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Thursday
August 13th, 2020

county meeting specialSeward County commissioners listen to comments from local businessman Kelly Hill Wednesday morning regarding an executive order issued by Governor Laura Kelly making the wearing of masks mandatory in public places where social distancing of six feet is not possible. Counties were allowed to choose whether they would enforce the order, and commissioners were scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon to make a decision on the matter. Commissioners sought input from the public and said they would need to wait until Kelly’s order was made public for review before making a decision. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times

 

Wednesday morning, Seward County officials took a few more steps toward distributing $6.4 billion from the State of Kansas’ Coronavirus Relief Fund as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

First, commissioners adopted a resolution, which Chairman Nathan McCaffrey said is necessary before a government entity can receive such funds.

“The State of Kansas is requiring any county or municipality that it has allocated funds for to adopt a resolution very similar to this,” he said. “This is their draft form. It’s similar to the resolution you guys were given sometime last week in a meeting. I don’t believe there have been any real significant changes.”

McCaffrey briefly reviewed the resolution before commissioners voted unanimously to approve it. He said keeping the resolution in mind throughout the distribution process is extremely important.

“Now that we have passed the resolution and anticipate receiving those funds, we have to comply with all the different terms and conditions contained in the resolution,” he said. “Some involve a lot of accounting procedures and processes, as well as assistance in deciding what is the best use for these funds, for funds individually, but then as they may relate to other federal reimbursement programs that exist out there.”

Next, the commission addressed the hiring of a consultant to help with the distribution process. McCaffrey said about eight such firms were contacted in regards to the matter, with two, iParametrics and Witt O’Brien, returning phone calls.

A third firm, P&N, made a phone call on Monday, but because of the short timeframe, McCaffrey said that consultant was unable to provide a contract the other firms had.

“The contracts themselves are fairly involved,” he said. “There are some differences between them, mostly as it relates to price between iParametrics and Witt O’Brien. The scope of the services is going to be largely very similar between the two of them for what they would do it for us. The proposal from Witt O’Brien is the more expensive of the two proposals, and their hourly rates are higher than the iParametrics rates as well.”

McCaffrey said both Witt O’Brien and iParametrics are experienced in helping municipalities deal with federal reimbursement funds such as those from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Witt O’Brien reached out to the county clerk’s office,” he said. “They have been signed up by a few other counties here in Kansas – Johnson County, Sedgwick County, Riley County.”

McCaffrey said he was more impressed, though, with the conversation county leaders had with the iParametrics group.

“They had people on the phone who would actually be working with if we decided to go with them,” he said. “We were communicating with them directly. The iParametrics group actually offered without any prompting at all to visit our community if we were to go with them just so they could meet us in person and have a sense of who they’re actually dealing with obviously never having been to Liberal.”

However, McCaffrey said going with either firm would not be a wrong choice. The funds the county received are available for the county’s political subdivisions such as Seward County Community College, USD 480, USD 483, the City of Liberal and the City of Kismet.

“We’ve sent letters to these entities asking them to start work on their end,” McCaffrey said. “They would design procedures to help with the application of those funds and implement that process.”

McCaffrey then reviewed the rates each firm would charge for services starting with Witt O’Brien.

“Their hourly rates have ranged from $400 an hour for their executive adviser, and it goes down from there to a $65 an hour rate,” he said. “I think they had a ceiling price of $75,000, and iParametrics was $47,812. Their hourly rates across the board were less than Witt O’Brien.”

Seward County Counsel Nathan Foreman said both companies have liability clauses in their contracts, but he advised caution in regards to those clauses.

“We have to make a claim, go through the process,” he said. “Just because they’re liable doesn’t necessarily mean you can collect on folks all the time. They both appear to have insurance in place.”

McCaffrey said the fee the firms charge is reimbursable or able to be paid out of the CARES Act funds. 

Foreman said though the firms would be advising the county on how to distribute the funds, county officials themselves are still responsible for the oversight of such a distribution.

“There would be potentially liability,” he said. “Although there are protections built into this contract, just because those provisions are in there, it’s not a guarantee that if something went wrong, we wouldn’t have to pay something. Insurance sometimes doesn’t pay. They’ll find some type of exclusion.”

Foreman said using a consultant would be the right move for the county.

“If we do not sign a consultant, we’ll be looking at this on our own without the expertise they have,” he said. “We’re being told the administrative costs would be paid out of the CARES Act. However, everyone I talked to says this is a revolving situation.”

Foreman did add there could be out of pocket costs in addition to the rates being charged by each firm.

“They fly out here and help us out,” he said. “We’ve got airfare, mileage.”

Administrator April Warden said she had received questions about why the services of a local firm were not sought. She explained why this was the case.

“Any federal funds we get over $750,000, we’re required to go through the single audit process,” she said. “Our auditors will do that single audit process. Therefore, they cannot be involved in any of the allocation of these funds or offering advice.”

Though the process would not be an easy one with or without a consultant, McCaffrey said hiring one would make it run a little smoother.

“Hopefully through the consultant, we can make this process a lot less scary than it seems to us as we sit here today looking at all of these requirements,” he said.

Foreman said information should be available on the county’s Web site, www.sewardcountyks.org, to help people see and understand what is happening.

“We’re trying to get ahead of everything,” he said. “The reimbursements have to be submitted on a form we don’t even have yet. Aug. 15 is our first deadline to have a plan and also to have the first round of reimbursements. We have a lot to do in a short amount of time. We’re working as hard as we can.”

The commission opted to go with iParametrics with a unanimous vote.

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