The Wharton County Commissioners Court met at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 24 to authorize purchases utilizing CARES Act funding, including emergency response items for the East Bernard EMS in the name and memory of former commissioner Chris King.
The court voted to approve spending $73,000 to purchase items, including: a hydraulic stretcher and gurney; a power lift that raises the gurney into the ambulance; and a defibrillator or monitor.
According to Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath, Wharton County was awarded a maximum grant of $1,032,515.
“Like other entities, we were forwarded 20% upfront, totaling $206,503 with no match,” Spenrath told The County Gin. “We can spend (more than) the $206,000, but after that, all purchases are made with local funds first and then we can apply for reimbursement.”
All grant spending must be concluded by Dec. 31.
The spending guidelines are as follows:
75% must be used on medical-related items: purchase of masks and hand sanitizers; $40,000 for recent COVID-19 testing in the jail; payroll for public health safety (overtime pay for Wharton County OEM coordinator and deputy coordinator Andy Kirkland and Debbie Cenko); $73,000 for East Bernard ambulance.
25% for other COVID-related expenses: Wharton County is looking to purchase laptops, printers, firewall upgrades and more in case some departments must quarantine and work from home; purchases of plexiglass shields in most county offices; and 70 hand sanitizer stations for public areas in county buildings.
“We have currently spent around $65,000 (of the 20%), but there are plenty of bills coming,” Spenrath said.
Other Agenda Items
No action was taken on COVID, according to Spenrath; however, a brief update of the case numbers was provided at the time.
A public hearing on the proposed 2021 annual operating budget and the formal vote on the proposed tax rate, as well as the formal vote to adopt the operating budget was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 14 in the courtroom during the commissioners regularly-scheduled meeting.
Spenrath stressed, “Wharton County is not raising taxes. We lowered our tax rate to coincide with the Central Appraisal District’s (CAD) increase on local property valuation. If valuations go up, then taxing entities should lower their rate. If an entity is keeping their rate the same this year, they are almost certainly raising taxes. Property valuations have definitely risen across the country.”
For more information or to view agendas, visit the Wharton County website.