Maury County begins drafting spending plan for COVID-19 relief

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The Maury County Commission is developing a plan that will determine how it will spend coronavirus relief funds provided by the federal government.

In a special meeting Thursday, commissioners heard from each county department, reviewing a range of demands that could be paid for the use of relief funds.

With $ 18.7 million in federal relief funds through the US bailout, the commissioners are prioritizing the needs of each department.

County officials said county departments have submitted more than $ 97 million in proposed demand requests to the commission.

Maury County Budget Committee chairman Scott Sumners said very tough decisions awaited the commission as it drew up a spending plan.

“It’s a difficult thing when you have close to $ 100 million in claims but only have $ 18 million to spend,” Sumners said.

“Most of them are all meritorious requests. You just have to prioritize them. This is the difficult part. We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the community. This is the most important thing. It is the federal government money that he sent us, so there is no real cost to the taxpayer, but these are one-time expenses.

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How is the commission evolving?

At the end of the review, Sumners asked each committee member to write a list of the five most urgent items proposed by the departments.

This list will serve as a starting point in determining how the funds will be spent.

“We are going to move forward as a commission,” Sumners said. “Next month we’ll come back to it, see the priority list, look at the cost and see where it all falls.”

Sumners said he expects that regardless of the decision, the additional federal funds will save county taxpayers in the long run without relying solely on property and sales tax revenues.

He called the additional funds an opportunity to pay for improvements the county previously needed before the pandemic.

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What is required?

The more than $ 90 million of proposed projects include a $ 10 million request that would upgrade the county’s radio communication system for emergency services, enabling emergency responders and bus drivers schools to communicate over a more secure system used by state agencies.

The current system is currently based on the operation of a single radio tower.

“Our growth has been incredible since 2008,” said Jeff Hardy, director of emergency management for Maury County. “Currently, all of our public security entities have difficulty communicating with each other. It would put us all on the same system.

He said eight radio towers would be built across the county, providing emergency responders with coverage of over 95% across the county, an improvement from the current coverage rate of 81% between police, firefighters. and medical services.

Hardy said the county would sign a contract with the state government, offloading the cost of maintenance onto the state.

There would be no annual cost for system maintenance and no user fees, Hardy said.

He said Maury County will still retain ownership of the radio transmission sites and will need to make some improvements, estimated to cost around $ 100,000 per year.

Maury County Emergency Management Director Jeff Hardy speaks to members of the Maury County Commission at a special Budget Committee meeting in the Tom Primm Commission Boardroom in Columbia, Ten., Thursday, October 14, 2021.

“Everyone is working in their own way to add additional funding to this, and we’re confident that $ 10 million will give us a solid infrastructure with all the radios we need,” Hardy said.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Tennessee, which serves school-aged children in Maury and surrounding counties, is asking for $ 862,000 to expand its tutoring and teaching resources, an intensive summer learning program and new incentives for its staff.

The effort will also provide students with a means to access paid career development opportunities with community partners.

“If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that this society really can’t function if parents don’t have a safe, reliable and affordable place to send their children during the day and after school so that they can work, ”said Robyn Boshers. Peery, the executive director of the organization.

Due to a lack of staff, Peery said the organization had to put students on a waiting list to join the program.

Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Tennessee Executive Director Robyn Boshers Peery speaks to members of the Maury County Commission at a special budget committee meeting in the Tom Primm Commission Boardroom in Columbia, Ten., Thursday, October 14, 2021.

“Our people are the hero,” said Peery. “They stepped in and answered the call and operated our club sites for 12 hours a day, for 17 months and extended that with distance learning sites whenever schools went to distance, but we just can’t compete with $ 1,000 signing bonuses from fast food restaurants and ever increasing wages. “

In order to better provide residents with a space to enjoy the outdoors, Maury County Parks and Recreation has requested $ 8.5 million to expand amenities and offerings at Yahnali Park, including construction of a community center and funds. to build a newly approved park in Culleoka.

The Columbia Family Center has requested $ 120,000 to purchase open land next to the organization’s headquarters on West 8th Street. The land would be used as additional parking and to provide social distance drive-thru services to families in need.

“We could have used it just a few weeks ago when local cases were skyrocketing,” said Dawn Taylor, executive director of the organization.

The local chapter of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center has also requested $ 100,000 to provide resources for small businesses, including accounting, bookkeeping, consulting, assistance and CFO splitting, as well as CFO services. general accounting and other skills training that would help local business owners improve their operations.

The proposal also includes a request from Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland to spend $ 400,000 on COVID-19 testing devices following a recent outbreak of the virus at the Columbia County Jail.

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How much did the county receive during the pandemic?

Maury County Buget Committee member Debbie Turner listens during a special budget committee meeting in the Tom Primm committee meeting room in Columbia, Tennessee, Thursday, October 14, 2021.

The local figure of $ 18 million is part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package signed in March 2021.

The new wave of funding follows the $ 900 billion stimulus included in the 2021 consolidated finance law.

In 2020, the county received more than $ 1.4 million in Tennessee Cares Act funds, supported by federal and state emergency management agencies.

More than $ 1 million of Cares Law funds were used to fund the salaries of deputies serving the Maury County Sheriff’s Department, after approval by the county commission.

Maury County Public Schools also received more than $ 28 million through three waves of funding through the High School Emergency Relief Fund, under the Coronavirus Assistance Act and the $ 2 trillion in economic security from March 2020.

Contact Mike Christen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.


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