Dollar dilemma: What to do with all this money?

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 5/26/21

HERMANN — The first half of the federal government’s latest economic stimulus package has landed in Gasconade County’s bank account — swelling the cash on hand by more than …

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Dollar dilemma: What to do with all this money?


HERMANN — The first half of the federal government’s latest economic stimulus package has landed in Gasconade County’s bank account — swelling the cash on hand by more than $1.4 million.

County administrators find themselves facing the same dilemma as the bulldog that finally catches the car he has been chasing all these years: Now that you have it, what are going to do with it?

County Treasurer Mike Feagan last Thursday told the County Commission the best advice being handed out now on what to do with the sudden influx of cash is to take a deep breath…and wait.

“Their best advice is don’t get in a hurry,” he said, relaying information he received earlier in the week during a workshop he attended on the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the program that sent the county half of the $2.852-million it is scheduled to receive to help the local economy recover from the effects of the coronavirus. The half-dozen cities in Gasconade County will be receiving their own slices of the ARPA pie, rather than applying for funds dispersed by the county, as was the case in dealing out the dollars provided through the CARES Act. (See related story regarding the allocation of the final batch of CARES Act money.)

The advice to be patient was handed out by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission, the agency that administered the CARES Act funds of Gasconade County and six of the other seven counties within the Meramec Region. The planning agency is gearing up to perform the same role regarding the ARPA money, adding staff that will check the legitimacy of the spending.

But just what the county will be spending its windfall on is unclear. Local government officials continue to await a full set of guidelines from the federal government — and from the state regarding the money it has available that might be on its way down to the counties.

“The state hasn’t sent out a lot of guidelines yet on the money they have,” Feagan said.

Based on the information that is available, it seems the money can be used in a variety of ways — very few of which might appear to have little or no connection to the coronavirus pandemic: Small business loans; housing programs; perhaps funds for local schools, even though money is expected to funneled down to the districts through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Feagan said it’s believed counties will be able to partner with cities on funding particular projects, such as water and sewer upgrades.

MRPC offered local officials attending the workshop a list of potential uses — the agency calls them “investments” — of the ARPA funds, both locally and on a regional basis. Some of the local uses could be fire, police, senior centers, hospitals and clinics, sheltered workshops, health departments and child-care service. Investments could include industrial parks, tourism and marketing efforts and cleanup of polluted sites through brownfield programs.

There’s also roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks that could be constructed with some of the money, MRPC says.

A cautionary note was attached to the end of the list of possible uses: “Some investments may still require further guidance!!”

For Gasconade County government, MRPC suggests the money could be used to make improvements to Public Water Supply District 1 serving Peaceful Valley (the only public water district in the county) and preservation work on the courthouse, as well as construction of a courthouse annex.

The county’s other half of its allocation is expected to be received next year with the money to be spent — or, presumably, returned if not spent — by Dec. 31, 2026.

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, echoes the sentiment of Associate Commissioners Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, and Jim Holland, R-Hermann, regarding the $2.2-trillion ARPA. “I think it’s a bad idea what the (federal) government is doing, but since the money is here, if we don’t use it someone else will,” he said Thursday morning.

The county’s municipalities and their amounts of ARPA funds include Bland, $97,251; Gasconade, $39,600; Hermann, $431,367; Morrison, $23,944; Owensville, $477,046; Rosebud, $74,596.

For Hermann, MRPC suggests the money be used for upgrades to the flood detour route, development of a transportation museum, construction of a courtesy dock for visitors arriving by boat on the Missouri River and the purchase and demolition of the Hagedorn property.

Owensville’s money could be used to construct a re-alignment of Springfield Road and for upgrades at the Gasconade County fair grounds in Owensville’s Memorial Park.

The planning agency suggests Bland use its ARPA dollars for street improvements.

In other business at Thursday’s session, the Commission lauded Emergency Management Agency Director Clyde Zelch after the county received high marks for its update of an emergency notification plan for communities related to a possible nuclear incident at Callaway Nuclear Power Plant. Zelch focused his efforts on the most effective way to notify residents of Morrison, who do not benefit that much from a new telephone tower constructed in the northern part of the county.

In a report to all four counties included in the Callaway plant zone, Gasconade and Osage were given high marks while the plans of Callaway and Montgomery counties were found lacking by Ameren power plant officials. 

“The Osage and Gasconade plans were quite in depth and had most of the documentation needed,” the report said. “Callaway and Montgomery county documents do not have any data except for access control points…” the report added.

The Commission recognized the work done by Zelch. “Kudos to Clyde,” said Miskel.


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