Lee County Continues Designation of ARPA Funds

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BY HANNAH LESTER

HLESTER@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

LEE COUNTY —

The Lee County Commission voted Monday night to allocate more American Rescue Plan funds for the Loachapoka Park and the Environmental Services Fund.

“During the pandemic, we noticed an increase in the amount of money that was spent in the transfer station bills from people cleaning up,” said County Administrator Holly Leverette. “Now we’re also seeing a continued hit on our budget with the curbside as well, so we are asking for you all to allocate an additional $500,000 from the ARPA funds to the Environmental Services Fund 140 to help offset some of those expenses.”

The transfer station bills over two years increased due to pandemic effects and have yet to come down, Leverette said.

District 4 Commissioner Robert Ham clarified that this means the county has been running two systems — the transfer stations and curbside pickup, which Leverette confirmed. He asked what the sites will be used for when the transfer stations are closed.

“As we finish the transition from our previous traditional system that we’ve had in place to the curbside, along with the county-provided bulk pickup, Mr. McDonald and I, along with the commissions’ decisions, will be deciding what to do with the sites we own,” said County Engineer Justin Hardee. “About half the sites that were in existence were leased or agreed properties, and so the remaining half will then see if there is a way for the county to continue to use those properties, whether it be in possibly setting up — when the sites are large enough and can be fenced off, so you can control the hours of use — possibly setting up recycling facilities.”

Ham expressed he was in favor of recycling.

“It just helps the landfills last longer,”  he said. “People want to recycle and we need to make it easy as we can for them.”

Hardee said as the transition continues, the Beauregard and southeastern corner sites will close. The Beulah site already has.

“All sites will be closed by the second week of November,” he said.

The commission also voted to allocate $250,000 to the Loachapoka Park.

Leverette said that funding would come from the $10 million fund that has less restrictions on how it is spent.

Loachapoka has roughly $300,000 in the park fund, and the additional $250,000 will give a rough total of $550,000.

“Ryan has expressed an interest in not depleting all of those funds because the rec association will need some of that money for rec uses as well,” Leverette said.

Of that $550,000, Leverette said the county was considering using $250,000.

The pavilion the county wants to construct, however, may be cheaper than expected, which was quoted at $187,000.

Leverette said this is more elaborate than the county wants and believes with $500,000 (the $250,000 from the budget and the extra allocated $250,000) the park can be completed.

STORM SHELTERS

“Some of you will remember after the 03-03-19 tornadoes that we were eligible for a hazard mitigation grant through FEMA for individual storm shelters or individual safe rooms,” said EMA Director Rita Smith. “This process should take less than a year.”

However, the process has been delayed due to the pandemic.

In 2020, when Smith first presented the information, the project looked to be about $45,000 to $46,000.

“Well, the good news is it did not,” she said. “If you do the breakdown, we had 156 citizens that we briefed and expressed interest in applying. So we told them all A to Z, no shovel to dirt until you’re approved, what you have to do, it’s a 75/25% split, you have to pay it all up front if approved, file a reimbursement of 75% — and so that dropped to 118 citizens that actually applied for this grant.”

Twenty-six more then withdrew, Smith said. In total, 92 applied and completed the process. The total cost to the county was $35,600.

EMA received $32,207 back in management cost, which the organization put into a special fund. In total, the county was only out $3,393.

OTHER BUSINESS:

– The commission discussed signing a waiver in an Opioid Lawsuit Settlement that the county did not participate in. No action was taken Monday night.

– The commission approved an Adopt-A-Mile application for Cynthia Rogers for LR 086.

– The commission approved a Retail Beer and Retail Table Wine License application for the Quick Stop.

– The commission heard an overview report on the county’s resurfacing program.

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