How DuPage County could use some of its COVID-19 relief

Care center renovations, stormwater projects, upgraded technology and facility improvements are among the initiatives for which DuPage County is considering earmarking millions in federal funding to assist with COVID-19 recovery efforts.

The county is poised to receive roughly $179 million through the American Rescue Plan Act, nearly $16.3 million of which has already been set aside for small business assistance and eligible staffing positions, Chief Administrative Officer Nick Kottmeyer said.

Department leaders and elected officials have since identified $67 million more in initiatives to improve buildings and operations across the county's Wheaton campus, pending county board approval. That doesn't include funding requests from other agencies, including a $26.5 million COVID-19 response and recovery plan proposed by the DuPage County Health Department.

The relief funding, half of which will be distributed next May, must be spent by the end of 2026 and includes a broader list of possible uses than earlier stimulus packages, Kottmeyer said last week during a presentation to the DuPage County Board's finance committee.

"The primary purpose (is to) support immediate pandemic response, but also the equitable recovery," he said. "How do we recover economically? That's a big part of the American Rescue Plan."

Modernizing the DuPage Care Center would be a "flagship project for the entire ARPA funding consideration," Kottmeyer said.

Of the $27.2 million requested, $16.7 million would go toward renovating nearly every component of the outdated building at 400 N. County Farm Road, from the resident rooms and nursing stations to handrails and oxygen lines, he said. The remaining funds would be used for upgrading HVAC systems and other coronavirus-related expenses.

"It's to bring the facility into the current age," Kottmeyer said. "But more importantly, everything we're doing is going to have an eye toward ... reducing the spread of contagion over there."

The project would create more than 187,000 hours of labor for contractors, he added, contributing to the American Rescue Plan's intended economic recovery component.

HVAC improvements are proposed within the jail, the administration building and the power plant at an expense of $9.9 million, which includes reimbursable COVID-19 costs incurred by the facilities management department.

For $131,716, the county also is considering purchasing 26 indoor air quality disinfection units to place in high-traffic public areas or to use during events with increased visitors, such as elections, property tax due dates or county board meetings.

Another "fairly sizable" ask is from the stormwater management department, which is proposing $20 million in eligible flood control, streambank stabilization and unincorporated drainage projects, Kottmeyer said. An extra $2 million would cover personnel expenses, as well as contracts for engineering and project management.

Staff members are anticipating acquiring $13 million more in grants and matching funds from municipalities to increase the scope of the work, he said.

Information technology officials are seeking $1 million to redesign the county website, enhance wireless capabilities across the campus, and purchase laptops and docking stations to allow staff members to work remotely. The public works department is proposing spending $1.8 million to replace the blowers at wastewater plants, and the 18th Judicial Circuit Court is seeking $1.4 million to finish audio and video upgrades in the courtrooms, create an eviction mediation program and install touchless bathroom features in court buildings.

Other requests include nearly $1.4 million for various technology and safety upgrades in the circuit court clerk's office; $570,482 for the sheriff's office to replace inmate tables and mattresses; $320,000 to improve community service spaces; and various staffing, technology and coronavirus-related expenses proposed by other departments.

Some $18 million - or more, as suggested by some county board members - could be set aside for unanticipated costs related to the pandemic, such as public health response, revenue replacement or administrative staffing expenses.

Board members last week expressed preliminary support for the proposed county projects, each of which must now go through the formal review process. In a separate meeting, they also gave an early nod to funding requests from the health department and Choose DuPage, which is asking for $7.5 million over the next four years for marketing and business retention efforts and regional economic development.

At the direction of board members, a $15 million proposal from the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau is likely to be refined and brought back for further discussion.

More funding requests are likely forthcoming. The finance committee will hear presentations from staff about proposed funding for community services and nonprofit agencies on Aug. 10, with general requests from other governmental and community entities anticipated Aug. 24 and Sept. 14.

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