On Tuesday morning during its regular meeting, the St. Francois County Commission revisited its Oct. 25 decision to close out the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from 2019 that was awarded to Mineral Area College (MAC).
In 2019, MAC had used the St. Francois County Auditor’s Office as a pass-through agent for the $400,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which was intended to pay for a welding building housing the program. Funding partly hinged on the college getting 160 students—51% on the low-to-moderate income scale — enrolled in the programs by March 2022. The county filed for an extension in February.
DED contacted the county in recent weeks about the lack of activity on the grant—the county is the agent that in 2019 applied for the grant at MAC’s request, while MAC agreed to administer it and report on it— and approved the Department of Economic Development’s reduction of the grant to $225,000, and to close it out.
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At the Oct. 25 meeting of the St. Francois County Commissioners, Grant Coordinator Bridget Smith spoke about the revision, during which no MAC representatives were on hand.
“Due to COVID issues, it’s taken MAC a while to get everything going,” she said. “DED has allowed them to change the grant from 160 (low-income students) down to 45 and that no more money will be pulled for the grant. We have agreed to that in order to close this grant.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, members of MAC’s board of trustees, MAC President Dr. Joe Gilgour and MAC Grant Manager Kasey Beaton were in attendance.
Gilgour spoke to the commission about rescinding the decision and began the discussion on options to keep the grant in place.
“We are asking for a reconsideration of the vote that happened last week,” he said. “Through communication with the state, they have authorized us that if we have the student enrollment to 80 by February, that they will provide the full funding grant to us as opposed to cutting it in half.” The college currently has a bit over 40 students in the welding program, according to the county.
Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher said that the county had questions about the enrollment and documentation. The DED sent the county three options on how to further handle the grant.
The first option was to leave the grant open until 80 students were enrolled with an extension requested by Feb. 1. The grant would not be closed by March 1 and the county could not apply for CDBG grants for 2023, a situation the county deemed unacceptable.
The second option was the one Gallaher said was the best way to handle the grant.
“We wait until Feb. 1 to determine the number of students at that time,” he said. “Additional money at the rate of $5,000 per LMI (low-moderate income) student will be awarded. This would allow the grant to be closed by March 1, 2023. That March 1 date is pretty important.”
The third option is to close the grant immediately if 41 or more students are enrolled with additional funding stopping at that time. MAC considered this option unacceptable.
Gilgour agreed to option two. “We don’t want to do anything to hurt the county’s opportunity to get CDBG money in the future. I think option two is what we want.”
Associate Commissioner David Kater showed concern about paperwork needed from MAC that hadn’t been received until a week or two ago.
“That is the first documentation that we received since they started this grant in 2019,” he said.
Gilgour countered, saying the college had “sent everything that has been requested. Really some of the delay, for the first year and a half to two years of this grant being approved, nothing has happened, there wasn’t anything to report, there weren’t any students in it. We have sent in the low to moderate income data on the 41 students that we have. We are happy to send in anything as needed, anytime.”
Audit Manager Amber Menjoulet stated that all the information has to be in to the county by Dec. 31 to be prepared and ready to go to the DED. She later said CDBG grants require large volumes of reports and documentation on every aspect of the project the grant covers.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the county reconsidered, rescinding the previous decision to close the grant. It is taking the new options under advisement until the St. Francois County Auditor’s Office and MAC have updates on documentation.
In other business, the commission approved a two-year agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration to supply a sheriff’s deputy for the drug task force.
The commission also agreed to sign the contract for the first two years with Flock Cameras for law enforcement surveillance. The first year’s cost for 14 cameras is $35,000 with an implementation fee of $10,500. The second year will be a recurring cost of $35,000. The funding for the cameras is supplied by the Law Enforcement Restitution Fund.
The commission also agreed to buy for the maintenance department a 2016 Ford F-250 truck with 90,000 miles from Mineral Area Overhead Door for $32,000. The commission had earlier sought bids for a new or used truck with no success.
The commission approved buying 50 new computers from SHI in a state contract for $59,769.77 at the request of IT Director Nick Jones.
“We had previously done sealed bids,” he said. “We got one bid back and it wasn’t what we asked for so we rejected it and I went shopping.”
Fleet Manager Buck Copeland reported on the sheriff’s department vehicles and the new pursuit vehicles the county is in the process of buying.
“We have 37 pursuit cars, 17 have 200,000 miles on them, 7 have 200,000 plus miles. We have four cars that come in and are available for $44,956 (each),” Copeland said. “These cars are budgeted for next year, but the price increase on the 2023 cars are going up 25% on police cars.”
The commission approved the amendment for the 2022 budget to buy the cars from Lou Fusz Ford.
After opening sealed bids at the start of the session, the commission approved a bid from McCann Concrete Products for $38,592 for box culverts for road improvement projects for the upcoming year.
Due to the county’s Election Day activities, the commission meeting was canceled Tuesday. The next regular session will be Nov. 15 at the commissioners meeting room at 10 a.m. in the courthouse annex in downtown Farmington. County offices will be closed on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11.
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org