By Dave Taylor
The county got a little good financial news to temper some of the recent bad news when the state announced that the Hancock County Fiscal Court had been awarded a grant totaling $186,677 to reimburse expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act through the governor’s office and the Department of Local Government.
“Those funds will certainly help in this challenging time,” said judge-executive Johnny “Chic” Roberts.
The county is facing a decrease in state road funds potentially totaling $650,000, based on indications so far, so the CARES money helps offset some of the known expenses.
“It does have to be COVID related,” he said. “We can’t do something else with those funds. You can’t obviously blacktop roads or something.”
The nearly $187,000 is earmarked for reimbursing the county for EMS payroll related to the pandemic.
But it’s possible there could be more funds coming in the future.
“You’re eligible up to a certain amount,” he said, adding that he thinks the number is based on population.
“We’re allowed to, if we accumulate some more, go up and re-apply for that,” he said. “Some counties may choose to do it once, some may go multiple times.”
“I think by the end of the year we’ll be able to do that too, go back and look at some costs associated with this COVID and go from there,” he said.
The county also got good news that came from a tip from a citizen, which led to a ten-fold increase in revenues from an old contract.
“For several years we’ve had a contract with Mulzer’s. They do some dredging on our side of the river,” Roberts said. “Richard Waitman had asked me several months ago about that, about how much the county takes in on this.”
In the existing five-year contract the county received $1,000 a year and 6 cents a ton of dredged material, although the tonnage fee came out of the $1,000, meaning it might never total more than $5,000 for the full term.
Roberts looked into the contract and found that it was set to renew in August 2020, so he asked around about what kinds of numbers the county should be getting.
“What we’ve renegotiated and have a verbal commitment is that we have agreed to $10,000 annually plus 12 cents a ton,” he said.
And that per-ton amount doesn’t count toward the annual payment, meaning the county will now receive at least $50,000 plus an amount if the company does any dredging.
“That was just a citizen being aware and concerned about the community that helped us look at that,” he said.