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Commissioners adopt a spending plan with emphasis on public safety and small-town infrastructure.

On Wednesday, June 22, Marion County Board of Commissioners approved the 2022-23 fiscal year county budget totaling $692,644,391 — the largest budget ever approved by the county.

County officials noted that the size of the budget is largely due to an influx of one-time state and federal funding.COURTESY PHOTO: MARION COUNTY - Kevin Cameron

Nearly $68 million of the county funding is from American Rescue Plan Act dollars, allocated to projects intended to support critical urban and rural infrastructure, create or improve community spaces, and benefit low- to moderate- income residents.

Earlier in the month, the commission addressed specific ARPA project allotments, including the city of Donald for the New City Drinking Wells Project in the amount of $1 million; city of Gervais for the Wastewater Pump Station/Forced Main and Aeration Upgrade Project for $1 million; city of Hubbard for the Water System Improvements Project, $1 million; city of Mt. Angel for the Marquam Sanitary Sewer Trunk Line Project, $450,000; city of St. Paul for the Water System Improvement Plan Project, $1 million.

Marion County Chief Administrative Officer Jan Fritz said $26 million of the county's ARPA allocation of $66.7 million is going into small-city infrastructure.

"We don't have the map today, but I think you can see that it is through small cities throughout the (Santiam) canyon, up north, south and central Marion County."

Overall, Fritz noted that public safety services was a high priority, and the funding allocations reflect that.

"The approved budget has 38 funds and 108 programs," Fritz said. "Public safety was a central focus for the board of commissioners, and it is reflected in this budget. … The opening of the G pod will increase (county) jail beds from 415 to 470."COURTESY PHOTO: MARION COUNTY - Danielle Bethell

Fritz added that the public safety budget also added staff at the jail and the district attorney's office, along with a new emergency management director position added to public works.

"Seventy-seven percent of the general fund budget goes to public safety services," Fritz said.

Additionally, the commissioners approved an incoming funds Intergovernmental Agreement Land Acquisition Grant with Oregon Housing and Community Services for about $1.71 million to purchase seven parcels of land totaling more than 15 acres for a Mill City housing project. This land will be used to build permanent housing for victims of the 2020 Labor Day fires based on their income level.

"We have been diligently working to overcome barriers to this project for over a year, and I can't express how moved I am to finally to see it coming to fruition," said Marion County BOC Chair Danielle Bethell.

"Families who lost everything in the fires, who long to return home to their community, will see that desire become a reality, and it's really a testament to the hard work of county staff to support these individuals. While homes still need to be built on this land, the land purchase itself is a tremendous first step toward that goal."COURTESY PHOTO: MARION COUNTY - Colm Willis

In general, the commission viewed the fiscal year budget as something that will address long-term needs countywide.

"It's a large budget, and a lot of good things are going to happen — a lot of one-time things," Commissioner Kevin Cameron said. "It will be interesting. It's great to see all this money flowing, but we have challenges ahead of us."

Commissioner Colm Willis applauded the county's fiscal responsibility and treatment of the ARPA funds as if they were bonds.

"I believe that the budget we are allocating today, the ARPA dollars that we are pushing on to those cities, will in fact create the generational impacts that were our primary goal as a board," Bethell said.

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