ARPA fund requests for county tabled

Committee members waiting on final costs of jail project
Kevin Passon

Three requests to use federal funds for courthouse and sheriff’s department projects have been tabled for a month, a decision made June 19 by the Shawano County Executive Committee.

“We have a jail project that was a CIP (capital improvement project) that came in way over budget as you recall,” said Jim Davel, administrative coordinator. “The original estimate was $1.2 million. We had budgeted … $415,000.”

This project is to replace the controls and building automation system of the jail and sheriff’s department heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.

Davel said that to make up the difference, the choices are to use ARPA funds, borrow or go back to the County Board to seek approval from two-thirds of the members to use general fund dollars.

The county has $1,496,151 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that must be allocated by year’s end, according to Carrie Buntjer, county finance director.

She said the initial quote for the controller project was $851,685. Since then, additional items are recommended to be completed in conjunction with the controls. This includes replacing the indoor air handling systems. Quotes are pending on this additional work.

“We’re waiting on those estimates,” Davel said. “If it is so approved to use Rescue funds, I don’t believe that there’s going to be much remaining.”

Regardless of possible plans to build a new jail, the current building will be used for another five or more years, and the controllers need immediate attention, he added.

Projects on the meeting agenda were $4,670 for cabling and wiring in the county board room to install a digital recording machine for the use by judges when they use the room, $10,000 for a new trailer for the Shawano County Dive Team and $5,000 for installation of antennas on a communications tower in Leopolis to provide an emergency backup service for the county.

Davel recommended the committee table the projects until next month, after the cost for the jail controllers project is known. Then, he said, the committee can prioritize all other projects based on available ARPA funds, if any.

In total, the three projects on the agenda would cost about $20,000.

“But $20,000 to $25,000 matters,” Davel said. “In this case, for this project for the jail, that matters, and then you have to look at the project for the library. This isn’t just a little bit of change.”

The library project is a request to spend $81,000 on a new metal roof.

Supervisor Theresa Serrano disagreed with putting the items on hold and was the only committee member voting against doing so.

“My concern with the three is the third one, the backup tower site,” she said. “To me, that’s more important.”

Davel said the $5,000 needed for the antenna installation could be added to the 2025 budget.

“The ARPA funds are to be used for projects to help all of the people,” Serrano said. “If we don’t have a backup generator or backup site for 911 calls, etc., then what? We’re going to be stuck like we were last year without any communication, and that’s going to be a problem.”

Supervisors Tom Kautza and Kevin Conradt spoke in favor of holding off on the three requests.

“I think we should put a brake on everything (until projects are prioritized in July),” Conradt said.

“There are a lot of valuable requests that are out there,” Davel said. “I do believe the jail project is an essential project for the county and the sheriff’s department.”