County commissioners hear from emergency services

The Marion County Board of Commissioners opened the regular Monday, Aug. 24 meeting with the 2021 Marion County Budget Hearing. The board approved the new budget.

Marion County Emergency Management Director Randy Frank presented an agreement that the county has made with Tabor College which allows them to fall into category B funding with FEMA.

“The agreement is to the only way that the college can get funding if they do a non-congregate shelter (for COVID-19 positive cases) for their students. The sheltering is the one they have refurbished in the old hospital. The money that has been spent so far Tabor College has used out of their own and also from the Mennonite Disaster Services folks who came in and did a lot for free. But if they are going to actually have to put a student in there, this is the money they will reimburse themselves from but they have to do it through a government entity from which is us,” said Frank.

Frank explained that FEMA would pay 75 percent and Tabor would pay 25 percent of the expenses. So far no one has been put into the shelter.

The commission approved it.

Frank asked for an extension of his and his assistant Marcy Hostetler’s department purchase cards in order to be able to buy more items needed for SPARKS and PPE purchases. He explained that due to fraud and people hoarding items, many vendors are cautious with personal cards and payments. He said it would be helpful to have the department card have a higher amount so he could purchase all at once.

The card currently has a limit of $5,000 but one order last week alone was $3,000.

The board approved the request for additional credit on two lines to $30,000 for 60 days and will then review to either decrease or keep it the same.

Commissioner Kent Becker brought up a grant available for broadband connectivity through the CARES Act. He said that the application deadline is Thursday.

Frank said he had started reading the information on it and speaking with the county IT staff on it.

“We as a county are pushing to enhance our broadband speed and there’s an opportunity. I’m sure it’s gonna be competitive and it’s gonna go fast,” said Becker. “I would encourage submission of that.”

Chairman Jonah Gehring gave an update for Marion County Health Department Administrator Diedre Serene.

“Everything stands the same as it did at the end of the week as far as COVID-19 cases. We have a total of 62 with 2 cases currently,” said Gehring.

The meeting closed with comments from the commissioners.

Becker stated that the Free Press stated that he seemed confused in questions that he asked Diedre Serene — due to his restating them several times in spite of her consistent and clear answers to the questions. He stated that he was not confused, but was asking the questions that residents had asked him.

Commissioner Dianne Novak brought up the blackouts that have been occurring in California due to their use of solar and wind power. She pointed out that this could have some helpful information on what is going on here with wind power.

Novak also raised her own concerns about the press coverage of the commissioners.

Gehring brought up the importance of setting aside 30 minutes once a month to have productive talks about bringing in more people to the county. The other commissioners replied positively to the idea.

The meeting closed with the commissioners planning to head out and tour the transfer station.

In other business, the board:

n met in executive session with appraiser Lisa Berg to discuss personnel. No action taken.

n conducted administrative business including approving several charge orders for salary changes.

n signed off on the first round of approvals of SPARKS checks

n met in executive session to discuss property acquisition. No action taken.

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