Jefferson County commissioners rank CARES act proposals

With finite funds, members struggle to whittle down $1M list

Faced with nearly 40 funding proposals worth just more than $1 million combined, the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners struggled to decide which would get a slice of the county’s $633,515 in coronavirus relief funds.

That money must be allotted and reported to the state Department of Commerce by Nov. 30. Chosen proposals must address immediate impacts of the pandemic, and those proposals must be eligible under the CARES Act or risk being found ineligible in an audit, which would put the county on the hook to pay back the money.

The commissioners spent about 45 minutes Monday afternoon deliberating on a process for ranking some 33 proposals from six community-based groups as well as six from other sources.

“Is it too late for my helicopter idea: We just drop small bills and let people scramble to pick them up,” Commissioner David Sullivan asked just before they broke for 10 minutes to rank all proposals on a scale of 1 to 5.

Upon their return, they compared their rankings and began to narrow the list. The board agreed to meet again Wednesday morning to finish parsing the proposals.

The broadband group, led by Kevin Streett, general manager of the Jefferson County Public Utility District, made six requests totaling $270,563. Primarily, it requested $190,000 in reimbursement for work done since March to construct 12 WiFi hotspots around the county, many of which were sited with input from school districts with the goal of serving students who lack internet service.

Among another five requests for a combined $80,563 is reimbursement for the Connected Students Initiative, which is a program of the Port Townsend nonprofit StrongerTowns that has connected students in 55 low-income households so far this year.

The children and families group, led by Commissioner Kate Dean, made seven requests totaling $133,000. Its top ask was to establish a family resources navigator through the YMCA for $55,000, which would pay, in part, for development of a user-friendly website and a phone line staffed by the navigator to connect families with resources, such as affordable childcare.

Among another six requests, that group sought $31,500 to ensure affordable childcare through the YMCA, $9,000 to establish a study lounge through Proctor House for students struggling with absenteeism and $7,000 for a fall public relations campaign to encourage community vigilance in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

The food system resiliency group — led by Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro, Crystie Kisler of Finnriver Farm & Cidery and WSU Jefferson County Extension Director Cliff Moore — made four requests totaling $70,000.

That group sought $25,000 for farmers to provide food to food banks, senior meal programs and school meal programs through the North Olympic Development Council’s Olympic Peninsula Farmers Fund. It also sought $25,000 for the Jefferson Farmers Markets Association’s SNAP match program and $10,000 to create and distribute food boxes to low-income families with school children.

The human services group — led by Port Townsend City Council member Ariel Speser, John Nowak, co-executive director of the Community Health Improvement Plan, and Olympic Neighbors President Bob Wheeler — made eight requests totaling $232,200.

That group’s top ask was $50,400 to add staff to keep the American Legion shelter open 24/7 through December, as well as $37,800 to provide one meal per day through the American Legion shelter.

Among another six requests, that group sought $50,000 for help paying utility bills, $15,000 for a case management navigator and $9,000 for tutors at OlyCAP’s youth support center.

The economy and jobs group, led by PUD Commissioner Jeff Randall and Team Jefferson EDC Director Brian Kuh, made three requests totaling $107,000, including $17,000 to complete a strategic plan for the Port Townsend Creative District, $40,000 to assist businesses with electric utility bills and $50,000 to design, produce and implement a Buy Jefferson website and marketing campaign.

The culture and events group, led by Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval, made five requests totaling $147,602. That included $48,000 for one of two 90-foot by 90-foot semi-permanent tents, with the other to be purchased with matching funds.

That group also sought $5,952 for hand-washing stations, $55,000 for a public restroom trailer, $15,000 for an air filtration system for Key City Public Theatre and $23,650 for an outdoor stage.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at [email protected].

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