Crow Wing County uses more pandemic recovery funds for mental health and court backlog – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD – An additional $2.58 million in federal coronavirus relief funds will be used to address some of the lasting impacts of the pandemic in Crow Wing County.

County commissioners have agreed to allocate American Rescue Plan Act dollars for a number of internal uses, including new positions to work on the backlog of court cases, address mental health issues, respond to the increase in domestic violence and reduce incarceration.

The council also funneled funds to the county’s three sanitary sewer districts – which did not directly receive allocations as other local governments did – for capital improvements under bailout provisions. encouraging investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

The money for the various priorities comes from the county’s $12.6 million funding pot distributed through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, part of the overall federal relief program. Crow Wing has so far received half of those funds and distributed about $4 million of the $6.3 million.

Previous allocations include approximately $1.93 million for county capital improvement projects, including a new courtroom and body scanner at the jail; approximately $1.23 million for broadband expansion projects in Lake Edward and Long Lake Townships; approximately $800,000 to existing and future child care centres; and $50,000 for eviction, seizure, or utility assistance.

County Administrator Tim Houle said other broadband projects supported by stimulus funds are underway. Funds provided by this legislation must be designated to be spent by 2024 and spent by 2026, meaning the county has time to determine how they will be spent. Replacing lost public sector revenue by providing government services up to the amount lost due to the pandemic is a permitted use.

“It seems prudent to sit back for a while and wait to see what happens in the economy by then and if we need more resources for that,” Houle said. “And so I think we’re trying to take a very cautious and careful approach.”

  • $569,128 to the Crow Wing County District Attorney’s Office for increased legal capacity to address case backlogs resulting from the pandemic. The funding would cover the equivalent of four full-time positions for two lawyers and two paralegals for two years. Positions can be contract or full-time.
  • $305,653 to Crow Wing County Community Services for a mental health intervention pilot project. The funding would cover one full-time equivalent position to address mental health needs and to support street law enforcement with mental health needs within the community.
  • $277,380 community-based domestic violence intervention services. The money would fund a full-time equivalent position in community corrections to address post-pandemic increases in domestic violence, including assessment, training and technology costs for two years.
  • $251,380 to community services to work on alternatives to incarceration. A full-time equivalent community corrections position will be added for work resulting from the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ efforts to reduce incarceration rates and provide alternatives, including supervision and related costs for two years.
  • $250,000 to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office for the replacement of existing public safety radios throughout the Sheriff’s Office and Jail.
  • $200,000 to the Family Services Collaborative of the Lakes Area to support the organization’s future independence from government funding. The collaboration was originally a joint effort between school districts, the federal government, and county governments to tap into federal resources for various children’s social work programs. In October 2021, Houle said other federal resources were slowly drying up.
  • $169,014 to community services for assignment to a full-time equivalent position in community corrections for needs resulting from the backlog.
  • $115,000 to Crow Wing County Human Resources for the expansion and continued support of the peer support team within the county to support mental wellness.
  • $110,000 at Serpent Lake Sanitary Sewer District to replace its supervisory control and data acquisition system. The system alerts operators to any problems with pumps, flow meters and other system components to prevent sewer backups.
  • $100,000 to community services for use towards a shared regional position to work on a mental health continuum project. The position would aim to improve local mental health services.
  • $71,825 to Crow Wing County Administrative Services to update the technology in Ground Services Meeting Rooms 1 and 2 to enable remote meeting capabilities.
  • $67,233 to the Garrison-Kathio Sewer Management District to replace its communications system used to alert operators of problems and prevent sewer backups.
  • $52,000 to the North Long Lake Sanitary Sewer District to replace and raise four manholes to control storm water infiltration. Manholes are currently too low, according to the district, which means rain events can cause flooding in the system.
  • $50,000 for county human resources to support a COVID-19 paid leave bank for employees with less than 91 days of employment. The bank would cover up to 40 hours of paid leave needed for quarantine after exposure or contraction of COVID-19.

CHELSEY PERKINS, Community Editor, can be reached at 218-855-5874 or

chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com

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twitter.com/DispatchChelsey

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