The Rush City Council approved the spending of CARES Act money for October and early November during its regular teleconference meeting on Nov. 9.
During the council’s Oct. 26 meeting, City Administrator Amy Mell felt the rules of CARES Act funding — regarding ways to distribute aid for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 pandemic and other related expenses — were narrow. Mell also feared the city would be audited if the fund is accidentally mishandled. So she brought new information to the council.
“I had a very long talk a couple of weeks ago with our auditor … regarding coronavirus money and how it can be used,” Mell said.
As a result, Mell has learned she could use the CARES Act money to pay 10% of the deputy’s salary, which amounts to about $17,082. Mell is also looking into whether she could use the money to pay about 20% of her salary for March to mid-November, which would be about $19,000.
“I started keeping track of how many hours a day, a week that I worked on COVID-19-related items,” Mell said. “And so, since mid-July, I did an average of about 13% of my time. Well, that doesn’t include, mid-March, April and May, and June when I was working on it much, much more.”
CARES Act money has paid other staff expenses that include $2,715 for employee sick time (quarantine), $3,276 for Rush City Fire Department officers, and $2,802 for fire department meetings.
Other miscellaneous items that used CARES Act money include updates to council chambers that for $2,500; 32 air pack masks for $8,960; six air packs and accessories for $35,000; three disinfectant sprays for $3,000; and three portable printers that cost $1,050.
A breakdown of recent items purchased through CARES Act money includes:
• $252 for purchase of social distancing graphic signs and stickers.
• $119 for purchase of tables for council chambers and elections.
• $32 for purchase of two months of Zoom application.
• $89 for purchase of HDMI cables and ports.
• $1,845 for purchase of setting up laptops.
• $16,632 for purchase of laptops, keyboards and mice.
Sheriff body camera
In the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office third-quarter newsletter, Sheriff Brandon Thyen wrote he was excited about the Body-Worn Camera program, which all county deputies will begin to regularly wear by Thanksgiving.
“We believe that this will provide our community with true transparency for the actions of our deputies and the members of the community that they have contact with,” Thyen added.
Thyen explained that in comparison to the third quarter of 2019, the county experienced an increase in property crimes by 92%; Part 1 crimes increased by 73%; all other incidents increased by 18%.
“Unfortunately, it’s one of them years where the kids have nothing going on,” Sgt. Jason Foster said. “School is down. And yes, there’s been some sign damage here, some Halloween displays damage, but otherwise, nothing super serious.”
School Resource Officer
School Resource Officer Jessica Gage is back in the schools full time and has been serving C.E. Jacobson Elementary and Rush City High School for about two years. Currently, Gage is adapting to school staff work and modified schedules during the upset caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She’s providing home visits to families for an extra “boost to traffic assistance, as more parents choose to drive their kids to school,” Foster said.
“So she’s actually driving around to some of these homes that aren’t complying, basically, with some of the distance stuff and need some looking after,” he said.
Gage recently graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Instructor Training Program, which is a series of weekly lessons where students learn from Gage about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, how to process feelings and work out disagreements with friends. Educating students in this way has been a career goal, Gage said.
“Due to pandemic and the already unique learning situation the students at Rush City are in, it is not certain when I will start the program,” Gage said.