How the county is spending its federal CARES Act money

Thursday, February 4, 2021
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As is the case with just about everything governmental, documentation is the name of the game when it came to qualifying for the federal CARES Act money Congress allotted the states during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly $4 million in federal CARES Act money was received by Stillwater County government, businesses, schools and non-profit groups as of Dec. 28, 2020. That amount will increase as the last two payment installments are added in.

Stillwater County has been awarded approximately $973,995 through four payment installations, and has actually received $535,709, according to County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Carol Arkell and extensive county documentation of applications, receipts and other expenditure proof.

The county is waiting to hear whether it will receive an additional $25,516 in the final installment payment from the state.

If successful, the county’s total take will be $999,511.

The county served as a passthrough for the Columbus Fire District, which received $234,781 for the first three quarters of funding. Fourth quarter funding in the amount of $183,857 has been approved, but not yet received, said Arkell, who was responsible for preparing and submitting all application documents to the state, as well as receipts and other expenditure proof.

The Columbus Fire District applied for an additional $177,297 in the fifth quarter.

COUNTY SPENDING

The county has spent its money mainly on payroll reimbursements for the county sanitarian, employees who perform COVID-19 specific duties (such as cleaning), sheriff’s deputies, dispatchers and Columbus Fire Rescue payroll.

COVID-19 specific expenses were also included, such as 20 digital thermometers, surgical masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, Clorox wipes, Plexiglass, security glass and courtroom screens.

Technology purchases were also included and involved items such as a Zoom subscription, TV microphones, adaptation hardware, Bluetooth speakers, a Logitech Rally Conference Room video/audio system, etc.

CFR SPENDING

Equipment purchases have taken a considerable bite out of the Columbus Fire District’s CARES Act money.

In a letter dated Nov. 10, 2020, Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger stated that some of the organization’s major medical equipment is “beyond its expected service life” and is no longer useable, leaving crews in a vulnerable position.

“COVID-19 has put the fire/EMS services in unprecedented times that we or anyone else has ever seen. With increasing call for service numbers and personnel on quarantine (unavailable for work/calls) at any given time, we are working hard to keep our minimum staffing available. Our organization can operate a lot more effectively and efficiently through this pandemic with some of the equipment outlined below. This equipment will also be vital for us even after COVID-19 is behind us,” Cowger wrote in the letter.

All of the following items were on the organizations capital replacement program to replace, but it would have taken it quite a bit of time to complete them all.

•Three Lifepak 153 - $97,452

These machines are used on nearly every call and are especially applicable to COVID-19 patients as they monitor temperature, blood pressure, ECG, hypoxic issues and assist with drug intervals. The service life is eight years. Columbus Fire Rescue’s are 10.

•One Lucas Mechanical Chest Compression - $14,978

Described as a life-saving machine that can perform the job of one person in a critical situation when necessary.

•One Power Cot/2 Power Load System - $19,807 / $43,214

This system allows crews to load COVID-19 patients, or suspected patients, into an ambulance while maintaining the CDC’s recommended six-foot circumference and while using few staff. Transports of COVID-19 patients and those suspected to have the virus, are taking place on a weekly basis at Columbus Fire Rescue. Cowger writes that the new system takes only two people to operate, while it currently takes three to four.

“The Stryker Powerload and PowerPro XT systems will lower the exposure to our department by half since two personnel are needed to lift and transport versus our current four. This will lessen the cascading effect that an exposure can have on a small department such as ours that could cause a department wide quarantine,” wrote Cowger.

This system also helps with heavier patients.

Other equipment purchased included reusable NIBP infant, child, adult and XL adult cuffs, lithium-ion battery packs and an adult and pediatric reusable Sp02 Sensors.

Cowger also said the remainder of money will be used for projects that are in the planning stages “that will be geared to lessening financial impacts to the taxpayers.”