The Board of Carroll County Commissioners got an update from staff last week on how the county’s allocation of federal COVID-19 pandemic funds are being spent.
The federal government’s Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund has provided $19.53 billion in support to local governments across the country.
Carroll County’s grants manager Debby Sandiford reminded commissioners that the county’s allocation was just over $32.7 million, all of which has been allocated to various projects. The county has spent or obligated about $12 million of those funds. The deadline to obligate the money is the end of 2024, Sandiford said, and the deadline to spend the money is the end of 2026.
The county has also earned some interest on the federal funding it received, gaining about $142,000 during the past 15 months.
“Most grants have restrictions about how you can spend program funds. This is a little different,” Sandiford said.
The commissioners can decide how they want to use the interest; it can be spent or transferred into the county’s general operating fund as it accumulates.
Commissioners voted unanimously to keep the interest in the county’s fiscal recovery fund for future projects.
Bryan Bokey, the county’s director of public works, discussed several county projects that will benefit from the federal funds. They include a new parking lot at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster, at a cost of $640,000.
“Happy to say the project is going very well. We’re hoping to put some shovels in the ground in the next couple weeks with anticipated completion date in November,” Bokey said.
A handful of heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades are also planned for county buildings across Carroll, including the county government office building.
Bokey’s department also purchased a portable generator for about $200,000. The generator has been ordered and Bokey expects to receive it in a few weeks.
Design planning for water service pumps for the Freedom District is about 60% complete, ” Bokey said. The county has allocated $500,000 to that project and expects construction to begin in the spring.
The county has also committed $3.5 million for a sludge press house for the Hampstead Wastewater Treatment Plant, Bokey said.
Celene Steckel, director of the county’s Department of Citizen Services, discussed progress on the county’s family shelter relocation. It is in the design and engineering phase.
“We’ve done the first phases of the procurement process, and we are waiting to finalize the next bid to go out,” Steckel said.
In 2021, commissioners agreed to purchase the Penn-Mar Organization building, at 115 Stoner Ave., in Westminster for $1.3 million and reclaim the land through deed. The cost of the building would be paid from the county’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.
The Penn-Mar building is 16,264 square feet and sits on a 2.96-acre lot.
The current family shelter, at 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster, can accommodate seven families and is located on the top floor of a public social services building.
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“Everyone is excited about this relocation, because it really will provide a much safer space,” she said. “It will also provide green space for the families to be outside with their children, and just really provide another level for folks to be successful in shelter.”
Mark Ripper, the county’s director of information technology, gave an update on broadband projects that also benefit from the federal pandemic funding.
Commissioners had committed about $15 million toward internet connections for households in rural areas of the county that are without broadband.
Another $2,175,000, he said, is allocated for fiber connection to county facilities. Due to inflation the cost of those projects has gone up by $125,000, and Ripper asked commissioners to determine where that extra cost will come from.
Commissioners discussed using the accumulated interest or pulling money from the allotment set aside for internet connections to rural households, but did not make a final decision.
“I personally don’t want to slow any momentum on household connectivity at all,” said Commissioners’ President Ed Rothstein, who represents District 5. “ Let’s continue and keep our foot on the accelerator on connectivity for household communities in the county.”