From building larger detention space to repairing and improving storm sewers to helping those who are homeless, Scott County supervisors on Monday provided an outline for how the county will spend roughly $33.6 million in federal COVID-19 rescue dollars.
A large of chunk of it — $7.25 million — would be used to help pay for a new, 40-bed juvenile detention center that would more than double the county's current licensed capacity of 18 beds.
Supervisors are scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Scott County Administrative Center, 600 W. 4th St. in Davenport, and receive designs from county-hired consulting firm Wold Architects & Engineers for a new Youth Justice & Rehabilitation Center and adjoining Youth Assessment Center estimated to cost a combined $21.75 million to construct.
Scott County community members continued to voice their opposition to the tentative plan for the juvenile detention center during Monday's county board meeting, and objected to the use of COVID-19-relief money, which they argue is intended for and would be better spent assisting families and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
"It’s excessive and a waste of our COVID-relief funds, which can be better used to address the housing crisis in Scott County," Katherine Styrt of Davenport told supervisors Monday. "I urge the board to have an audit done as to whether this is an actual effective use of funds before moving forward."
Federal guidelines state the money broadly should be used to: Provide economic recovery assistance and aid to households, small businesses, nonprofits and industries hard hit by the pandemic; provide premium pay for essential government workers; support public health response and address health and education disparities; replace lost tax and fee revenue caused by the pandemic; repair and upgrade public facilities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and improve indoor air quality; and invest housing and water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
County budget director David Farmer said federal rules "do identify in black and white ... support for prevention, mitigation and other services in congregate living facilities," including "incarceration settings."
Farmer said county staff identified about $7.25 million worth of construction tied to a new juvenile detention center it argued would qualify for American Rescue Plan Act funding. That includes space for a medical suite and to isolate COVID-19-positive juveniles in special housing from others to prevent possible outbreaks, as well as eliminate the use of double bunking.
The new detention center would also have larger intake and visitation areas to allow social distancing, and would add a video courtroom and outdoor recreation area.
"We're talking about a net change (in square footage) to better address a COVID-19 mitigation tactic within a facility we are required to provide," Farmer said.
Republican Supervisor John Maxwell defended the county's planned use of COVID-19 rescue dollars for a larger detention center.
"We need these things to better be prepared for the future," Maxwell said. "They all make us COVID- or next-pandemic-ready. And, therefore, it certainly would be a prudent thing to do. ... This is space that is needed whether the facility it 40 or 28 or 25 (beds), or whatever."
Democratic Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken, a chief critic and the lone dissenting vote among county supervisors over plans to build a larger juvenile detention facility, disagreed.
"If you want to avoid exposing children to COVID, build the smallest incarceration center you can; not the biggest with a really great air handling unit," Croken said.
Croken criticized what he deemed "strained interpretations" of the federal government's expansive rules to use COVID-19 relief money for a new detention center instead of seeking approval from voters through a referendum, as the county did in 2004, when officials in Scott County wanted a major expansion at the jail.
Other projects receiving majority support from supervisors include:
- $10 million to repair existing and install new storm sewer pipes to prevent flooding, and replace deteriorated pavement in Park View and Mount Joy.
- $6.14 million (roughly $3 million each) to help Humility Homes and Services, Inc. and The Salvation Army of the Quad Cities offer supportive housing, case management services, temporary shelter and rent assistance to assist people facing chronic homelessness during the pandemic and households facing imminent eviction because of COVID-19.
- $3 million to provide improved air handling and ventilation equipment at the county administration building.
- $4 million ($2 million for each project) to provide sewer connections to Scott County campgrounds and picnic areas, and for county trail improvements.
- $1.6 million toward the expansion of existing sanitary sewer to enable a West Locust Street business park corridor for future commercial development. The city of Davenport has begun the planning process of designating more than 700 acres at Interstate 280 and Locust Street for a business park.
- $1 million in renovations to the Scott County Jail to provide COVID-19 mitigation measures to contain and prevent the spread of coronavirus among inmates.
- $500,000 to support local tourism and aid Visit Quad Cities in tourism marketing.
Scott County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ken Beck cautioned the outlined spending is a "blueprint that's subject to change as items get funded."
"We’ll have to revisit this on a periodic basis to see if … we need to move money around to make things work or not," as project details are developed and county staff finalize contracts for supervisor approval, Beck said. "Nothing is cast in stone until we fund everything."