Mills County Has Allocated About Half Of Its American Rescue Plan Act Funds
Mills County officials have spent or allocated about half of the nearly $3 million the county is receiving in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
The $1.9 trillion bill was passed by Congress in March 2021 and signed into law by President Joe Biden as an effort to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is supposed to be allocated towards anything that you can tie back to COVID,” Mills County Auditor Carol Robertson said.
Mills County is projected to receive a total of $2,934,746 after the second distribution of funds is made in June. At this point, Mills County has received about $1.5 million of its total allotment.
Robertson said the board of supervisors are using the funds to address a variety of needs and projects, including about $1 million to install and improve broadband internet connectivity in Mills County. The county is partnering with Western Iowa Networks (WIN), a Breda, Iowa-based communications company that’s in the process of expanding broadband in the county.
“We’re working with them,” Robertson said. “They got grants, of course, and we’ve been doing connectivity throughout the county. We used some of our flood recovery money for that and we’re trying to do more so more residents will have broadband connectivity.”
Several county offices are also receiving ARPA funds for specific projects, including the county sheriff and recorder’s offices.
About $25,000 is being spent to create a wireless access point in the Mills County Sheriff’s Office building. Because of the thickness of walls and security features, internet and cellular telephone access is not available in all areas of the building.
“There are areas in the sheriff’s office that you can’t use your cell phone or notify someone of an emergency because of the building,” Robertson said. “It’s an access point so that they actually can communicate out if something happens.”
The county spent about $15,000 of its ARPA dollars to purchase a used van for the sheriff’s office that can be used to transport jail inmates to court appearances and other correctional and detention facilities.
“It’s become more problematic to transport the jail people up here and to where they need to go,” Robertson said. “The sheriff’s had enough money in his budget to do the outfitting. The county paid for the van and it $14,800.”
The Mills County Recorder’s Office is receiving $70,000 in ARPA funds to complete the digitalization of its records. Robertson said digitizing county courthouse records has been an on-going initiative for Mills County.
“The recorder has been working on digitizing her records,” she said. “The last portion of that is $70,910. That will have everything in her office current so people will not have to come in. They can look things up online.”
The county has spent $12,300 of its COVID relief dollars to update the county’s payroll system. Robertson said the new system allows employees to submit time sheets electronically.
ARPA dollars will also be used to expand the county “annex” on Railroad Ave. The building currently houses the Mills County Public Health Office, Planning and Zoning and Economic Development offices. Robertson said the auditor’s office and Mills County Emergency Management also use the building for storage. Although the county has yet to bid the expansion project, county officials are expecting a price tag of $400,000 - $600,000.
Roberston said the building will likely be expanded on both the north and south sides, creating a larger meeting space, addressing technology needs and enlarging the public health office.
“We need to give them the ability to have places for freezer and refrigerators to keep their dosages of any shots and an area large enough to vaccinate people in a much better way and obviously with a lot more room,” she said.
Robertson said discussions are still taking place regarding how the county will spend the rest of its ARPA funds. Improvements and investments in outdoor recreational facilities are being considered, including a possible water line extension to the Pony Creek area. Some additional technology improvements in the sheriff’s office.
In addition to the ARPA funds allocated to Mills County, incorporated cities in the county are also receiving COVID relief dollars as part of the legislation. Most of the cities are still determining how they will spend the dollars. The city of Glenwood is receiving just over $800,000. Governmental agencies receiving ARPA dollars have until 2024 to spend the money.
American Rescue Plan Act
Mills County - $2,934,746
Fremont County - $1,351,898
Glenwood - $803,088.52
Malvern - $166,161.38
Emerson - $66,911.62
Pacific Junction - $50,966.09
Silver City - $36,659.82
Thurman - $31,891.06
Henderson - $27,569.38
Hastings - $22,651.60
Randolph - $23,098.67