Lenawee County Commissioners split on how to use American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds

ADRIAN — The proposal which was recommended to the Lenawee County Commission by a subcommittee on how to spend the $9.5 million the county has been allocated as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, was held up in the ways and means committee earlier this week. 

“The item was on the Way & Means agenda as a recommendation and the Ways & Means Committee did not pass the motion to move the recommendations to the full board. Since the motion failed, it was not taken up by the board on Wednesday. Several commissioners expressed an interest in delaying the allocation of funds,” Lenawee County Administrator Marty Marshall said in an email. 

The county commission did, however, discuss the item under new business at its meeting Wednesday afternoon, and was split over how the commission should move forward with the subcommittee structure.  

District 3 commissioner Nancy Jenkins-Arno, R-Clayton, made a motion to create a new advisory committee to the county commission on ARPA funding as well as five community subcommittees under that in an effort to better represent community needs. 

The subcommittees would be for 1) health and essential workers, 2) water, sewer, broadband and infrastructure, 3) business and chambers of commerce, 4) nonprofits with one member being Sheriff Troy Bevier, and 5) a committee to discuss county projects only.

"Rather than sending it back to the very same committee, I thought it would be better to bring in voices that have their finger on the pulse of the community," Jenkins-Arno said in an interview. "They would review the grant application and then make their recommendation to the county commission and we would have the final vote."

District 2 commissioner Dustin Krasny, R-Cambridge Township, gave his support to that motion and spoke in favor of creating a new subcommittee structure, again with the thought that community needs would be better represented. 

Six other members as well as Marshall expressed that the commission was elected to take on a responsibility such as allocating county funds and should not be delegating it to the individual cities, townships and villages. Creating six subcommittees would confuse the process. 

“I am completely open to input from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) applicants in the review process, however, the citizens of Lenawee County elected nine commissioners to represent their interest in county government and the management of county funds is one of the most important functions that the Board of Commissioners performs,” Marshall said. 

When it came time for the vote on the motion, six members voted against the motion with Krasny, Jenkins-Arno and District 7 commissioner Jim Goetz, R-Ogden Township, voting in favor. Goetz at first tried to abstain from the vote but the rules prevented him from doing so. 

The issue is in limbo now. 

“While nothing was formally set, I believe that there will be additional meetings to review all of the applications submitted. At those meetings, applicants and members of the general public will have opportunity to attend and provide input,” Marshall said. “We are waiting on further information before continuing the process. The original subcommittee consisted of Board Chair David Stimpson, Board Vice-Chair Terry Collins, Ways & Means Chair Ralph Tillotson, and Commissioner Dawn Bales.”

That subcommittee recommended $650,000 in allocations at the village, township and city level and that most of the remainder be spent on county business. The county is slated to receive an additional $9.5 million in ARPA funding in a few months.  

In other business

At its Wednesday meeting, the county commission also

  • Awarded county health officer Martha Hall a certificate of appreciation for her 27 years of service to the community. Hall will be retiring later this month. 
  • Accepted the county drain commission’s annual report and placed it on file. 
  • Awarded a $310,000 community development block grant to The B Hive daycare center of Adrian for an expansion. The total project will cost $375,000 and The B Hive will add nine jobs. The CDBG comes from the county’s revolving fund, which now has $296,000 left in it. 
  • Noted that the communications electronics in the old courthouse’s elevator system will be replaced in about 10 months at a cost of approximately $96,000.
Mary Lowe
The Daily Telegram