Local government

Malheur County not ready to share its huge federal windfall

VALE – A year after more than a dozen organizations asked the county to share federal funds to meet local needs, officials are still focused on using the extra cash to pay for internal infrastructure upgrades.
The county is still sitting on more than $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act and Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency funds.
So far, the county has committed some of the money, including a $2 million to the Treasure Valley Reload Center project and $1.4 million to buy a warehouse for county equipment. In July, the court also decided to pay off a $1.3 million in bank debt owed by the Malheur County Development Corporation for the reload center.
The county has also earmarked $900,000 for a new computer system for the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office. The county used federal funds for several other projects at the Malheur County Jail – such as a new booking station, security cameras, showers and a kitchen remodel.
Last year, more than a dozen local organizations and cities asked the county to allocate some of the money for a variety of projects. The money came to the county through federal legislation and had not been expected.
Cities like Jordan Valley and Vale and organizations such as Project DOVE in Ontario, and Pioneer Place in Vale, asked for funding before the Malheur County Court decided in March to place a moratorium on handing out any cash.
At that time, county officials promised they would create a formal application process to request funds. That hasn’t happened, according Jacobs.
Ron Jacobs, Malheur County commissioner, said officials are still committed to spending money for county needs. When those needs are met he said officials could review requests from other organizations.
“I feel like there are some opportunities to help some of those people who asked. I don’t want them to think we won’t consider their ask. They are just going to have to justify it and we will have to determine whether or not funding is available,” he said.
Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, said the court hopes “the money will last for those other requests.”
“We will see how far we can take it,” he said.
Jacobs said previously the county needs to focus on several projects, including a major upgrade to the Malheur County Road Department facilities. Officials plan to expand the road department’s shop, said Jacobs.
Joyce said he wants to use the money “to do the most good, period.”
“There has been projects in the county that have been there for years,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

Previous coverage:

County leaves requests for financial help for organizations and agencies in limbo

Malheur County still sitting on millions with no plan for how to use the federal bonus

County taps budget to pay reload debt, project on ‘short pause’

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