MONTICELLO — The Piatt County Board on Sept. 8 approved about $1.44 million in projects to be funded by its first disbursement of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The list — including several mental health needs and HVAC issues in various county buildings — is the same one that was recommended by the county board finance committee a week earlier.
County consultant Bruce DeLashmit of Bellwether was proud the county will use some of the funds to add more staff to help mental health services, something that is at a premium as residents adapt and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The additional counseling, the additional psychiatric care, those are what this program is about. We should be proud of that, and I hope the community recognizes it’s a good thing that the county is doing,” DeLashmit said.
The list of approved projects:
—Courthouse and Piatt County office building HVAC upgrades, not to exceed $600,000
—Sheriff’s correction officers salary recovery, not to exceed $410,000
—Sheriff video arraignment equipment, not to exceed $20,000
—Piatt County Mental Health additional therapist, not to exceed $45,000
—Piatt County Mental Health additional psychiatrist hours, not to exceed $34,000
—Piatt County Mental Health broadband updates, not to exceed $24,000
—Piatt County Mental Health vans, not to exceed $60,000
—Piatt County Nursing Home HVAC/air handling upgrades (preliminary work), not to exceed $250,000
About $144,000 of this year’s county ARPA funds of $1.587 million are being left in reserve for potential cost overruns. DeLashmit felt the video arraignment system may run higher than the $20,000, which could be made up by ARPA dollars left in reserve.
Audience member Evan Smith asked for an explanation for the salary recovery, noting that “a lot of projects are not funded.
“I’m not really sure if the county paid an extra $410,000 in those salaries, or if we’re just recovering what has already been budgeted,” Smith said.
“The latter,” responded DeLashmit.
“By using those funds to cover the corrections officers’ role in mitigation, which is allowed, that money frees up an expense that is already budgeted, which then has less restrictions on it. So there are items in the department wish lists that were clearly not eligible — some were eligible but several clearly weren’t eligible — so we won’t have those ARPA restrictions as we handle that,” DeLashmit said.
That means those recovered funds could be used for projects that did not make the cut, to balance the county budget or other needs as they arise.
DeLashmit also said the accounting move means there will be “no rush” on spending the funds.
“It is unrestricted funds to use however.”
New auditing firm
For the first time in several years, the county will use a different accounting firm to conduct its 2021 audit. Hired was Wipfli, whose bid of $64,200 was $200 more than current auditor May, Cocagne and King.
DeLashmit felt it was a good practice to switch up accounting firms occasionally.
“About every three or four years, we kind of like changing up so you get a fresh perspective, but that doesn’t disqualify anyone,” he said. “But for auditors it’s good to have fresh blood. Sometimes it’s good to have new eyes.”
When asked his opinion, Nursing Home Director Scott Porter said that his facility’s accountant would agree that it is good to change companies every few years.
The three-year contract approved with Wipfli includes costs of $66,800 for 2022 and $69,550 for 2023.
DeLashmit said a first draft of the 2021-22 budget is close to completion.
“Things are tight as always, but manageable with some decisions by the board,” DeLashmit said.
He did not anticipate needing budget cuts to balance it this year.
“I think we’re really very close. We’re trying to confirm ongoing expenses on cybersecurity, which is a new expense, the sheriff is trying to extend the medical capability in the jail, which has become a required activity anyway. So we’ve got some new ones,” he added.
“I don’t think we’ll have to cut a thing,” the consultant said.
Workforce looking for clients
New Piatt County WIA-RPC (Workforce) case manager Josh Taylor-Johnson said he has about 10 clients, and is looking for more.
“I’m always looking for referral sources, so please refer prospective clients to me, and ideas about local businesses who can take part” in jobs programs, Taylor-Johnson said.
He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 217-278-9610.
Taylor-Johnson also serves Douglas County as its Workforce case manager for the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.
Mental Health Center
Piatt County Mental Health Center Director Tony Kirkman told the board 500 people were seen at the center in Monticello during the fiscal year that ended June 30. He noted 75 percent of those were Piatt County residents.
The county board approved the following appointments:
—Todd Henricks, Randy Shumard, Community Action Partnership of Central Illinois;
—Mark Morgan, Union Drainage District No. 7;
—Robert Jamison, Unity #3 Drainage District;
—Douglas Smith, Trenkle Slough/Blue Ridge Special Consolidated Drainage District;
—Roger Briggs, Union Drainage District No. 1;
—Bruce Stoddard, Wildcat Creek Drainage District; and Goose Creek Drainage District 2A;
—Gregory Magsamen, East Camp Creek Drainage District; and
—Charles Hendrix, Willow Branch Drainage District No. 10.
In other business:
—Sheriff Mark Vogelzang said a quote to replace the carpet runner at the courthouse entrance came in at $761. He is looking into other options as well;
—Zoning Director Keri Nusbaum said there are three items on the zoning board of appeals agenda on Thursday, Sept. 23. This month’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m.;
—approved an amendment to a collective bargaining agreement between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police to correct a clerical error regarding pay for civilian employees. It changes the pay increase from 2 to 2.5 percent; and
—DeLashmit told the board he is working with Vogelzang to determine how the jail can meet upcoming disability standards that go into effect in January 2023.