on Schieber, presiding Platte County Commissioner, said Monday the commission is wanting slight wording change in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) document that would remove the county from liability of CARES money it potentially passes on to the Platte County Health Department.
A document distributed by the state treasurer would protect the county commission from responsibility for funds it distributes to the health department. Schieber says the county commission wants one word in the document changed before signing.
Schieber says the document currently refers to the “amount requested” and the commission would prefer that wording to say “amount awarded” to the health department.
Schieber said the commission is wanting that document signed as part of the “public path” he says the commission is creating before passing any of the CARES money to public entities like the health department, school districts, and other public entities.
Schieber made the comments in questions during the public comments portion of Monday’s commission meeting. David Park, candidate for second district commission, was inquiring as to the status of transferring money to the health department and other public entities.
Platte County Health Department officials have publicly said they have no trouble accepting responsibility for the money transferred to the department, including any resulting federal audit of the transferred funds.
Monday’s meeting was held at the Platte County Resource Center, as the county prosecutor’s office is moving into the county commission’s office/meeting space after air quality concerns have been raised by prosecutor employees on the third floor of the Platte County Courthouse.
In an article in the Kansas City Star on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Platte County Health Department Director Mary Jo Everhart said: “We’re just trying to wait patiently.”
It has been more than a month since the commission sent the health department a draft to release funds, said Vernon. She has not received the final document.
The county has recorded 921 cases and 12 deaths. The positive test rate has climbed to 18.67%.
In the Kansas City Star article, Vernon said the health department is spending about $24,000 every month on testing. The public is requesting more testing services because testing at commercial sites is booked, she said.
The health department isn’t able to keep up with its contact tracing volume, a process that can become extensive when cases balloon or close contacts cannot be easily located.
“We really need to hire additional people,” Vernon said. “But it’s kind of concerning to do that from a fiscal standpoint if you don’t know if you’re going to get additional money back.”
Vernon told the Star the health department and the commission disagree on how to deal with the pandemic.
“It just makes it difficult to get to that solution-based point,” she said. “I just want to work with people. You can expend your energy fighting or you can expend your energy for a common goal. And to me, our common goal should be protecting the health of the community.”
Also, the Star reported Kansas City is eligible for CARES Act funds through Jackson, Clay and Platte counties.
The Star reports Kansas City received $11.6 million from Clay County in June and $18.8 million from Jackson County in August, according to the city’s finance committee. It has not received any aid from Platte County.
Mayor Quinton Lucas told the Star his office has been working with the county governments since March.
“As of this date, Kansas City has not received the CARES Act funding requested from Platte County to help with our pandemic response, particularly to support the health of our police, fire, and health employees doing hard work in the Platte County portion of our city each day,” the mayor said in a statement to the Star on Tuesday.
The Kansas City Health Department told The Star its efforts to rein in the virus have been hampered by the delay in Platte County.
“Our ability to provide the essential COVID-19 services to save lives and promote economic recovery in Platte County is severely impaired due to not receiving any funding to support disease investigations, contact tracing, testing, and education to prevent the spread of disease and inform residents on what activities are reasonably safe so that they can support economic recovery,” the department said in a statement to the Kansas City Star.
The Star reported that all three Platte County commissioners – Ron Schieber, Dagmar Wood and John Elliott – did not respond to requests for comment.