County to receive nearly $16 million over two years

County to receive nearly $16 million over two years

Over the next two years, Caldwell County will receive nearly 16 million dollars through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). 

 According to County Manager Donald Duncan, “The total amount of funding Caldwell County should receive is $15,962,112, over two years. To date we have obligated $6.1 million yet only expended $2.9 million.”

The ARP was signed by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and consists of various government backed grants to be doled out to cities and counties across the nation in an effort to ease the burden of the pandemic.

According to the plan, funds received by cities must be spent on responding to the public health emergency, essential workers performing while responding to the COVID 19 emergency, provision of government services, loss of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.

“Of the obligated funds, the county has focused on providing better Emergency Services to our citizens,” Duncan said. “The first was to upgrade our emergency radio communications system and improve our cyber security, and working to update the county website so we can provide more services online.”

In addition, Duncan said the county will be upgrading software for county computers for issuing permits for environmental health inspections.

“One of the initiatives is to bring Public Health to rural and underserved communities via a new mobile medical bus,” he said. “Much of our funds are to provide testing, medical supplies and PPE for our community to be a backstop for our private sector medical providers. We have also purchased a full body scanner and UV Sterilizer for the County Jail.”

The Caldwell County Commissioners also wanted to recognize county employees for their service during this global pandemic, Duncan said. 

“County Employees were required to work every day exposing them to COVID by going into homes, providing emergency care and health and social services to all our citizens,” he said. “Each full time employee received $2,000 in premium pay and part time employees received $1,000.”

Another way the county utilized the funds was by offering a vaccine incentive. 

“The County prioritized vaccines by offering vaccine incentives to any employee who completed their vaccine regimen,” Duncan said. “This was very successful and our employee vaccination rate is above 75%.” 

That leaves around $9.8 million in unobligated funds.

“Because the legislation is so narrow, staff’s recommendation is to use the remaining funds to continue to improve the public water supply system in the county,” Duncan said. “Outstanding items that could be funded are additional water tanks for Collettsville and Draco Communities, an electronic water monitoring system, to allow the County to monitor leaks and water quality in real time. We have plans to conduct an assessment of replacement of water lines that are substandard or made with inferior materials such as plastic, lead joint, and galvanized. This will allow for better water service, better health, and increased fire protection for all our citizens.”

Duncan also stated that the county is investigating opportunities to partner with broadband providers to leverage APRA funding with GREAT (Growing Rural Economies with Access to technology) grant funds to extend broadband into underserved parts of the county. 

“We currently have one active grant open with Blue Ridge Energy to their SkyBest Communication partner, to assist in 60 mile of new fiber to the home installations.”

Caldwell Free Press will continue reporting on the development of how these funds are allocated and spent throughout the next two years.

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