BEMIDJI -- The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners has begun the process of appropriating federal dollars it received in the last stimulus package.

Beltrami County is receiving a total of $9.16 million from the American Rescue Plan Act through the federal government. The first allotment of funding amounted to $4.58 million in May, with the second amount anticipated in May 2022.

During its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 7, the commissioners approved a resolution to formalize the county's acceptance of the funds and establish an APR oversight committee to ensure compliance with federal statutes and maintain county priorities and policies. In total, the county approved items recommended by the 2022 budget committee totaling $3.3 million.

"The remainder of the $4.6 million that we've already received is not allocated at this point," County Administrator Tom Barry said. "It's sitting in our bank account, and that's one of the reasons why the committee was established, to determine ongoing ARP requests."

The following items were included in the board's approval:

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  • An investment of $1.45 million in a new behavioral health crisis facility.
  • $530,000 for computer-assisted mass appraisal and tax software.
  • $200,000 for the coronavirus relief grant program.
  • $158,000 for public land surveying operations.
  • $135,000 for COVID-related salary contingency needs.
  • $110,950 for two temporary, contracted assistant county attorneys.
  • $60,000 for touchless faucets in county buildings.
  • $60,000 for new hand-pump water wells for the county.
  • $45,000 for upgrades to bathrooms in county buildings.
  • $31,500 for water bottle fillers at county buildings.
  • $30,000 for improved air filtration.
  • $30,000 for safety supplies.
  • $25,000 for a COVID quarantine leave program.
  • $25,000 in custodial supplies.

The largest item is funding for the new behavioral health center, which the county is partnering with Sanford Health on. Previously, Beltrami County assisted in getting state dollars to help move the project forward.

"There's about $3.5 million in state bonding money that originally went to the facility," Barry said. "Sanford Health donated the land and also donated $1 million for the project. Essentially, that got us to what we thought was the finish line. But with Sanford interested in providing additional services and because of COVID-related costs, the budget had a shortfall of about $1.45 million."

Barry said the ARP has allowances for mental health funding, giving the county the opportunity to use the funds on the new center. The facility will be located on Hannah Avenue and is the second time the two entities have worked together on mental health treatment.

The first effort was the PrimeWest Residential Support Center. Opened in 2019, the 6,500 square-foot building facility was remodeled with $1.2 million in state dollars and $1.5 million from Sanford.

Jail retention programs

Included in the motion to approve the ARP funds Tuesday were authorizations to meet special overtime needs for Beltrami County Jail employees and create retention programs to maintain staffing levels for the facility.

"It included items related to jail workers because the funding source for those overtime compensations is the ARP," Barry said. "It was to make sure those programs weren't approved without a funding source."

The Beltrami County Jail is working with less than half of the full staff it needs. In extraordinary circumstances, "exempt" employees, including the jail administrator and assistant jail administrator, can receive overtime.

RELATED: Committees formed for long-term Beltrami County Jail discussion

One of the items approved in the motion Tuesday was the board declaring an extraordinary circumstance because of the staffing issue, allowing overtime pay for hours worked outside of normal job duties and hours for those two employees. The action will sunset when the jail reaches a 65% staffing level.

Because staffing has been an ongoing issue, the motion also included the approval of several recruitment and retention programs, developed by the jail's task force. The programs include:

A staffing incentive. When the average quarterly staffing level for the jail is at 50% or less, employees will receive $721 per quarter in premium pay. Premium pay will come to $625 per quarter at staffing levels of 51%-60%, $551 per quarter at staffing levels of 61%-70% and $493 per quarter at staffing levels of 71%-80%.

An overtime program for unionized county jail workers. The program will pay double-time overtime for up to six hours during shifts that fill gaps in the jail's scheduling. The shifts will be offered until staffing reaches 70%.

Because of the staffing issues, providing PTO has become difficult to provide. The new program will provide a waiver ensuring employees don't lose PTO at the end of the year.

Barry said the programs related to the jail will come to $135,000.