Fremont County supervisors considering loan for debris contract

In their July 22 meeting, the Fremont County Board of Supervisors heard about a possible way to pay the long-suffering contractor for 2019 flood debris removal.

Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius told the supervisors about a state revolving fund loan that may also be forgivable. The county has been chasing after FEMA reimbursement money for this contract for months, with little luck and continuous red tape snags.

Deputy Fremont County Attorney Tyler Loontjer suggested to the supervisors that applying for the loan might even get some response from FEMA. Crecelius added that he was concerned that the contractor might decide to sue the county if they didn’t get something done about paying him.

Loontjer pointed out that the county and the City of Hamburg also had a lot of house demolition coming up and it could be very hard to find contractors if they had a reputation for not paying their contractors or paying too slowly.

Supervisor Terry Graham expressed frustration, saying it was a “shame the county couldn’t just follow a process from start to finish” and get the money they were eligible for.

Supervisor Randy Hickey agreed, but said the bottom line was that the county needed to get the contractor paid. Crecelius agreed, and suggested once he was paid, documentation from that payment could be used to continue the battle with FEMA.

Loontjer asked Fremont County Auditor Dee Owen how bad it would be if the county just covered the contract rather than getting a loan. Owen indicated it could hurt, saying the county could cover it if they knew in advance they’d get the money back before the end of the fiscal year. Owen said she had stressed all along regarding FEMA reimbursement that the county needs to know when they would get reimbursed for purposes of the county’s accounting.

The supervisors considered potential improvements to the infrastructure and wind turbine projects, and increases that would result in taxes, and Owen said the next year would probably be the worst hump to get over before things started improving.

The supervisors questioned what they would do if the revolving loan wasn’t forgiven, and Loontjer suggested it should be, but if not the county would continue its fight for reimbursement for as long as it took.

The supervisors asked Owen to get more information about the revolving loan fund, including what can be used to repay it and terms for forgiveness, and will revisit the issue at the next supervisor meeting.

Crecelius asked the supervisors to pass a resolution adopting a financial reporting policy. Crecelius said he had applied for a COVID EMPG grant to purchase a drive-thru tent, and they requested a copy of the county’s financial reporting policy as part of their paperwork.

Owen said she does that kind of reporting, and the county does have a policy, but it wasn’t on paper. The supervisors approved passing a resolution spelling out that policy as soon as Loontjer gets it drafted, as Crecelius needed the paperwork that same week.

The supervisors approved signing an amended contract with Fremont County Title for abstracting services for the buyout. Loontjer explained the lump sum amount in the previous version was concerning to the contractor, who had bid her standard fee, so it was changed to a sum for up to 25 properties.

Loontjer said next steps will be sending out RFPs for asbestos inspection, asbestos mitigation and demolition.

In other business, the supervisors approved:

payment of a $8,266.62 voucher with HGM Associates for engineering/surveying services for roads J-34 and L-31;

renewal of Pilot Travel Center’s Class C Beer Permit/Sunday Sales Liquor License, and

removal of Chad Connolly’s home from the Buyout Program, leaving 20 homes to be bought by the county.

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