The room was crowded during the regular Monday meeting of the County Commissioners on Sept. 13, with employees from District 1, the usual county employees, and a few with what some viewed as an attempt to disrupt business.
A man who refused to give his name blurted out questions without being recognized, and read from prepared statements about the American Rescue Plan Act funds. He asked how the commissioners planned to help him and his five sons he home-schools. He alternated accusations with comments, laughing as he caused the meeting to run more than an hour long.
When a few deputies entered the room and quietly stood by, the man seemed to calm down.
The commissioners managed to complete the business of the morning, despite disruptions on every agenda item.
Approved were two items related to ambulance services, to provide $400,000 for an ambulance and equipment for EMS and $500,000 for a central dispatch, equipment and remodel of the facility behind the courthouse. The Cherokee Nation is donating part of the building for the central EMS dispatch. Cherokee Nation Marshals will occupy the other part of the building.
"This will help the county as a whole to get a contract and resources we need for EMS," said Emergency Manager Dianna Yell. “It’s putting priorities where they’re most needed."
County Commissioner Sam Chandler said First Responders are volunteers.
“They go into houses where COVID is, or wrecks where they don’t know what there is. I’m for premium pay for county employees, but we have to look at what helps everybody,” said Chandler.
Wininger had an agenda item to give $5,000 to each county employee, but it didn’t pass.
“When this [pandemic] started, this courthouse stayed open. It was nightmare. The government said we can give this money to employees, and I think we should,” Mike Wininger said.
Chandler said the auditor told him "premium pay" is for getting vaccinated.
“I’m not saying people need to get vaccinated. I’m just telling you we need to wait for the guidelines,” said Chandler.
The premium pay is also determined by how long an employee has worked and the pay scale.
“It’s also figured by a formula about how much money the county lost. A lot of people worked through the pandemic,” Chandler said.
Commissioner Larry Wood said he thinks the employees deserve the pay.
“Do I think our employees should get $5,000? No, I think they should get $100,000, but we have to go by the guidelines,” said Wood.
Schools and water districts are also asking for ARA funds, but those agenda items were tabled. There were letters from all the schools showing shortfalls, but that was tabled. Each rural water district will be asked to turn in a plan.
Chandler said the schools he’s talked to are having trouble spending the money they have received from the ARA plan in ways that meet the guidelines.
“We should wait and give them time, see what they need,” Chandler said.
A contract with Steve Garrett for his expertise in administrative guidance with the American Recoveries Act funds was tabled to give commissioners time to consider it.
Chandler said he spoke with the state auditor and they’ll be sending guidelines.
“Steve [Garrett]’s been helping us all along and there are things a grant writer like him would know," Wininger said. “I’ve talked to others about helping and they want 6 percent. Steve would get $50 an hour not to exceed $20,000.”
It was noted the 6 percent would come to about a quarter of a million of the ARA funds.
Wood said he appreciates all the help Garrett has given.
No contract was provided by Pafford so that item was tabled.
Bridges are up for inspection and the commissioners approved the agreement to be compliant with the National Bridge Inspection Standards.
In her COVID report, Yell noted 345 active positive cases in Adair County.
“We have plenty of sanitizer available at Mid-County and the Cherokee Nation provides it free to us, so I go resupply as needed,” Yell said.