xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Carroll County receives $14.6M in coronavirus relief funding; county administrator to help manage funds

Carroll County has received $14.6 million in federal coronavirus relief funding, and the county commissioners voted 3-2 to designate the county administrator to see that this money is spent efficiently before it expires.

Of the $2.3 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund established under the federal CARES Act and allocated to state and local governments in Maryland, Carroll County’s portion is $29.3 million, according to county government.

Advertisement

The state awarded half of the county’s share, to be withdrawn on a reimbursable basis through Carroll County Health Department. The other half was awarded after the county submitted a spending plan on May 6. The county received $14.6 million in CARES funding May 18. The money must be spent by the end of the year.

At Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, Roberta Windham, county administrator, requested the commissioners delegate signing authority to her for CARES funding specifically, offering to brief the commissioners every few weeks.

Advertisement

“As has been alluded to, this is a fast moving train and sometimes we can get pretty clunky with the way we have to operate in open sessions,” Windham said. She asked for the ability to sign on behalf of the board for matters that are “too time sensitive” to wait for a Thursday board meeting.

The board has the power to delegate to staff members to sign documents on their behalf.

“The Board of Commissioners is responsible for a myriad of administrative functions that allow county government to operate,” county spokesperson Chris Winebrenner wrote in an email. “The commissioners cannot sign every document so they delegate authority to staff or departments.”

Richard Weaver, R-District 2, and Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, voted against delegating signature authority to Windham for CARES funding.

“I’m reluctant to give away authority of something I’m responsible for," Weaver said, adding he does not lack trust in Windham.

Wantz felt similarly, saying he did not want to give away the authority and would want to be updated weekly on how the CARES funding is used.

Commissioners Eric Bouchat, R-District 4; Dennis Frazier, R-District 3; and Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, felt that since the CARES plan has already been approved by the board, the commissioners are well aware of how the money will be spent. They suggested it would be more efficient to give Windham signing authority.

“Delegating the authority to spend the money does not delegate the responsibility or the accountability that we have as Board of Commissioners," Rothstein said.

Funding highlights

At Thursday’s meeting, county staff offered a timeline and scope of major projects in the CARES plan.

Part of the CARES money will be used to fund a contractual grants accountant from Robert Half International, who will work with the county until Dec. 31. Jennifer Hobbs, bureau chief of accounting, said bringing in an experienced grants accountant will help the county track every dollar that is spent. The position will cost about $94,000, according to the revised CARES plan.

Just under $5 million will be used for a rebound program that will benefit local businesses, nonprofits, and volunteer fire companies. Grants will be awarded up to $2,500 or $5,000, depending on criteria, according to Jack Lyburn, director of Economic Development.

Lyburn said his department has met with a focus group consisting of local business owners, and hopes criteria for grant applications will be publicized in the third week of June, so checks could be in the mail sometime in July.

Advertisement

County officials will meet with Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association (CCVESA) next week to determine how best to disperse funds to fire companies. Approximately $934,000 in relief funding will go to CCVESA, according to the plan. A focus group will also meet to discuss criteria for the other nonprofits.

The main lobby of county government’s North Center Street office will be redesigned for $700,000, according to the revised CARES plan. The plan includes adding new desks for security and reception to encourage separation from the public, and closing the lobby entrances to departments of human resources and economic development. New entrances to these departments would be established elsewhere. Jeff Castonguay, director of Public Works, said Thursday there would be separate entrances and exits, too.

Wantz urged Castonguay to ensure the work is conducted in a way that does not disrupt those trying to access the county office building, especially as the county endeavors to welcome citizens back by appointment by as early as June 15.

The county’s alternate emergency communications center is being expanded to allow for more work stations for operators taking 911 calls and the center will also gain an improved kitchenette for staff to use during breaks, Castonguay said. The overall construction involves remediation of ceiling tiles, removing walls, and building new offices, he said. Castonguay expects the construction to take the county to December. The plan estimates the renovation to cost $900,000.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement