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The eight volunteer fire departments in Barren County will see more flexibility in their allocated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds after last week’s fiscal court meeting.
The court had initially voted to award each fire department with $20,000 from the ARPA funds with strict stipulations. Those stipulations included the funds could only be spent on equipment purchases and each expenditure would need to be brought before the court for a vote.
Magistrate Trent Riddle, also Chairman of the new ARPA committee created last month, said requiring fire departments to request each time they need ARPA funds could turn into an “administrative nightmare.”
Riddle suggested disbursing the entire allocated amount to each of the fire departments and Magistrate Tim Coomer, also an ARPA committee member, clarified the expenses could also include supplies and repairs in addition to the equipment purchases stipulation previously approved by the court.
Krista Steenbergen, hired by the county to assist with ARPA funds, confirmed these additions are still within the federal guidelines.
Riddle said this wouldn’t remove the responsibilities from the fire departments to spend their funds as the court approved and occasional oversight to ensure the spending is as voted on would still be a part of the process.
The vote was unanimous to approve the fire departments’ payment issuance and extra spending flexibilities.
The ARPA committee held its first meeting before fiscal court last Tuesday. Initially, ARPA-related matters were given to the Administrative and Budget Committee before the new committee was created.
Since October, issues surrounding ARPA funds and premium pay have, at times, been a source of confusion and disagreement between members of the court. The newly formed committee will hopefully allow a more focused approach on matters pertaining to ARPA funds.
Riddle told the court that in addition to the fire department funds, the committee also discussed their plans to address specific sectors with the healthcare sector being next.
County employees, Barren-Metcalfe EMS, and fire departments have already received, or will soon receive, payments from the funds.
Last month, the court earmarked $1-million for the healthcare sector and $500,000 for healthcare education.
Riddle announced for those interested in seeking funding from the COVID-19 pandemic-related matters, from any sector, should do so by submitting a written letter to the Judge/Executive’s office noting Krista Steenbergen as contact. Letters can be mailed to 117 N. Public Square, Glasgow, KY 42141.
It is expected the next points of discussion, following healthcare, will include the non-profit and education sectors. The committee will compile funding requests by sector and those can be submitted at any time as well.
The next ARPA committee meeting is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2022, at 7:45 AM in the courtroom at the Barren County Government Center.
Additionally, the court voted unanimously to approve checks to be issued out for EMS and fire departments.
ARPA funds stem from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021, designed to provide federally funded monetary reimbursement payments to counties across the country, as well as other entities. ARPA was designed to help alleviate some of the financial impacts seen across the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barren County will receive a total of $8,594,850.00 of ARPA funds in two separate payments over 2-years. The first payment of $4,297,425.00 has already been received.