Push underway by Allegany County to spend nearly $4.5 million, with more possible

Allegany County lawmakers will meet tomorrow morning to begin a push to allocate more than $4.4 million in various types of funds, including more than one-third of its federal pandemic revenues.

An agenda for a Board of Legislators meeting was disseminated shortly before 5PM today, with $4,420,760 of proposed expenditures to be moved to the resolution stage although the actions apparently fail to meet state requirements that at least 24 hours of public notice be provided as it relates to “any proposed resolution, law, rule, regulation, policy or any amendment thereto, that is scheduled to be the subject of discussion by a public body during an open meeting.”

Of the total, $3.120,760 is being appropriated from some $9 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, most of which have been languishing in county coffers for months.

ARPA revenue allocations
Uses being proposed for the most recent allocation include:

– $55,000 to fund a Comprehensive Geographical Information System (GIS) study to improve County government operation efficiencies.

– $100,000 to match a state grant for the same amount to undertake a comprehensive sewer study for all of Allegany County.

– $475,000 for 40 new voting machines.

– $250,00 in initial costs for renovation of the former Episcopal church and parsonage on Willets Avenue in Belmont, to be used for undesignated purposes.

Some $50,000 of the total is expected to go to Hunt Engineering for design services, with the remainder for construction, although it is noted the total project is likely to cost more than that.

– $140,000 to purchase $80,000 in response software for a shared service project for county/EMS/fire and other agencies, with another $60,000 for the purchase and maintenance of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to be placed throughout county office buildings and complex.

– $300,000 to continue upgrading the county’s security system.

– $100,000 for CountyWide Information Technology.

– $300,000 for further county enhancements and improvements to technology.

County space needs
– $125,000 for a contract with Hunt Engineering for a County Wide Space Needs Study.

In the meantime, however, construction expenditures are being allocated:

– $1,150,000 for “miscellaneous building repairs,” including demolition of the Employment and Training Building on Wells Lane in Belmont, which already has taken place, and any drainage needs resulting from such activity, along with other county building repairs including repair/replacement of the existing original Courthouse roof.

– $100,000 for a third floor renovation at the County Office Building in Belmont for an unnamed purpose.

More retention bonus
– $25,760 to cover a “retention bonus” to County employees who worked under an average of 20 hours per week during the pandemic in 2020.

Last fall, county legislators, without notice and apparently in violation of state law public notice requirements, suddenly distributed $500,000 in similar bonuses to full-time employees.

Additional allocations were made at least twice at other times to specific healthcare-related workers, with those funds coming from the state.

Additional accounts allocations
In addition to ARPA expenditures, $1.3 million is proposed to be allocated from three other accounts:

– $650,000 from Committed Unappropriated Fund Balance (surplus), with a portion going to Hunt Engineering for State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) requirements and water and sewer design on a new County Road 51 at the Crossroads Development at State Route 19 and County Road 20, north of Belmont.

The cost, previously discussed at $450,000, would include some roadwork for the project.

There currently is no confirmed use for the road or the site, other than a proposal to make the area “site ready” for possible development of a hotel and two eating establishments.

The money is being allocated from $7.5 million in excess funds which the Board diverted from surplus two years ago for unnamed economic development purposes, of which only some 20 percent has been designated..

Earlier this year, legislators allocated $450,000 to the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which owns the Crossroads site. It appears the new money will raise the total allocation to date to $1.1 million.

– $150,000 from the county’s $1.25 million contingency account for repair/replacement of condenser units at the County Jail at Belmont, along with ongoing repairs to the Jail facility.

– $500,000 from the Assigned Unappropriated Fund Balance account for two years of expenditures as part of the Solid Waste Landfill Closure Capital Project.

The actions won’t address $16 million in surplus funds which, as Allegany Hope Community News has reported previously, is indicated in next year’s tentative budget for diversion to more unnamed purposes, rather than being used to lower taxes.

Next year’s budget is slated to be adopted at next week’s December 13 meeting of the Board of Legislators.