Commissioners Authorize ARP Funding for New County Health Dept. Renovations

By Benjamin Cox on October 12, 2021 at 3:17pm

The Morgan County Commissioners have authorized the first portion of their American Rescue Plan funding for a special project.

Renovation of the former Putnam Center at the former MacMurray College Campus has been under way for the last few weeks. Belwether of Bloomington has been contracted to do the work for the county. The building is being renovated to become the future home of the Morgan County Health Department.

The board approved an ordinance today authorizing $2 million towards the project, with the first $245,000 to be paid out for roofing work on the building and miscellaneous indoor renovations.

Dusty Douglas says its been tough navigating the regulations on spending the county’s over $6 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the project: “We, of course, are thankful for the funding, but in learning about the disbursement of funds, it’s a little bit frightening trying to stay in the parameters outlined by the federal government, which seem to be changing constantly. We have outlined a series of projects to Belwether and asked if they fall within those parameters and have gotten an initial response from them. This is our first disbursement for the health department which does fit in perfectly with the guidelines set forth. One thing I would point out in the ordinance, we are talking about $2 million for that first disbursement. With that, I know we have all been involved with this. It’s a quick overview of the ordinance, but we will be back with additional ordinances to pass. Their purpose is sort of twofold: 1. to protect us during a future desk audit that we assume will come and secondly, we want to do it for good transparency and in good practice for the county so we make everyone aware of where this money is being spent.”

Commissioner Chair Ginny Fanning says that the COVID-19 pandemic really showed how much the health department needed a new building: “There is so many things that this is going to provide that our health department needs as far as increased waiting room space, opportunities for their programs to expand, and they’ll have better parking, and they are hoping to increase their clinical capacity. All of those things fall under this broad umbrella of health & safety. Due to COVID, we realized how small and inefficient the facility [is] – our staff, fabulous – but the facility itself certainly needed a lot of work. We are very pleased. Our first payment will be made to R.D. Lawrence [Construction] after this ordinance is passed. That’s in the amount of $245,458.26.”

The ordinance passed 2-0, with Commissioner Bill Meier absent due to health reasons. The county still has a little over $4.5 million left in American Rescue Plan funding to authorize.