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County to request ARPA funding for public response building

On Tuesday morning, the county commissioners approved a grant application for funds that would be used to construct a new building to house the county’s emergency response departments under a single roof.

The application will be submitted to the State Lands and Investments Board (SLIB) for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

The building would be known as the Crook County Consolidated Public Response Facility and would contain space for three individual departments.

“It’s for fire, emergency management, search and rescue,” said Commissioner Bob Latham.

Winter is tough on the equipment used by these emergency response departments, Latham said. A new building will reduce the required maintenance and will also ensure that the resources needed to combat an emergency are warm and ready to go when needed.

It will also provide more space for the departments, which Latham said are sorely in need of it.

Chairman Fred Devish stated that it is his desire to build something that will last into the future. As an added advantage, he said, it could also be utilized as a potential back-up location for continuity of local government should something happen to the courthouse building.

“Between the three entities, we don’t have enough room for one entity,” he said.

The commission has requested a total of $2,153,700 for the project through the Local Government Project ARPA program, which will have $50 million to disperse. However, pointed out Devish, the board will likely be considering more than $300 million’s worth of requests for that pot of money.

“SLIB is very understanding of the smaller counties and lower tax base,” said Latham. However, he said, this is still, “a shot in the dark”.

The county is asking for the project to be 100% funded through the grant, but is expecting SLIB to request somewhere between 5% and 25% in matching funds. Any higher than that, Devish said, and the commission will likely turn down the money as it would not be affordable.

“It would be an in-kind match, I don’t believe we’re going to dip into the general fund or anything else,” Devish said.

In response to a question from an audience member about whether there are any strings attached to the money, Latham said, “Not that we can find.” That’s the beauty of the federal money being given to SLIB, he said: it allows the county to work directly with the state, under the state’s rules.

Land has already been purchased for the building in the industrial zone of Sundance. It was purchased a couple of years ago for what Devish described as a good deal from Croell Companies, coming in at $100,000 for five acres of commercial land.

The property already has water, sewer, electricity and paved streets, Devish added.

During an informal discussion after the special meeting had been adjourned, a member of the audience asked if the commission is considering moving towards creating a special district for fire. Neither Latham nor Devish was particularly interested in the idea.

“Right now, I think what we have works,” said Devish.

While there are definitely advantages to a district from the perspective of a firefighter, Latham said, “On the other side of it, I don’t want to raise taxes.”

A resolution to submit the grant was passed via motion during the special meeting on Tuesday morning. Devish and Latham voted to approve, while Commissioner Kelly Dennis voted against it.

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