Warren County Supervisors discuss ARPA denials, set discussion date for acceptance

Published 2:54 pm Monday, December 13, 2021

The Warren County Board of Supervisors on Monday discussed language for a letter to be sent to applicants who are denied American Rescue Plan Act funds from the county.

Warren County received a total of $8.8 million as part of the act and has until 2024 to allocate the funds.

The letter was presented to the board by County Administrator Loretta Brantley, who explained the letter would be sent by the “WC Board” and include the applicant organization’s name.

“That way we can send the same letter to everyone who’s on the list to not fund their requests,” Brantley said.

The rejections will be included in the discussion and brought up for a vote at the Dec. 20 meeting of the board of supervisors. The board is expected to vote to reject approximately 30 applications and officially approve the language in the rejection letter. The rejections will be voted on as a group, the board said, instead of individually.

During a Nov. 22 work session, the board was presented with 32 proposals that were recommended to be denied ARPA funds out of approximately 75 total applicants. However, as District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield said on Nov. 22 and again in the Monday meeting, ARPA rejections do not mean projects are rejected entirely.

The board members said they still want to encourage applicants to seek alternate funding and other opportunities to help the community.

“Several of those organizations that applied were interested in establishing tutoring or mentoring programs, and I became aware last week that United Way has funding to pay tutors $500 a semester. If they’re enrolled college students, they could be paid $1,500 a semester,” Barfield said. “(The United Way) provides the coordinator, the curriculum and so forth. That’s an example of, instead of a church establishing their own program, potentially those who were interested in tutoring can do so through the United Way. Pending our decisions, if they still want to get involved in a tutoring program, there is an opportunity.”

District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson issued a word of caution. According to Jackson, since ARPA funds are meant to be used for community revitalization, it’s important to include a diverse set of applicants in the approval phase.

“I do want to mention and reiterate, the United Way nor any one organization has insights into every part of the community,” Jackson said. “So that’s why it is important to have a diverse slate for certain services in the community. United Way does a great job, but there are plenty of people in District 3 who never interact with the United Way or certain churches.”

Several Warren County agencies that applied for ARPA funding are also anticipated to be rejected, but not without the opportunity to seek alternate funding.

One example Barfield provided was Warren County Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs’ application for funding to help establish a new fire station near the CERES Industrial Complex. While the board of supervisors might move to deny ARPA funds for the project at the county level, there could be room for the project through state-level funding.

“Mike Chaney said to me, ‘I’ve set aside some funding at the state level for that,'” Barfield said. “He told me he felt like, as the state fire marshal, he could identify potentially up to a quarter of a million dollars for an additional fire station. That’s another example where some of that funding might be found at the state level.”

Once the rejections are approved and letters are sent, the board will meet to discuss which applications should go on to receive ARPA funds. Board President Jeff Holland said Monday he believes it’s time to “go ahead” and move forward with the fund allocations.

“I think it’s probably time to move on it. We’ve waited now a third of the life of the money,” Holland said. “We’ve got all these people that we brought into public meetings. We need to deal with all of them. They’re all waiting to hear from us. I think we owe them answers, first off. I would get the answers back as fast as we can get them.”

The Board of Supervisors agreed to hold a work session at 10 a.m. on Dec. 27, to discuss ARPA recipients and the latest plans for building a new Warren County Jail.

Other items discussed Monday include:

  • An updated estimate for repairs to the Warren County Health Department building, now estimated to cost a total of $300,000.
  • An update on the Shell Beach Road project, in which the county is repairing and designing a boat ramp and making repairs to the roadway. Resident Ken Klauss previously appeared before the board to request the road be reduced to one-way traffic, and on Monday requested through Board Attorney Blake Teller that the road and shoulders be 20 feet wide instead of the planned 23 feet. Jackson suggested the use of eminent domain to secure the right of way, citing a separate resolution approved on Nov. 30 by the city and county to use eminent domain if necessary for the development of a new port, and positioning that the county had the authority to use eminent domain in this instance as well.
  • A request for the board to advertise at the upcoming Vicksburg Civil War Show, scheduled for February 2022.
  • An update from Tax Assessor Ben Luckett regarding changes to property taxes in the coming year, real property corrections, personal corrections, homestead deletions and requests from taxpayers for a 10 percent assessment for missing the homestead exemption filing period.
  • Attorney Tray Hairston of Butler Snow, LLP also presented before the board as part of ongoing discussions surrounding the new Warren County Jail.

The board of supervisors will meet at the Warren County Courthouse at 9 a.m. on Dec. 20.