Sumter gets $10M in American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 money; county to fund 27 projects


Sumter County's public services, art enthusiasts and rural communities will start seeing a little extra funding coming their way.

Sumter County Government was allocated $10,364,652 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, a funding source created as a response to the COVID-19 public health emergency to offset revenue losses, bolster economic recovery and provide premium pay for essential workers.

"We are really covering the entire county with so many of these projects," Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon said during the Sumter County Council meeting on Aug. 24.

Mixon unveiled plans for spending a little more than half of the initial disbursement during the meeting, where council approved 27 proposed projects. A list of "Priority 1 Projects" was approved at a total of $5,042,638, Mixon said, as well as $1,386,195 in reimbursements from spending during the pandemic.

According to Joe Perry, communications coordinator for Sumter County Government, the list spanned eight county departments, programs and public services at a total of nearly $4.6 million. There is more than $442,000 remaining unallocated.

Those include a cooler, one-time pandemic bonus and radios for the Sumter County Coroner's Office; five ambulances, payroll costs and 10 power stretchers for Sumter County EMS; Opticoms and personal protective gear for the county's fire district; Fortigate Firewall, 0365 Migration and penetration testing for the county's IT department; a dump truck, litter equipment, tractor, trailer and pickup truck for the new litter program; public building upgrades to the art gallery and judicial center; 250 rip-proof mattresses, building renovations, kitchen equipment, a one-time pandemic bonus, a body security scanning system and water heaters for the Sumter County Sheriff's Office Detention Center; and funding for the art gallery, library bookmobile and Sumter County Museum.

As for the remainder of the $10.3 million, it remains to be seen how those funds will be spent, Perry said. Sumter County Government has until 2026 to work through that process.

"We are planning at this time to present a plan to county council at the next meeting how the proposal process regarding grants for nonprofits will work," he said.

During the meeting, council also considered the idea of distributing the ARPA funds to the county's rural communities.

They proposed setting up a grant program for rural areas and nonprofits, and Sumter County Chairman Jim McCain said he was pleased with the idea.

"It is sorely needed, and I am fully behind funding rural infrastructure needs," he said.

Councilman Carlton Washington thanked staff for looking out for the community groups and putting a pot of money in place for them to participate in the ARPA funds.

"That was very thoughtful of staff to do that and have it in place for us as a priority item," he said.

Mixon said that proposals for how the grant program would work are underway, and council will soon hear several.

"I look forward to working with our council members to establish a grant process that is totally transparent," he said. "These funds will touch all parts of the county and help a great deal in many areas."

Mixon also noted that the funds may also help the county focus on Patriot Hall.

"This is for the whole county, and we're trying to make it (Patriot Hall) regionally known," he said. "This is good for all of us if we can bring in some well-known acts to Patriot Hall just as the Sumter Opera House does."

According to Mixon, the county is expecting another $10 million in ARPA funds to be allocated in May 2022.