WORTHINGTON — With $118,547.43 in undesignated Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, Nobles County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to issue second checks to all 259 businesses and 42 nonprofits who were previously approved for funding.

Divided equally, the second checks will amount to just under $400.

The decision came after considerable discussion about how best to use the remaining dollars before the Dec. 1 deadline. Money not spent by that date must be returned to the State of Minnesota.

Collaborating with the city of Worthington throughout the process of awarding funds through a Small Business Grant Assistance Program, Deputy Nobles County Administrator Bruce Heitkamp said the stimulus impact countywide was approximately $4 million.

The bulk of the funds was awarded to small businesses, with nonprofits receiving a combined $1,915,917. Nobles County hospitals and clinics will share in $125,000; schools will share in $165,000, and Emergency Medical Services will split $175,000.

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Another $37,305.58 was dedicated for county personnel to replenish funds paid out while staff were either quarantined or out sick with COVID-19.

Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson advised commissioners that it would be appropriate to pay public health salaries with the remaining dollars. Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson also encouraged the county to keep the remaining funds and dedicate them to expenses incurred due to the pandemic.

“You have incurred incredible expenses from staff time,” Robinson said. “I recommend you use those funds to bring yourselves back after covering some of the enormous costs.”

Robinson said there was a lot of inequity in the small business grant program created by the city and the county. The smallest of businesses received $7,500, which for some was a windfall and for others barely scratched the level of money lost as a result of the pandemic.

While Commissioners Justin Ahlers and Gene Metz initially supported the idea of dedicating the remainder of the funds to the county, Commissioner Donald Linssen said more money should be given to the nonprofits and businesses that received the least amount of $2,500.

Commissioner Matt Widboom went a step further, saying that while he understands the comments about the county using the funds to replenish what it lost, he wanted to see all of the remaining dollars used to help the communities.

“We know we’ve still got people that could use the dollars hugely,” Widboom said.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the sale of $9,555,000 in general obligation water revenue refunding bonds for Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water. The amount represents two general obligation bonds originally secured in 2011. By completing a refunding and sale, LPRW will see a net savings in interest of $1,855,000 on the life of the 30-year bond.

  • Set the following 2021 salaries for elected officials: $72,596 for County Recorder Thelma Yager (2.95% increase); $93,746 for County Attorney Joseph Sanow (2.2% increase); $125,920 for Sheriff Kent Wilkening (2.86% increase); $88,192 for Auditor-Treasurer Joyce Jacobs (5.9% increase); and $20,259 for county commissioners (no increase). There were split votes of 3-2, with Ahlers and Metz opposed, for the auditor-treasurer’s salary increase; and 3-2, with Linssen and Bob Demuth opposed, on the county commissioners’ salaries. The per diem rate to compensate county commissioners for attending meetings will remain at $150 per day.

  • Approved final payment of $10,586.15 to Greystone Construction for construction of a salt and sand storage facility at the county highway shop in Adrian. The total project cost was $211,723.

  • Authorized advertisement for bids to repair damage to gravel roads in 2019. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reviewed the damage and has approved funding for the repairs. The work is scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2021.

  • Approved filling vacancies for two full-time correctional officer positions at the Nobles County Jail, and a full-time public health nurse position in the county’s Community Services department.

  • Approved the extension of a professional services agreement with Erik Skogquist to assist with the completion of the 2021 assessment. Extending the agreement will cost $12,860, which will be paid from the county assessor’s budget.

  • Approved a one-year union contract with Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc., which includes a 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) with double-time pay for employees who work on Christmas Day.

  • Approved a one-year non-union compensation plan with a 2% COLA.

  • Approved a 2021 custodial contract with Marsden, who provides cleaning services at the Nobles County Government Center, Library and Public Works buildings. The contract includes a 2% increase over 2020.

  • Appointed Michelle Ebbers, Public Health Supervisor, to the county’s Emergency Management Planning Advisory Committee.

  • Received an update from the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force. The task force is currently working on 150 cases in the three counties it serves — Nobles, Murray and Pipestone. It has made 34 drug arrests this year and 45 arrests for non-drug offenses, and has seized drugs amounting to a street value of $75,000, reported Commander Chris Lewis.

Nobles County Deputy Sheriff Chris Dybevick said the majority of the arrests would not have been made if not for the work of the task force.