Executive and Finance discusses ARPA Fund uses

The Marquette County Executive and Finance Committee met on August 9th to discuss proposed American Rescue Plan Act funded projects and how they should prioritize those projects.

To start the meeting, Corporation Counsel Natalie Bussan reported that she is working on zoning ordinances regarding chickens and long-term camper use. They would be reaching out to each town to determine yes or no to both items so the County could incorporate them into the zoning code. This is dealing with a clarification issue regarding chickens only and not farm animals on parcels less than 2 acres in size, which is what the current zoning says. This has caused confusion and issues across the county. Bussan said they’d like to have across the board rules throughout the county so people can know when buying property if they can have chickens or not.

County Administrator Ron Barger then gave his report, first asking the committee to consider allowing some employees to continue working from home. He explained that there were employees who had worked from home before the pandemic, and since the emergency declaration was revoked, those employees were technically supposed to stop working from home and return to the office. He asked the committee to amend the current policy to allow those specific employees to continue working from home on a case-by-case basis. Corporation Counsel Natalie Bussan said that they had discussed this in the past and told them would need to make sure to apply it across the board fairly. She cautioned them to make sure it was fleshed out to make sure it avoided any discrimination issues.

The committee gave Barger the OK to create the policy and bring it back to the committee for approval in a future meeting. The committee then discussed a proposed A/V upgrade. MIS Director Daniel Buchholz explained his request to use the available ARPA funds to pay for the A/V upgrade to the Public Safety Room. Previously they had delayed upgrading this room due to the $104,000 cost. This was being brought to the committee due to the County Board holding the power to approve how the ARPA funds are spent.

The committee discussed the best process of approving the use of the funds. They thought that they should make a list of projects and order them by overall importance. Most members believed that any item up for final consideration should have to be approved by a committee first.

The committee discussed potential projects to use the $3 million in ARPA funds for. Besides the Marquette-Adams Broadband infrastructure expansion that the county board approved last month, the Parks and Recreation Committee is exploring using some of the funds to add a well and running water to John Muir Park, based on results of a survey. Barger also said that it could be possible to use the ARPA funds to help fund construction on the Packwaukee Causeway, citing language that says the funds could be used for floodwater management. He noted that the upcoming Infrastructure Bill could also provide funding for this. Members discussed the need for choosing projects that affect the most amount of people in the county.

The committee decided to discuss this further in the next full County Board meeting but chose to move the A/V upgrade proposal onto the full County Board for approval, citing the need to complete the project before prices increase and the fact that they were going to have to do this project anyway.