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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — On Monday morning the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) met for what they expected to be the final time in 2021.

Monday’s agenda included many allocations of remaining CARES funds, and an item to transfer all leftover CARES money to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust). While the allocations recommended by the Budget Evaluation Team were all approved, a legal opinion rendered the item to transfer leftover money to the Trust moot.

At Monday’s meeting, the Commissioners chose a consulting firm to give guidance on spending of American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

In the following meeting of the Public Buildings Authority, funds were transferred to complete the renovation of the sixth floor of the County Courthouse Annex, and an item to sell the Krowse Building was stricken from the agenda.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

CARES Allocations

The Budget Evaluation Team for the County brought five items to Monday’s meeting for allocation of most of the County’s remaining CARES Act funds. Each of those items was unanimously approved by the Commissioners.

They include:

  • $1,061,623.12 to the Employee Benefits Fund
  • $210,000 to the Juvenile Department for Salaries and Benefits
  • $339,100 to the Sheriff’s Office for Salaries and Benefits
  • $21,530 to Emergency Management for Salaries and Benefits
  • $12,390 to Oklahoma Industries Authority for administrative expenses

After those allocations were agreed to, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey asked for a total amount of leftover CARES funds.

Danny Lambert of the County Clerk’s Office stated that the remaining amount in the CARES reserve is $164,171.76.

The deadline for using those funds is the end of this month.

Leftover transfer

Calvey had two items on Monday’s agenda, both related to the Jail Trust. The first item appeared to be a request for guidance from the Trust. At present, the Trust has a balance of $754,280.39 that is earmarked for salaries and benefits. The Trust wishes to use that money for other purposes in the Jail.

The Trust is a separate legal entity and is not controlled by the BoCC. Hence, money already in the coffers of the Trust can be spent however the Trust sees fit.

District 1 County Commissioner Carrie Blumert voiced concern about setting a precedent for “giving permission” to the Trust to spend their own money. Calvey agreed that he would not want to set that precedent.

When asked, ADA Aaron Etherington said that the Jail Trust does not need the permission or guidance of the BoCC for spending or transferring of money already in the possession of the Trust.

The item was stricken.

The next item was related to the leftover CARES money. Calvey asked that the remaining funds be transferred to the Jail Trust to address COVID-related issues in the Jail. While the other two Commissioners were on board to do so, rather than let the funds be returned to the Federal Government.

However, Etherington spoke up again, saying that the item needed to have an amount in it for it to be legal. Instead, the wording of the item simply identified “remaining CARES Act funds.” According to Etherington, the item should have a dollar amount not to be exceeded.

Calvey asked rhetorically, “So if it said $100 million it would be okay?”

“Well, yes, because you can always go below, but not above.”

The item was likewise stricken. A special meeting will be called before the end of the year to hear that re-worded item.

ARPA Consultants

With American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds already being disbursed in tranches to cities, counties, and states across the country, creating a plan to effectively and legally use that money is a high priority for our local County government.

In pursuit of that, a call for bids was put out and the Policy and Governance Committee reviewed the bids and narrowed down the field to three best bidders.

Those three companies were Accenture, BridgeRM, and Ernst & Young.

Representatives from each of those three firms were present at Monday’s meeting to answer any questions the Commissioners may have.

Each of the firms is doing this sort of consulting work across the country. All have done consulting work with government bodies concerning CARES funds.

The Policy and Governance Committee was asked what criteria led them to select these three firms.

Michael Taylor, District 2 Chief Deputy, said that these three each have a local presence and that costs were looked at closely.

Joe Blough, District 1 Chief Deputy said that he placed the firms into tiers based on criteria, but that most of his questions had to do with costs since these firms all do similar work.

Chantel Boso, from Purchasing, explained that she was interested in the individual points of contact for each firm, as well as their knowledge of state and federal laws governing these sorts of programs.

District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan pointed out that the Deputies from Districts 1 and 3 voted differently than his deputy, so he expected that to be the firm of choice.

And so, Blumert moved to choose Accenture, Calvey seconded, and the choice was affirmed unanimously.

PBA

During the meeting of the Public Buildings Authority, the restoration of the sixth floor of the County Courthouse Annex was on the agenda.

Bob Ravitz, head of the Public Defender’s Office, was on hand to speak to this project.

county building
The north and east sides of the Investors Capitol Building where county offices were until renovations started. It is attached to the Oklahoma County Annex to the west. (file, BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

According to Ravitz, it’s been almost four years since he was promised his department would be back in their offices in a year.

For now, PDs are spread out in four locations, there are almost no private offices, making it very difficult to communicate confidentially with clients. Ravitz noticed that the District Attorney’s offices were returned to their location quickly when the renovations began.

After his comments, the body voted to transfer $1.7 million to the Capital fund for the renovation project.

One item was stricken from the PBA agenda.

That item was to potentially sell the Krowse Building to the Oklahoma Military Department. 

The building was originally the Krowse Army Reserve Center. Then it was the temporary home of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation during the rebuild of their permanent offices on Lincoln Boulevard south of the Capitol.

move
The Krowse Building at NE 36th Street and Martin Luther King Avenue is owned by Oklahoma County and is home to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office in 2021. (file, Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

The Krowse Building is where the Sheriff’s Office was moved when they departed the County Detention Center.

The item in question stated that the proceeds of the sale be allocated to the purpose of acquiring or constructing new facilities for the Sheriff.

When the item came up, Calvey immediately moved to strike it. With no discussion, the item was stricken unanimously.

The next regular meeting of the BoCC will be on January 3 at 9:00 a.m.

A special meeting will be called before the end of the year, but the day and time were not posted by the time of publication.


Last Updated December 20, 2021, 12:31 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor