MRPC stops accepting CARES Act fund requests for Gasconade

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 11/18/20

HERMANN — What a difference a week can make.

A week after Gasconade County administrators announced that about half of the $1.725-million CARES Act money allotted to the county was going …

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MRPC stops accepting CARES Act fund requests for Gasconade

Posted

HERMANN — What a difference a week can make.

A week after Gasconade County administrators announced that about half of the $1.725-million CARES Act money allotted to the county was going unspent, the regional agency administering the federal money halted the acceptance of applications from local government agencies and businesses seeking a share of the funds.

The reason for the sudden turnaround?

A flurry of applications from Gasconade County local agencies and businesses have been received by the Meramec Regional Planning Commission that, if approved as submitted, would amount to more money being requested than would be available.

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, announced Thursday morning that MRPC would no longer accept applications. The decision comes a month before the previously set deadline to receive applications. MRPC officials had set a Dec. 20 deadline to receive funding requests while the federal government’s deadline for committing the use of the CARES Act money is Dec. 30. The MRPC deadline allows enough time for the planning agency to verify the legitimacy of the requested expenses in time for the federal government’s deadline.

“There are more applications than dollars” available, Miskel said during last week’s Commission session om Hermann. He also noted that funds coming from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be available to county government to use in such areas as law enforcement, 911 and other public services. Still unclear is how much Gasconade County will receive through FEMA, but Miskel said what is known is that the FEMA funds will not come with a deadline for use, as does the CARES Act money.

As of a week ago, the county’s balance sheet showed more than $800,000 of the CARES Act money unspent.

Meanwhile, the County Commisson acted on several applications for the federal dollars, including a large chunk of money sought for new radios for the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department.

Winning approval from the Commission were requests from St. Paul United Church of Christ in Hermann for $259 – $5 less than what the church had requested in its application to MRPC. The Owensville Parks and Recreation Department’s request for $3,656 was approved.

A request that includes a wide-ranging proposal for walking trails, finding a replacement for Hardee’s fast-food restaurant and setting up a guest-speaker program was endorsed by the Commission. The application for $25,000 was made by the Hermann Regional Economic Development Corporation, also known as HRED. HRED was spearheaded several years ago by then-Gasconade County R-1 Superintendent Chris Neale as a way to try to stem the loss of enrollment in the district. HRED’s mission was to promote economic development in an effort to attract jobs that would bring families with school-age children into R-1.

Gasconade County R-1 also had an application approved Thursday. This one, the district’s latest request, is for $21,141. County administrators also approved the application of the Hermann Area Chamber of Commerce for $1,901 and the application of the Owensville Fire Department for $10,271. That money, according to Chief Jeff Arnold, who is also the county’s incoming coroner, will be used to purchase a storage trailer equipped with heating and air conditioning.

As for the radios, Interim Sheriff Scott Eiler said $61,775 in CARES Act money is needed to purchase units that will be compatible with other public service agencies. Now, he said, the sheriff’s agency personnel can’t communicate directly over the radios with fire and ambulance agencies because different frequencies are used. They have to communicate by going through the county’s E-911 Center.

The Sheriff’s Department earlier won Commission approval for its application of more than $100,000 for a dozen in-car computers and related equipment to replace aging equipment. The CARES Act money was requested because the new computers are encased in a microbial material designed to ward off germs. MRPC did not offer a recommendation on this application, leaving the decision of the request’s legitimacy to the Commission.

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