AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN (ARP) STRATEGIC PLANNING MINUTES
4 JANUARY 2022
Attendees: County Executive Melissa Greene, Commissioners: Joyce Woodard, Tommy Pollard, Judy Pruett, Mike Cesarini, Erin Curry, Harold Brooks, Larry Worsham, Stoney Jackson, Bill Cary, Roger Reedy, Joseph Sutton, Rose Brown, David Adams, Tracy Wilburn, David Wamble Other County Employees: Beth Moore-Sumners, Nancy Griffin, Jeremy Holley, Roy Griggs, Other: Sheriff Kyle Helton, Bill Myers, Fire and Rescue and Rebecca Harmon of The Citizen
Hosting the meeting, County Executive Melissa Greene opened the meeting by encouraging discussion from the attendees, providing definitions of numerous acronyms, sources of various funding (local, state, federal), and her recommendations of use of those funds. She stated the final authority on that use rests with the county legislative body. On the ARP funding she said that all the discussion would be based on “interim” final rules since the actual final rules have not yet been determined. The deadline for the funds has not changed with 2024 being the timeline for having the funds allocated, and 2026 having the funds actually spent. A question from David Adams on possibility of any newly elected commissioners changing direction from decisions made by the current legislative body was answered with they could, but the deadlines would not change and would make any later decisions more difficult to meet those same deadlines.
Melissa listed the categories for the ARP funding, with those being:
- Support public health and public safety expenditures
- Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency
- Replace lost public sector revenue
- Provide premium pay to essential workers
- Invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure
Her recommendation was to use the third category, replace lost public sector revenue, and to roll those funds into general funds. Her reasoning being that allows considerable flexibility due to there being “no strings attached”. The funding formula for lost revenue has to do with a growth factor projected and a county’s inability in meeting that growth factor, with Giles County’s result being $5.71M in ARP funding. That number has been vetted by both the state’s Comptroller and County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS).
The ARP funding also has limitations on how the funds cannot be used. Those are: funds cannot be used to reimburse costs incurred prior to March 3, 2021, nor replenish rainy day funds or similar reserves, nor pay interest or principal on outstanding debt, nor deposited into a pension fund.
The ARP funds will be received in two different releases, typically one-half first to the county and another half 12 months later. Additionally, the states receive federal funds and then pass those to counties with state rules imposed. Per Melissa, Tennessee is a more conservative state and other states are already spending the funding with no final guidance. If the funds are spent incorrectly, they will have to be paid back. There are three things for which the state funds can be used, and those are water, waste water, and storm water. In addition to a county only those showing on the states licensing register as having a water district will receive these funds, and in Giles County that is Pulaski and Lynnville. Questions were raised about Elkton by Bill Cary and about Ardmore by Joyce Woodard-Morgan. Recommendation re Elkton was to get in touch with your state representative to see if they could assist, and re Ardmore potentially a question on Ardmore, Al as being the place keeper.
Next area of discussion – local funding. Proposed projects: Buildings, Communication, Internet, and Water.
Buildings: the move of the OEM to their new location, the ambulance, and the Safe Shelter. Re the OEM, bids are expected on 5 Jan 2022 and expectations are there will be 4-5 bidders. Estimate for budget purposes $500K. Question on using the Hotel/Motel funds and the courthouse needs by David Adams was answered by the funding for the ongoing requirements for the courthouse were already considered in the balance shown today. Other projects can be funded with the Litigation funding. Re the Ambulance, the Baptist Association which has a promising 10 acre location with potential for sale is meeting 10 January 2022 to discuss whether they want to sell and discussing the appraised value. And lastly the safe shelter will start Phase I Jun 2022 (an extension was granted due to late receipt of info). Match is estimated at $300K, all of which was approved earlier. Questioning on use for other activities by David Adams, was answered with yes, e.g. an event center. Question if not Baptist location, another location, Highway 11 and By-pass was mentioned which is for sale, but has had no interest, might be considered. Mike Cesarini questioned funding promised for new schools and answer was timing for modifications based on schedule provided by the school board and is in keeping with the current allocated funding. Further that any building of a new school or schools would probably require a bond much larger than is available with these funds.
