$16 Million Dollar CARES Act Budget Approved by TGB
By Joe Morey
At their meeting on Monday, July 13, the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) approved an updated CARES Act Projects budget presented by the coordinators Brian Bisonette and Booki Weilgot. The total funds received by the Tribe totaled $16,718,860.
The funds have been allocated to the Tribe for expenditures incurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While there is latitude on how the Tribe can spend these funds, they still must be expended by December 31 with the intent of covering costs for response, planning and/or prevention to the current and future effects of the pandemic,” the TGB noted in a previous statement.
The largest portion of the funds was given to the entire tribal membership in the form of a $1,000 payment to adults and $500 per child for a total of $7,723,500. The resolution stated the payment to Tribal Members will be for reimbursement of cost burden of home schooling, extra food, utility bills, clothing, child care and other expenses related to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The next largest portion is for the new Daycare Center, estimated to cost $3,324,500. The facility is currently under construction near the Four Corners of Froemel Road and Trepania Road on the footprint of the LCO Early Headstart/Headstart. The construction estimate includes a playground, facility and architectural costs.
A new Fire Hall will be built with $1,530,000 of the funds and a plan will be developed that renovates the current facility into a 4-classroom expansion of the LCO Ojibwe School which will be used for the Waadookodading Environmental Charter School. The new fire hall construction is set to begin within the next few weeks.
The TGB also committed $880,682 for their match in the $2,154,082 estimated cost of the Tribal Office Expansion project which will build an additional 6,998 square feet of office space and remodel 3,436 square feet providing more needed space for the Tribal Court and other services. The rest of the cost is funded by grants.
Regarding the hiring of workers in all three of these projects, Bisonette told the TGB that the contractor, DBS Group, was instructed to use all tribal members and to use local vendors because we want to keep this money here in our community.
In order to help improve communications throughout the reservation, the TGB committed a portion of funds to WOJB totaling $234,000 broken down as follows; $155,880 to a new WOJB tower and antennae; $26,235 to supplies (generator, portable remote systems, laptops and stereo STL system); $21,000 for a sound board; $17,000 for cloud automation; and over $14,000 for engineers.
Four new police cars will be purchased and will include all new equipment such as repeaters, radios etc, at a cost of $297,578. Two vehicles will be purchased for LCO Conservation at a cost of $71,809, and a new hearse will be purchased for Pineview Funeral Service at a cost of $21,500.
The TGB also allocated $29,000 to Pineview for other supplies, including PPE supplies.
TGB aims to use CARES Act funds to purchase two homes that were built partially on the reservation, half on and the other half on non-tribal land. TGB member Tweed Shuman said the Tribe will offer to buy the homes from the non-Tribal owners so that we can use the homes as rental units to supplement a housing shortage on the reservation. The cost is $180,000.
Additionally, three Home Improvement Project homes occupied by tribal Elders will be renovated at a cost of $50,000 per home for a total of $150,000.
The Tribe is in need of a Wheel Loader for the construction projects, so TGB added this purchase to the CARES Act funds at a cost of $256,607 and finally, $127,000 will be used to pay for two project planners/managers, which are Brian Bisonette and Booki Weilgot. They will both oversee the construction project funding. Also $52,586 was allocated for a disbursement administrator, Becky Taylor.
And finally, $100,000 was allocated for youth programs. Chairman Taylor said he wanted to make sure there are funds available for youth programs this fall.
“We don’t know what this fall is going to be like with the pandemic,” Taylor stated. “I really want our Tribal Governing Board to do more for our youth.”
Taylor suggested some ways the funds can be utilized would be to get more youth girls involved, for example golf lessons at Big Fish. He’d also like to see more activities for the youth such as open gym, summer school, and school sports and programs.
Although he is happy with the plans and how they will impact the Tribe, TGB Member Tweed Shuman said, “One major concern I had was that we never really took it to the membership. I met several times with available members regarding the development of the budget and priorities list. I would have liked to have a membership meeting and to have heard from them.”
The TGB said in a previous statement they are working with internal departments to generate priorities and the methods necessary to properly account for the funds to keep expenditures in compliance with the award intentions.
“We are excited to report that there are several projects that can be accomplished with this funding and can enhance the services to Tribal members. Further, we see opportunities with this funding to enhance the Tribe’s ability to prepare for and prevent not only health and economic, but cultural harm caused by potential future pandemic response,” the Statement said.
The total amount of expenses listed above is $14,551,362 leaving $2,167,498 in revenue above expenses. The TGB discussed possibly using these extra funds to distribute grants to tribal enterprises.
“We want to help our casino and our other businesses with grants to help them through these tough and uncertain times,” Chairman Taylor said.
Kris Goodwill, Tribal Attorney, said the TGB can give money to the casino and other tribal enterprises in the form of a grant.
"The casino helps fund tribal operations so these grant funds to them would help them continue to fund operations," Goodwill stated.