County Earmarks $1M For Outbreak Expenses

SNOW HILL –  County officials agreed to put aside $1 million for potential expenses associated with the coronavirus outbreak.

After declaring a local state of emergency and proclaiming COVID-19 a “catastrophic health emergency” Monday, on Tuesday the Worcester County Commissioners agreed to designate $1 million of the county’s fund balance for costs related to the outbreak.

“This isn’t something we’re going to go out and just spend this money on nothing,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said.

Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins asked the commissioners to consider setting aside the funding to allow for expenses associated with the virus. Higgins said he was thinking about costs related to cleaning as well as overexpenditures in various departments. The school system, he pointed out, was bound to have overexpenditures, particularly since it was operating a meal program during the current two-week school closure.

Higgins said the county’s emergency operations center was also open, as a state of emergency had been declared Monday. The center will be staffed with emergency services personnel as well as health department staff.

Commissioner Chip Bertino asked if the commissioners would still have the opportunity to review significant expenditures. Higgins said that when a state of emergency had been declared, the president of the board — Mitrecic — would be able to authorize some actions.

“With that said I would certainly enlist the opinions of each and every commissioner one way or the other,” Mitrecic said.

Emergency Services Director Billy Birch said the funding would be needed because even though the county would be working with state health agencies and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency the county would be expected to pay for certain needs such as masks, gowns and gloves.

Mitrecic said that because the county had declared a local state of emergency regarding COVID-19 officials hoped the federal government would provide the county with some reimbursement.

According to Kathy Whited, the county’s budget officer, the $1 million would be set aside from the unassigned fund balance, which had a balance of $15.2 million as of June 30, 2019. Whited pointed out the county also has a reserve fund — totaling $19,893,268 on June 30, 2019 — that is set aside for contingency and emergency situations.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.