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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission member challenges expenses for health department

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

MOUND CITY – One of three Linn County commissioners temporarily refused to approve the county claims for the week on Monday, Feb. 6, because of questions he had about two expenditures. Eventually, however, his concerns were addressed and he vote to approve the claims.

Commissioner Jim Johnson asked Linn County Health Department Administrator Missy Lancaster about the $1,573 expenditure for installing ceiling speakers at the health department. She explained that they were for confidentiality issues. When there was some background music playing, it helped to block out conversations in other rooms of the health department.

Commission Chair Danny McCullough defended the purchase saying that he had been in the health department and had observed that conversations in other rooms could be heard. He said that anywhere you go in public health care buildings music is heard.

Johnson said the county was growing expenses by putting things like this in our buildings.

“We put up an awning on and keep spending money and it comes back and just costs us money eventually for upkeep,” said Johnson.

Lancaster explained that this was an approved use of grant money the department had received and that it was not coming out of the county’s tax money.

Johnson then said that he had been asking for the records for two years to see how many people the health department had been serving.

Lancaster said that she has been giving weekly reports at the commission meeting with those numbers.

Next, Johnson questioned what the $18,846 expenditure to Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission (SEKRPC) was for.

Linn County Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower told Johnson that it was the second payment of five for the administration costs of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant. She explained that Linn County was contractually obligated to pay that out of the ARPA funds. She pointed out that it was shown on the spreadsheet that she had given the commissioners last week.

On Oct. 4, 2021, the commissioners, including Johnson, approved an agreement to pay SEKRPC 5% for administration of the nearly $1.9 million ARPA grant for five years. Besides assistance in writing the grant, SEKRPC looks over all applications that are made to the county for ARPA funds for compliance, makes sure that Linn County follows all ARPA regulations, and makes all of the federal reports for the grant.

“That actually comes out of the money they gave us, they turn around and take it back?” asked Johnson.

Jessica Hightower said the money does not come from SEKRPC, it comes from the federal government. Then SEKRPC receives a yearly fee for five years for administering the grant.

County Counselor Gary Thompson explained that almost all of the grants that SEKRPC applies for in the county’s behalf, the county pays a percentage.

Jessica Hightower said that the county does not pay SEKRPC anything for grants that they write that the county does not receive.

“They give us money and then they take it back,” said Johnson.

Jessica Hightower said that any grant writer is going to charge for writing and administering a grant.

She also informed the commissioners that the county would have a $3,000 invoice from SEKRPC in a week or two for the county’s yearly membership in the organization. That comes out of economic development fund yearly and by paying that the county is able to have SEKRPC apply for grants for the county.

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