Supervisors green-light use of ARPA funds for Pine Crest losses, parks, marketing
By Jalen Maki
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding earmarked for Lincoln County is slated to be allocated to a variety of areas.
During its meeting on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors approved eight resolutions, under which a total of about $4 million of funding will go towards covering losses at Pine Crest Nursing Home, implementing electronic timekeeping software for County employees, improving several County parks, resurfacing the Hiawatha Trail, crushing a stockpile of gravel, marketing Lincoln County, and developing campsites in Tomahawk and Merrill.
The resolutions come about a month after the Board gave its stamp of approval to a vision statement and branding that seek to promote tourism, bring visitors to the County and, ultimately, increase sales tax revenue.
Lincoln County received roughly $5.5 million in ARPA funds as part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The County’s Administrative and Legislative (A&L) Committee has been tasked with vetting ARPA fund requests “against the criteria that it does not create base building and creates economic growth and/or generates County revenue,” according to the resolutions.
Pine Crest losses
Supervisors approved a resolution allocating $1,126,328 to cover losses experienced by Pine Crest Nursing Home in Merrill.
The resolution said Lincoln County is required to reimburse North Central Health Care (NCHC) for losses experienced at the County-owned nursing home “should there be no change in the supplemental funding” that was reduced for fiscal year 2022-2023 by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).
“Lincoln County does not have the money available to cover the projected loss without putting the County in a high risk situation,” the resolution said before declaring that the ARPA funds will be used to cover the losses.
If not used for that purpose, the monies will be “dedicated to another project by the end of calendar year 2024,” according to the resolution.
A resolution approved by the Board will direct $101,000 to the purchase of software to implement electronic timekeeping for County employees, who currently use paper timesheets.
A transition to an electronic program, called MUNIS, “provides benefits to include elimination/reducing of double entry, employee access to enroll in their own benefits and update personal information, eliminating most manual entry of time for 250 employees, reducing workload and human error of human resources and payroll specialists, increasing telecommuting opportunities, and oversight of real time supervision,” according to the resolution.
A series of resolutions given the thumbs up by the Board will see ARPA funds dedicated to several Lincoln County parks.
The resolutions allocate $47,000 to Camp New Wood; $27,000 to Otter Lake Park; and $232,175 to Prairie Dells and Hay Meadow Park.
Under the resolutions, the monies will be used to make improvements to campsites, trails, pavilions, and other amenities.
Hiawatha Trail resurfacing
A resolution passed by the Board allocates $92,145 to the resurfacing of the Hiawatha Trail, which connects SARA Park in Tomahawk to the start of Bearskin Trail in Oneida County.
According to the resolution, a segment of the Hiawatha Trail is part of larger trail proposed in the North Central Wisconsin Regional Bicycle Facilities Network Plan and State Trails Network Plan to connect the Bearskin Trail south to Wausau and eventually Wisconsin Dells.
The resolution said the Northwoods Passage Snowmobile Club and Recreational Trail Aid grants have been used to replace the decking and railings on the Trail’s railroad trestle crossing, “but non-motorized trail grant funding has become increasingly more difficult to obtain for these types of projects.”
Crushing gravel stockpile
A total of $50,000 will go toward crushing a stockpile of gravel to be used to improve access to logging roads.
According to the resolution, the Lincoln County Forestry Department maintains 13.14 miles of “gas tax roads” in the area of the Armstrong Creek Pit and receives $351 per mile in road aid funding from the state for maintenance.
“The funding has been used primarily to build up and maintain roads with sparing amounts of crushed gravel,” the resolution said. “The project would reduce the haul distance (eight miles) to these roads from an existing pit on Four Mile Rd., allowing several inches of crushed gravel to create a maintainable surface.”
The project would also improve the roads for logging access to the Lincoln County Forest, which could potentially increase stumpage rates.
Supervisors approved a resolution earmarking $500,000 for marketing Lincoln County.
The resolution said developing specific plans on marketing strategies “will take some time and collaboration, but was recognized as an opportunity to support the APRA use objectives in a meaningful way.”
“Once a specific and detailed plan is developed, the request will be brought forward for further approval,” the resolution stated.
City campsite development
A total of $500,000 will be allocated to upgrading and marketing campsites in the cities of Tomahawk and Merrill, as well as townships that show interest.
Similar to the resolution related to marketing Lincoln County as a whole, plans and strategies will be developed and brought to the Board in the future.