HARRISVILLE - Alcona County Sheriff Doug Atchison spent part of his vacation Wednesday seeking help from the Alcona County Board of Commissioners to pay for some Homeland Security purchases in advance.
The county has been serving as fiduciary agent for more than $2.2 million in Homeland Security grant funds for Region 3, a 14-county area along the shores of Lake Huron, from Alcona County across the Thumb and southward.
Atchison said his grant request of $50,000 was approved through federal agency channels and will allow him to buy laptop computers and E-Ticket software for patrol cars. But there is a hitch. For the ticketing software, he must come up with $7,500 in advance as downpayment before he can place the order. He also must provide a hefty downpayment for the onboard computers. So he was asking the county commissioners if there was any money available in its budget to cover those costs.
The $50,000 grant cannot be used as a down payment, and is only a form of reimbursement once items are purchased, officials said.
Alcona County Treasurer Cheryl Franks said it takes anywhere from 30 to 60 days or more for the county to be reimbursed for the purchases it makes.
"You have to have copies of canceled checks and postings are done every Friday by the other agencies involved," she said.
"I've got $50,000 coming, but I can't buy the stuff without upfront money all through the Homeland Security grants," Atchison said, adding he might have to walk away from the government grant. "There are counties that have actually backed out because they didn't have the upfront money."
Commissioner Carolyn Brummund was able to rescue millions of dollars in Homeland grants by convincing the other commissioners to pursue the job of fiduciary agent early last year. As a result, the county is expecting to earn tens of thousands of dollars in administration fees, which will help its own coffers. But federal government rules and regulations have been challenging.
"There was upfront money, then in late February there was a change of leadership and up front money was no longer allowed," she said. "It would be extremely advantageous to the county to come up with $7,500 in upfront money to get that going."
Brummund said she would contact the county's program manager, Tim London, to see if there is a solution. Franks and Commissioner Kathy Vichunas said they also would check the budget and the law to see if any county revenues could serve as a temporary loan until the reimbursements are made.
The onboard computers and E-Ticket system, used in larger municipalities, would improve the efficiency of county patrols and management, official have said in the past.
Meanwhile, county officials are in the process of creating their budget for 2014 and are hoping to have a rough document ready for review around Dec. 3, Chairman Kevin Boyat said. The unknown is that no one yet knows for sure what health insurance costs will be, given the state of flux with the national program.
In other businesss:
* the board approved payment of bills from Nov. 6 through Nov. 20 of $268,789, including one for 46 cents.
* the board heard a report from Thompson that the Department of Environment Quality inspected test wells at the count dump and said eight of them can be closed now. He said the Alcona County Road Commission said it would cost, at most, around $3,800 for their crews to do the work. The crews would have to dig down two feet, cut off the pipe and fill the area with bentonite, a clay that absorbes large quantities of water.
* the board will begin updating an inventory of equipment and other assets at the courthouse and its other locations, taking a cue from a fire that destroyed the Alcona County road maintence garage and its contents in September.
* the board met in closed session to discuss negotiations with emergency medical response personnel.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.