CASS COUNTY – Cass County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Kennon suggested the county spend American Rescue Act Funds on upgrades to the county’s radio system and bonus pay for essential first responders.

Last month, the Cass County Board of Supervisors agreed to accept $2.4 million from the American Rescue Plan though no decision was made on how to use the funds other than to form a committee to suggest ideas.

The Act provides federal funds to support efforts to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and replace revenue lost by state and local governments. Funds can be used to support the public health response to COVID-19 from vaccinations to payroll for public health, health care, human services and public safety staff or to replace funds from budget shortfalls.

Kennon said officials from Motorola are working on a couple of proposals to help upgrade the radio system in the county, and they believe funds from the act could be used for it after consulting with federal officials.

“(Motorola officials) put out actual fliers to counties that say ‘consider using technology from Motorola Service that’s supporting public health response,’” Kennon said.

He said public health officials do use the radio system to “talk with hospitals and other public health entities.”

Board member Steve Green said one proposal is to enhance the signal for the system with the equipment on the Atlantic Water Tower, and could cost “in the area of $1.8 million.” Another proposal is putting in equipment to enhance the signal in the Cumberland and Massena area, and Kennon said they are still waiting on a cost for the second proposal.

Another suggestion was using some of the funds as “bonus pay” for essential first responders who had to work throughout the pandemic and may have had to work longer hours.

“Our dispatchers were here every day, all through the coronavirus,” he said.

Board members said they would also have to consider offering the pay to law enforcement or public health employees for the same reason.

The board took no action on the suggestions.

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