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Nobles County board splits $1 million in ARPA funds between 11 communities

Not everyone who applied for the money received it.

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WORTHINGTON — Nobles County will give $1 million of the $4.2 million it received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to 11 local communities, its Board of Commissioners decided Wednesday during a special session.

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Not everyone who applied for the money received it; Bigelow Township had asked for funding for gravel and a bridge replacement, and Ransom County had requested it for roadway and culvert infrastructure improvements, and both were left off the list of funded projects.

A request from the city of Worthington was turned down, and the tiny city of Kinbrae, population 10 in 2020, was the only incorporated city that did not request funds from the county, and as such was also left off the list.

All 11 cities and unincorporated communities will receive the same amount of money, $90,909, regardless of how much was asked. Because Leota made two requests, one for the Leota Water District and another for the Leota Wastewater District, its $90,909 will be divided equally between the two entities.

Commissioner Justin Ahlers voted against all the allocations, as he said the money should be used on crack-sealing, seal-coating and other road maintenance in order to save Nobles County taxpayers money.

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Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. pointed out that the board had already discussed the idea of putting funds from ARPA into roads and had already voted on it.

“And it’s a done deal. So don’t bring it up again, Mr. Ahlers,” Demuth added.

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“I’ll vote against every one of these,” Ahlers said.

The board has been discussing how to spend the funds from its ARPA allocation since fall 2021, and received $36 million worth of requests for projects from a number of groups including Lewis & Clark Rural Water System and Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water.

At one point, the board decided to spend $2 million on a broadband project meant to bring high-speed internet to 6,300 rural county residents, only to find out it couldn’t. The board opted to use funds from wind turbine taxes to fund the broadband project instead.

Then Nobles County was told counties could use up to $10 million of their ARPA funds as “lost revenue” and use the money to provide general government services, effectively freeing them to use the funds for their own projects as they saw fit.

The county board opted to designate the funds as lost revenue and use some of it on county projects, but commissioners still wanted to distribute some funds to smaller local governments within Nobles County, and agreed to designate $1 million for that purpose.

In other news Wednesday, the board:

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  • Received a “fair and clean” audit report for Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water and learned that the organization added 84 new customers last year and has made 788 connections in Nobles County to date.
  • Voted unanimously to appropriate $4,000 for the Southwest Small Business Development Center,
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    which provides technical services to businesses and people within its 18-county region. The SBDC had received appropriations prior to 2022, but had not been included in the 2022 budget.
  • Approved agreements for IT professional services and for data server hosting through Nobles County.
  • Agreed to pursue a “Grow Your Own” talent initiative to help combat workforce shortages, starting with asking representatives of Martin County to visit the Nobles County Commission to answer questions about Martin County’s program.
  • Approved a contract for $400 a month with Emily Falk to oversee the county’s law library.
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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