County projects get green light with federal aid
Over a half-million dollars in federal aid money was allocated by the Tama County Board of Supervisors earlier this month to four projects that will benefit multiple areas of the county government.
A resolution passed on Nov. 22 that directed the distribution of funds that had been received through the $109 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.
The four projects were chosen by a committee composed of County Human Resources Manager Tammy Wise, County Economic Development Director Katherine Ollendieck, Assistant Auditor Maureen Kratoska, Joel Faircloth and County Auditor Laura Kopsa.
The projects that were chosen during the first round of applications were chosen based on their readiness for completion.
The first project chosen was a COVID-19 vaccine incentive program for county staff members, funded at an amount not to exceed $140,000.
The voluntary program would grant full time county employees a one-time payment of $1,000 for proof of vaccination by Dec. 16. Part time county employees would be eligible for the incentive but would receive a one-time payment of $500.
According to Center for Disease Control data as of Nov. 29, Tama County reports a 71.5 percent vaccination rate in individuals 18 years of age or older.
Broadband internet will soon be coming to some of the rural county-owned facilities north of Toledo including the landfill, Otter Creek Park and the county roads shop.
The project funding was approved at a budgeted amount of $400,000, though Wise believed the estimate left a lot of cushion and the project could come in well under budget.
Slow connectivity has been an issue, particularly for the County Conservation Department as they run all of their office work and programming out of the Nature Center which receives wireless internet from the county courthouse.
Conservation Director Stephen Mayne said it’s not uncommon for the internet to go down two to three times a week and for the connection to slow to dial-up speeds.
Though his department does a good bit of their work outdoors, Mayne said their filing system and office is organized digitally where slow internet has required them to travel to the courthouse to retrieve some of their own internal documents.
Looking forward, Mayne is hopeful broadband internet connection will stabilize their internet service and fix some of the workflow issues. He also said he hopes to explore the possibility of delivering internet access to the Otter Creek Park campgrounds, a feature he’s seen being offered at other county parks throughout the state.
Meanwhile, the landfill has experienced issues in recent years with the internet crashing and preventing them from using their credit card processing machine. In 2021 the center reported around a half-dozen outages.
During the Nov. 22 board meeting, Wise told the board the timeframe for completion of the internet project would be within the next six months.
For the first time since its creation in the early 2000s, the website for Tama County is getting a facelift.
The county approved funding not to exceed $30,000 to complete the project. A bid had previously been received from Cedar Rapids Web Design, to redesign and modernize the county’s web presence for a total of $20,000.
The Web. 1.0 site was originally developed by Missi (Graff) Thede and first went live around late 2001-early 2002.
Wise said the web redesign project is expected to take six months.
With the 2020 derecho a recent reminder of the importance of backup power, Tama County will allocate $45,000 in federal relief money toward the purchase of two generators.
The first will be placed at the Public Health facility on High Street in Toledo. The Tama County Public Health Department also received grant funding for the purchase of additional cooler space to facilitate increased vaccine storage. The generator will provide emergency power not only to the health care facility but also to the vaccine storage.
The second generator will be located at the county engineering building on 5th Street in Tama and will provide backup power to the Emergency Management Department’s emergency operations center.
The five-member committee will meet again in December to develop an application process to facilitate the allocation of the remaining $985,000 of federal aid not spoken for in the first round of projects.
Wise said applications for the second round of projects will be open to any groups or organizations with COVID-related projects that serve Tama County residents. Details on the application process will be announced at a later date.
The county has until 2024 to expend the $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act relief funding.