HERMANN — Much of next week’s session of the Gasconade County Commission could be devoted to allocating the remainder of the county’s CARES Act money, action that will be taken on …
HERMANN — Much of next week’s session of the Gasconade County Commission could be devoted to allocating the remainder of the county’s CARES Act money, action that will be taken on the last day possible to use what’s left of the $1.725 million received earlier this year.
The Commission will not meet this week. Next week’s session will be held Wednesday, Dec. 30 — the federal government’s use-it-or-lose-it deadline. Any remaining funds from the county’s share of the $2.2-trillion CARES Act funding must be returned to the federal treasury.
That meeting also will serve as the initial hearing for the Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget. That’s also the day that Circuit Court Associate Judge Ada Brehe-Krueger will give the oath of office to the half-dozen officeholders beginning a new term Jan. 1.
Last week, the Commission tabled the only two CARES Act requests forwarded to it by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC), the agency that has administered the funding for Gasconade and six other Meramec Region counties. The eighth county in the region, Crawford County, opted to have county officials administer its CARES Act money.
The two applications that were put on hold until next week are from the Owensville Chamber of Commerce for $8,000 for loss of revenue and Peerless Industries of Hermann for $10,000.
The Chamber of Commerce’s application was delayed because Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, who was acting presiding commissioner for last week’s session, is a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors and faced a potential conflict of interest if he voted on the request. Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, was absent because of a medical procedure and is expected to be at next week’s session.
The Peerless Industries’ application was set aside to give Northern District Associate Commissioner Jim Holland, R-Hermann, time to gather more information about the application. “I just want to look at that a little more,” Holland said.
Exactly how much money is left to disperse and how many applications are pending are unclear. Differing amounts of a CARES Act balance are shown by MRPC and County Treasurer Mike Feagan. That’s because MRPC includes in the money that has been allocated amounts that have been tabled by the Commission, while Feagan’s balance is larger because he has not issued checks for the amounts that have been tabled.
“There’s such a lag between them (MRPC) and us,” Feagan said of the accounting process. “This touches a lot of hands,” he said, referring to the planning agency’s process of verifying the legitimacy of the requests and documenting the allocation of funds.
Waiting to be approved or rejected are two substantial amounts — $150,000 requested by Missouri Thistle of Owensville and $50,000 requested by Hermann Hills Vineyards. Thistle earlier in the year was approved by the Commission for an initial payment of $50,000. The $150,000 represents three subsequent applications for $50,000 each. Likewise, Hermann Hills Vineyards was approved for an initial payment of $50,000.
Whether those payments are made could depend on how many other applications will be received by the Commission next week. County administrators early on said they wanted the CARES Act money dispersed to as many different local agencies, private businesses and non-profit organizations as possible, even though an applicants could apply for a maximum amount — depending on the applicant’s category — more than once.
One potentially large application has yet to be received by the county. The Gasconade County Fair Association, which saw its profits evaporate with the decision to scrap this year’s fair, was expected to apply for about $26,000.
Lairmore praised MRPC for its role in dispersing the CARES Act funds, noting that counties doing it on their own have had significant problems. “I am so glad we had MRPC do it,” Lairmore said.