The Payne County Board of Commissioners has approved a $14,441 retainer payment to the Floyd and Driver law firm from American Rescue Plan Act funds the county received.

The program, often called ARPA, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11. The massive $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill provided for $350 billion to help state, local, and tribal governments bridge budget shortfalls and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law firm will assist the county in preparing a plan to spend the stimulus funds under 66 categories of authorized expenditures, which include improvements in water, sewer, and broadband internet infrastructure. ARPA funds may also be used for helping non-profit organizations and the community.

Payne County has received $7.9 million from the $60 billion allocated to counties in the act. County Treasurer Carla Manning said that amount is one-half of the $15.9 million Payne County is authorized to receive.

The ARPA funds being distributed to Payne County are almost as much as the $20.7 million county general fund budget approved by the Payne County Budget Board Oct. 20.

In other business, the commissioners opened bids for the replacement bridge on Lake McMurtry Road between Country Club Road and Sangre Road which has been closed pending replacement of the original bridge, which was constructed in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration.

Of the eight bids submitted, Morton Construction of Stillwater’s bid was selected as the lowest and best bid at $175,930.

The contract should be approved at Monday’s meeting and Morton Construction will have 45 days to build the bridge.

The commissioners approved monthly cash appropriations of $9.9 million, as certified by the County Treasurer, which included the ARPA funds received. They also approved payment of 135 purchase orders totaling $512,919.

Budget Board tables salary increase for elected officers

The Payne County Budget Board has tabled a review of the salary increase approved by the board at a special meeting on Oct. 20. The pay raise was approximately $482 per month.

Assistant District Attorney Lowell Barto has advised District No. 1 Commissioner Zach Cavett, a member of the Budget Board, that the Oklahoma constitutional provision governing salary increases for public officials prohibits the pay raise from taking place during the current term of office for the county officers.

The salary for county officers is set by the legislature, based on a complicated formula that includes the population of the county and the valuation of taxable property in the county.

The raise was based on a change that was part of HB 1064 – signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt on April 20 – that raised the maximum base rate used in the formula from $44,500 to $49,500.

The Budget Board tabled the salary adjustment to seek further guidance from Barto as to when HB 1064 can be implemented. The board plans to schedule a special meeting on Nov. 15 to review the salary increase.

Find Mark A. Moore on Facebook as Mark Moore SNP

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