Mike mentioned may keep in mind with rising costs that the Phase I may require additional funding. Stoney Jackson mentioned the BEP and that we don’t know what will happen in the current study, but it will more likely affect the poorer counties. Beth mentioned the Maintenance of Effort for schools and that inflation may have to be considered on all salaries in the future. Harold asked about the current funding provided by Pulaski from the sales tax and when does that expire. Answer 2023 is the last year.
Next Area of Discussion – Communication. Melissa proposed that up-to-date radio communication be made available for all of Giles County First Responders. Jeremy Holley, Kyle Helton, and Roy Griggs all spoke to the lack of effective communications, giving harrowing descriptions of recent activities. Some of the problems are: different frequencies used, dead spots for both radio and cell phones, need to use face-to-face at times, costly maintenance of equipment, no comm on interstates for fire and rescue, one service available and take considerable time in dangerous situations to reach other service, 80% time using mobile devices so go from 30 to 5 watts when leave the car, firefighters inside can’t communicate trouble to firefighters outside, and so many other examples of safety issues. Proposal is to add one tower now in south part of county which is underserved, and in future with selecting to use newly established state service. Here are the various reasons for proposing to go with the state service: This service will be free of any additional cost to the county, will do away with maintenance cost of equipment since will be state’s equipment and they will maintain, will use existing towers, will use a company (Motorola) to assess locations of required towers, all will use same frequency, allowing all departments to communicate as well as outside the county, will keep one tower for communication with those counties that do not go state wide (their calls will come through 911 for Giles help), will serve all Giles citizens, will leave $1.6M of the State funds for other projects, be for all Giles County including cities (will not include Ardmore since they have their own project), puts us in good shape for considerable years to come, police car updates should be able to use the radios at that time as well, not a recurring cost and a once in a long time to have funding for this, and emphasis on maintaining.
Next Area of Discussion – Internet. A previously approved grant for PES to pursue but with the County being responsible for the grant now has come into question. The grant conflicts with the Ardmore telephone company which also has a grant for hi-speed-internet in the same location. Since both proposed grants are based on numbers of customers that would use the service and that would reduce possibly by half the number of customers, it is highly probable that either grant would be viable. Or if granted, monitoring would show number of customers greatly overstated. Grants could be pulled and Giles County would be responsible for the cost involved. Some of the commissioners remembered asking about competition in this area when PES briefed prior to the approval. A request was made now to have the CEO of PES come to the upcoming Budget Committee meeting and discuss their position. All of this is complicated by a couple of restraints. PES as both an electric and an internet company can only serve within their electric footprint. In 2020, a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) was established to provide funding and support to areas that were according to the census unserved by an existing broadband provider. That designation had a 10 year cycle of approval and was technologically neutral in terms of speed of digital resources. Consideration is being raised on stating the requirement under this grant to a speed only matched with a fiber optic solution. Moving on to the discussion of using the funds to cover all of Giles County, Melissa mentioned she had been in discussion with several potential internet companies, i.e. United which covers Maury county where bounded by Duck River and which extends into the northern part of Giles County. Being an internet company, they are not bound by an electric footprint so can come into Giles County. Beside the potential providers, Melissa has also met with the lead at state who will head this program. The application from the providers is required by the middle of March and United is well prepared for the application. Guidance has been slow and yet the deadline in quick. She will be doing an RFP by Friday for three areas, with funding being 70% state ARP, 30% match (with that match being split between county and users). The probability is that funding will be for only one area of the county but each year should be able to apply again for the other areas.
Next area of discussion – Water ARP State – Emphasis is on collaborative, per Melissa, meaning Giles County, Lynnville, and Pulaski. Scorecard will be developed by Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD), and funding for those areas of the county not on the District listing will come through county. Emphasis on more guidance is coming. During the recent meeting with the water utilities, each were asked what their requirements would be. Some concerns were expressed by the water utilities on the match requirements. While the ARP requirements were generally off-the-cuff, a more comprehensive input was requested. To date none have been received. Several questions on new lines, serving those individuals who do not currently have water, and are the requirements given by each water utility in keeping with such input as number of customers.
This being an information briefing with considerable discussion, Melissa adjourned the meeting promising to send to all a copy of the presentation.