By Robert Maharry, Times Republican
The Marshall County Board of Supervisors officially authorized American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) expenditures of over $1.2 million and tabled or rejected others that had been recommended by the county’s ARPA committee during Tuesday morning’s regular meeting.
By a wide margin, the largest chunk of the money — $1 million — will be put toward replacing the windows at the administration building of the sheriff’s office, which was built in the 1960s. ARPA funds have already been designated for improvements to HVAC, restrooms and the control board at the facility.
“This is one of the final pieces of the puzzle here to really bring that building up to where it needs to be to be useful long term,” County Buildings and Grounds Director Lucas Baedke said.
Some of the other major expenditures include $150,000 for court records scanning, $47,000 for a cloud backup server, $27,000 for utilities at the Orpheum Theater from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sep. 30, 2022, and $13,624.24 for additional radios and base units at the secondary roads department.
After considerable discussion, the supervisors opted to table a proposal for the creation of a mental health court from Assistant County Attorney Sarah Tupper that would have utilized $229,000 in ARPA dollars and funded the program for one year. According to Tupper, the money would cover the cost of a probation officer, a public defender contract and a mental health contract for a clinician and a case manager.
“The goal is to get individuals compliant with mental health treatment, help them with other needs such as housing (and) transportation and allow them to be successful on probation and be law-abiding,” Tupper said. “It works much like a drug court.”
Insurance, Medicaid or Central Iowa Community Services (CICS) would cover the cost of treatment, and the county attorney’s office and the judge involved would participate as part of their normal job duties without any additional compensation. The court, Tupper argued, would save the county money in the long term with its focus on avoiding incarceration for mentally ill individuals, and she said that in Pottawatomie County, about two-thirds of mental health court graduates were not committing new crimes or being hospitalized.
Supervisor Steve Salasek told Tupper he liked the project and recalled that when he first decided to run for office, he was often asked about what could be done to improve mental health care in Marshall County.
“I guess I view this as a very black and white way that the county can step forward and help these folks, and we’re using federal dollars here to do this,” he said. “I think it’s a bit of a win win.”
Fellow Supervisor Bill Patten, however, worried that only funding the program for one year could allow it to fall by the wayside afterward, and Tupper said she would seek funding through federal grant programs or other sources depending on what’s available.
Patten urged Tupper to collaborate with CICS and pledged to investigate the situation further before motioning to table the expenditure for the time being.
“I think we need a program, that if this is going to work and then continue it, there’s no need of doing it for one year if it’s going to work,” he said. “If we can get in with CICS in this regard and have this continue, then I think that would be a much better deal for what you’re trying to do.”
In response to a question from Board Chairman Dave Thompson, Marshall County Sheriff Joel Phillips said at least 40 percent of the current jail population is on some type of mental health treatment plan. Waiting periods for mental health evaluations, Phillips added, are often between four and six months.
The supervisors had previously tabled Tupper’s proposal for a drug court that would have utilized $253,060 in ARPA funds, citing a desire to wait and see if the state legislature made any changes first, but, as Tupper reported, the county attorney’s office has since received a federal grant to fund and expand the drug court for three years.
Later in the ARPA discussion, the supervisors removed a pair of expenditures — a 12′ x 12′ gazebo for the Marshall County Freedom Rock and a black chain link fence for the F-4 Phantom fighter jet at the American Legion — because they believed private local fundraising would be a better way to cover the costs of those projects.
The board also opted to table a pair of payments recommended by the ARPA committee — one to the Le Grand Township for $16,099.26 and another to the Timber Creek Township for $17,154.76 — to assist with the costs of the 911 radio project. The total dollar amount of the expenditures the supervisors approved on Tuesday morning is $1,239,513.55.
In other business, the board:
- Approved a motion to partner with the cities of Marshall County in proceeding with a FEMA grant application for the siren project.
- Approved the appointment of Paul Veren to the condemnation commission.
- Approved the P25 radio project change order for a generator and LP tank with Whitaker Farms in the amount of $66,500.51.
- Presented a 20-year service award to Jailer Tom Heil and a five-year service award to court security officer Doug Bausman.
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or