he was involved with replacing a boat landing at another lake in the county and that they were able to get the permits for a replacement structure from the state and Army Corps of Engineers without needing an engineer to sign off on it. He said they are working with a contractor from Rhinelander on their project and that the contractor was knowledgeable about what was needed.

Regardless, Thums said the ramp at Miller Dam definitely needed to be replaced.

Svedja said the engineers he spoke to said a new ramp would have an extended life of about 30 years.

Committee members approved sending the request to the full county board seeking half the project costs up to $150,000 from ARPA funds.

Svedja also was before the committee asking for their support of using ARPA funds to replace a 33,000 square foot parking lot at the Taylor County Education Center. The county leases the building to the Rural Virtual Academy, SOAR program, Head Start program, and Adult Diploma Academy. The county had hoped to do the project last summer but had delayed it because of the poor base material and cost overruns when crews did the nearby parking area for the Agricultural Service Center.

According to Svedja, the plan is to have the highway department do the work at an estimated cost of $102,000.

Committee member Lester Lewis noted that to his knowledge this will be only the second time the parking lot has been done. The first lot was installed in 1961 and was redone in the 1980s or early 1990s when the building was used by Northcentral Technical College.

Svedja said he believes the deterioration is due to a base issue much like with the Ag Center lot.

County board chairman Jim Metz said if it was the base there is nothing they can do to make it better without tearing it out and replacing it. “We could make it look good, but it is not going to last,” he said, without the major work.

Committee members agreed and approved asking for the ARPA funds.

If those allocations are approved by the full county board, finance director Larry Brandl estimated the county would have about $280,000 remaining in ARPA funds for other projects.

In other business, committee members:

_ Approved accepting the reclassification of the confidential human resources assistant position to be bumped up a grade on the county’s pay scale based on the job’s actual duties. This increases the base wage from $21.61 per hour to $23.68 per hour. In related action, county board member Lynn Rosemeyer questioned if the position was appropriately titled given the duties appear to be those of a human resources specialist rather than an assistant. She said people applying for that job and seeing assistant would think it was a clerical position. Human resources manager Nicole Hager said that in her prior experience specialists were specialized in specific areas of human resources, which is why she used the assistant in the title. The job description and title will be revisited at the next committee meeting.

_ Received clarification on an agenda item from the April finance committee meeting about a grant that was returned to Human Services by Taylor County Supportive Housing. TCSH board president Jessica Mudgett said she wanted the committee to know that the funds were going to be used in an appropriate manner and were being cooperative. She said the minutes from that meeting did not fully reflect that.