CARROLLTON -- County Supervisors used much of Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the use of funds granted to the county by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
A $1.2 million grant has been awarded to the county in order to begin construction on nearly a dozen county locations designated as Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) sites. The sites are mostly shoulders of roads that experience severe washing and erosion.
While all supervisors seemed to agree that they wanted to utilize the grant money if at all possible, there were several obstacles in reaching an agreement. One of the major obstacles was that the county would have to foot the bill for 30 percent of the project. That equals around $300,000—money the supervisors aren’t sure is in the county’s budget.
Even if the board is able to take on the $300,000 expense, another possible obstacle prevented them from reaching a decision on Tuesday. The county would be required to front the $1.2 million, with NRCS issuing a reimbursement once the work is completed.
Part of the reason that the grant is so large is due to the sheer number of projects included. Shane Correro, an engineering technician with Willis Engineering Inc., said that he had never seen so many projects proposed at one time. He had attended the meeting to encourage the supervisors to make a decision sometime soon.
“These agreements need to be signed,” Correro said.
All county beats were represented in the proposal, although not equally. The supervisors tried to think of a fair method to ensure that Beats with only a few thousands of dollars of work to be done did not take on the same financial burden as beats needing hundreds of thousands of dollars of work.
Beat 1 Supervisor Jim Neill asked the board if they might be willing to prioritize which projects the county decided to take on. He proposed that if the projects were not “all or none,” then maybe the board could vote to attend to the sites most in need.
Circuit Clerk Durward Stanton had a similar question. “Is this a one-time deal?” he asked.
Correro said some of the sites listed in the project proposal had been waiting for approval for years. He said that it was possible to reapply for the projects left undone at a later date, but there would be no telling when the next round of funding might be.
Fortunately, NRCS would reimburse the county payment by payment. This means that supervisors would not have to pay the full $1.2 million before any money was reimbursed. Neill suggested to the board that every time the board got reimbursed, they put that money right back into paying for the next project bill.
One kink in this plan is that Correro could not tell the board exactly how much each payment would be. Because the contractor would charge according to how many projects he had started, the bill would not necessarily be the same price each month. This could leave the county scrambling to secure funds. Board President Rickie Corley seemed to capture the mood of the day’s meeting, saying “just because you want to, doesn’t mean you can.”
If the board agrees to enter the deal, the project would need to be completed within 220 days of the start date, Correro said. He also estimated that construction would still be a few months out. The board decided to postpone the vote until next Monday’s meeting in Vaiden.
The board did vote to make the final payment of $13,190 to People’s Bank and Trust Company for a loan on behalf of Vaiden Clinic.
Neill also used the meeting to propose that a $500 scholarship be given to the valedictorians of J.Z. George High School and Carroll Academy to go towards tuition for a college of their choosing.
Stanton issued a reminder that primary elections will be held on Tuesday.