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Kootenai County commissioners spending more than $27 million of federal funds in county projects

The lion’s share of the funds, $22 million, will go toward an addition to the Justice Building located on the county’s main campus in Coeur d’Alene.
Credit: CDA Press

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Kootenai County will spend a little more than $27 million of a $32 million share of federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.

At a special meeting Wednesday, Commissioners Leslie Duncan and Chris Fillios voted to approve the projects recommended by the Kootenai County ARPA Task Force.

Commissioner Bill Brooks was excused from the meeting and did not vote.

Per federal guidelines, ARPA dollars are to be used for the direct or indirect response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The lion’s share of the funds — $22 million — will go toward an addition to the Justice Building located on the county’s main campus in Coeur d’Alene.

The expansion will add three courtrooms, as well as a secure detention area and office space for the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, district court employees, prosecutors and other county staff.

Duncan said the expansion is badly needed. The county currently has more judges than courtrooms, which makes scheduling a challenge. There’s not enough space for staff.

“Our bailiffs and our court clerks are literally packed like sardines,” she said.

Sheriff Bob Norris previously criticized the Justice Building project, urging commissioners to instead commit the funds to the unfinished jail expansion.

However, federal guidelines forbid using ARPA funds to expand jail capacity in response to an increased crime rate or a need for physical distancing.

In its report, the ARPA task force said the additional Justice Building facilities will enable the court to fully address the case backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duncan said that providing adequate facilities is an important part of supporting the justice system and protecting the rights of individuals.

“Being former law enforcement, I’m very sensitive to justice needs,” she said.

The county received about $99 million in requests for funding — more than three times what the rescue funds can cover.

Of the 44 eligible projects, the task force recommended that 13 receive full or partial funding:

• Kootenai County BOCC: Addition to Justice Building — $22 million

• Kootenai County BOCC: Admin Campus HVAC — $2 million

• Kootenai County Prosecutor: Family Justice Center Study — $175,000

• Kootenai County Coroner: Mobile Morgue Trailer — $6,000

• Kootenai County EMS: Ambulance Purchase Needs — $1 million

• Kootenai County EMS: Reimbursement of COVID-19 PPE & Misc. Expenses — $14,000

• Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office: Jail Generator Upgrade — $550,000

• Kootenai County Buildings & Grounds: Juvenile Detention Center HVAC

• Children’s Village: Premium Pay for Non-Executive Staff — $291,000

• On Site for Seniors: Operational Costs — $125,000

• CDAIDE: Direct and Staffing Costs for Care Program — $50,000

• Wellspring Meadows: Direct Care Retention and Sign-On Bonuses — $332,000

• IT Department: Cybersecurity and Data Backup — $500,000

The task force recommended that the remaining funds be set aside for future waves of COVID-19 or additional requests.

Read the task force’s full report at  www.kcgov.us/997/American-Rescue-Plan-Act.

The funds must be obligated by 2024 and expended by 2026.

After that deadline, any unspent funds will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.

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