Trempealeau County Board approves using ARPA funds for new Justice Center project

WHITEHALL - The Trempealeau County Board voted 15-2 in favor of a motion to allocate $1.5 million of its ARPA grant funds to the Justice Center Building Project Contingency Fund and $870,000 to the FFE Fund
at its monthly meeting held back on July 21 in the Trempealeau County Courthouse.

The Board first passed a motion by an 14-3 vote to reconsider an original motion to allocation of ARPA Funds to the Justice Center Project Contingency Fund and the FFE Fund after it was postponed by board members in vote taken during the April meeting of the Board. It was postponed in order to give new members of the board the opportunity to vote on this topic. The Finance Committee voted unanimously to bring the resolution back before the full board.

One of Supervisors who voted against this motion was District No. 16 representative Jeanne Nutter of Osseo. She stated that the ARPA money needs to go to what it was intended for and was for people who suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions are put on such funds for any spending over $10 million and the money has to be spent by 2024.

"We would not be getting this money if it wasn't for the pandemic," Nutter said. "The list of needs of people in this county who have been hurt by COVID-19 and have needs in health care such as mental health, long-term sickness from COVID-19, housing, job loss, you name it, it's enormous and that money should not be put into buildings," Nutter said.

Kurt Berner of the Samuel's Construction Group, which is the main construction company for the project, told the board that the funds are need to continue to keep the project on schedule to be finished by the fall of 2023.

"There are elements in this project which will go a long way towards helping people in need from COVID-19 but they can't be helped if the project is unfinished," Berner said. "No one foresaw the kind skyrocketing costs due to inflation that has affected this and other construction projects across the state and the country and we've made changes accordingly but we still have things we have to to pay for and be prepared for ."

Board members were in a consensus, however, that increasing costs will force the county to look at ways to make sure the project does not become an anchor to the county's budget either through borrowing or by spending cuts in other programs. There was also calls for discussion on spending the remaining ARPA funds, which the county received $5.7 million.

In other agenda items the board unanimously approved a budget adjustment from the Great River United Way Grant, a budget adjustment from the Public Health Workforce Grant Budget and the conversion of Veterans Relief Account to non-lapsing.

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