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The Sanpete Messenger

Ephraim finalizing list of projects for CARES funding

Ephraim finalizing list of projects

for CARES funding

 

By Lloyd Call

Associate publisher

10-29-2020

 

EPHRAIM—From now until the end of the year, Ephraim is deciding where it will spend $648,000 in CARES money from the federal government.

CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) money is allocated to help entities that have been financially impacted from COVID-19. It has been set aside for states, and through states, for counties and municipalities.

There is significant confusion and conflicting information about whether cities have to follow state rules, federal rules, or both in what CARES money can be used for. Cities have been afraid to take the money because if it can’t prove the money was used for COVID-approved projects, it might have to be repaid.

Ephraim talked to auditor John S. Haderlie, CPA, with Larson & Company, who said, “There is not official guidance anywhere on how CARES money needs to be spent from the state. There are guidelines on how it could be spent, but they are vague.”

Haderlie said his audits will be conducted on federal audit requirements, not on state requirements. “There will not be any additional documentation for projects that concern public safety and health,” he said.

Because CARES funds can be used for any COVID expenses back to when the pandemic first started in March, cities may already have spent money for COVID-related projects, and CARES funds may be considered as a reimbursement for expenses it has already incurred.

Because the money must be spent before the end of the year, Ephraim is working to refine its very large list of possible projects. On Wednesday, they whittled it down to “A” projects that they definitely wanted, and have been approved, pending quotes. Other projects were rated “B” as second priorities, and other projects were rated “C” or cancelled outright.

First priority for COVID funds is for city emergency medical services. Ephraim City has borne the brunt of COVID transports to northern hospitals, and has dedicated one of its two ambulances for it. The Ephraim Ambulance Association asked the county for help in getting a new ambulance (the price tag for a new, fully-loaded ambulance is about over $300,000).

As of Tuesday, Sanpete County Auditor Stacey Lyon reported that the county is in process of buying four new ambulances, one for each Sanpete ambulance association. A more complete story on this will be in next week’s Messenger.

Other “A” projects are: Help for Ephraim Elementary and Middle Schools to buy bathroom cleaning machines, water bottle filling stations and hand sanitizer stations.

Reimbursement for paid sick and pandemic leave for unbudgeted sick leave mandated by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Items for the city recreation program, such as baseball and softball helmets, catcher’s gear, umpire facemasks, etc. to restrain COVID spread at athletic events among participants.

The city will purchase three self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) sets for the fire department for about $7,000, and the county fire district is buying seven more for Ephraim. The fire district wants to make sure all Sanpete firefighters have the same upgraded equipment so if they meet on a combined action, firefighters can share equipment, if needed. The fire department will also get some backup protective fire clothing.

            Other “A” projects that the city is still reviewing for consideration include computers, camera systems, additional masks etc. for staff members, automatic doors to reduce touching, auto flushing toilets, hand sanitizing stations, ultraviolet HVAC system in city building, furniture that is easier to disinfect, additional ambulance equipment, signage for COVID-19, Elder Care Program with masks and supplies, pandemic and continuity plan of operations, restocking stock of the city’s personal protective equipment, library sanitizing and a SCADA system, a computer for monitoring critical city systems.

            The city knows there will not be enough money to fund all these projects, but from now until the end of the year it will continue to evaluate and get bids on where the CARES money should be spent.

            Finally, the city reviewed plans to improve the city’s sewer system in a two to three block area. Eleven blocks have been targeted as needing repairs, but the city has to do these projects a few blocks at a time due to finances.