The city of Arnold will seek nearly $600,000 of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funds from Jefferson County to cover the cost of cleaning and protective supplies and to upgrade its computer software.
City Council members voted 7-0 Aug. 20 to submit two CARES ACT requests totaling $593,432.04. Ward 2 Councilman Brian McArthur was absent from the meeting, which was held via the Zoom teleconferencing app.
Arnold will seek to be reimbursed for $72,398.04 it spent on cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment for employees to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
The city also is seeking a commitment from the county to grant Arnold $521,034 so the city can buy more cleaning and protective equipment as well as computer software to allow for more remote interaction between employees and residents.
“One (request) is for the money we have spent, which is pretty much for cleaning and disinfecting buildings and PPE supplies (because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus),” Richison said. “The second set is things we would like to do in response to COVID.”
Jefferson County will gets $26,406,492 through the CARES Act to help pay for expenses dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The county is allowing local governments, schools, nonprofit organizations and businesses to apply for grants.
Grants are meant to cover unexpected costs public and private entities incurred to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, County Executive Dennis Gannon said.
Entities applying for the money have to show the purchases were made between March 1 and Dec. 30, and that those purchases had not been budgeted of March 27, according to Arnold City Council documents.
Richison said city administrators from around the county told the County Council they needed assurances that money the cities spend on COVID-19 related items would be reimbursed.
“We don’t want to get caught in a situation where we buy things that we think are eligible and they disagree,” Richison said. “Then we would be left in a bad situation of spending money that we thought we would be reimbursed for.”
The majority of the $521,034 in CARES Act funds city officials hope to receive will be for software systems that allow for more remote interaction, Richison said.
“The emphasis of what we are asking for is to realign how we serve people and how employees are able to do their jobs,” Richison said. “When necessary, we would be able to allow employees to work with minimal contact with others, and citizens would be able to interact with us with minimal physical interaction. We are not sure what the future is, but if it is increasingly necessary to minimize contact with people, we want to be ready to do that.”
Richison said the new software would be cloud based.
“I want to get away from the old style of having everything on a server in the building,” he said.
Richison said one change that can occur if the city receives the CARES Act funds is that building permits will no longer need to be filed in person.
Currently, those seeking permits have to submit paperwork in person or email documents, which then have to be physically typed into the system by city staff. If Arnold can upgrade its system, people would be able to apply for permits online, and employees would not have to type in the data.
“We need a way for people to send us stuff digitally that can be integrated immediately, instead of needing to import and retype the information,” Richison said. “When you want to do things more remote and virtual, you need software that supports that.”