After debating the whos and hows, the Curry County Board of Commissioners approved the formation of a stakeholder committee, which will be tasked with making recommendations to the board on how to spend $4.4 million in federal COVID-19 relief money.
During a June 23 meeting, the board voted 2-1 to form the small — but mighty — seven-member committee. Commissioners Chris Paasch and John Herzog voted in favor, while Commissioner Court Boice was opposed.
Boice’s main sticking point was allowing county employees to sit in on the committee meetings. He argued county officials could bring unwanted influence.
“I don’t want people from the county looking over their shoulder if they are trying to get some honest work done,” said Boice. “There’s no way you can be in the room and not have an impact, I think that’s part of the county system that people distrust.”
Herzog and Paasch argued county employees should be in the room to give general and legal advice, but should not serve on the committee. They decided on allowing just three employees to sit in — County Attorney Anthony Pope, Director of Operations Brad Reuckert and Economic Development Coordinator Summer Matteson. County elected officials, including the commissioners, will be barred from attending stakeholder meetings, however, the board will have the final say on spending the funds.
According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, American Rescue Plan funds can be used to support households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers and the “communities hit hardest by the crisis.” Additionally, these funds can also be invested in local water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. The federal government has begun dishing out $65.1 billion to counties across the U.S. as a part of the act.
Before the board voted to form the committee, Matteson suggested the county use all of the money to create more affordable housing in the area. Curry County continues to face a shortage of affordable housing, with median rental costs at $870 — the highest in the Southwest region, according to the Oregon Development Department.
The county is currently accepting applicants for the stakeholder committee, those who are interested can apply on the county website: https://www.co.curry.or.us/
Additionally, the county is accepting project proposals from the community, which could be funded with American Rescue Plan funds. Proposals can also be submitted on the county website.