MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners approved Tuesday spending up to $500,000 on mobile hotspots to help facilitate mobile learning in local schools, many of which may reopen with some mixture of in-person and online classes.
Commissioners unanimously approved paying for 1,201 hotspots for two years at an anticipated cost of $437,260. The cost is about $15.17 per month per hotspot, according to Commissioner Tony Vero.
Funds for the project will come from the $2 million Richland County has thus far received in federal CARES Act assistance to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some local school districts have approved reopening plans. Almost all include an online option for families uncomfortable sending students back into school buildings.
Many districts have tied plans to the state's, color-coded Public Health Advisory System and would go to online-only classes should Richland County ever be designated "purple," or level four.
Vero said he had anticipated more mobile hotspots would be needed. A smaller number of requests allowed the county to increase the commitment to two years.
"We hope (COVID-19) will be defeated (sooner), but who knows," Vero said. "We went back to the schools to see if they would be OK with two-year commitments and they were grateful."
Vero said the hotspots will not only help online education for students, but will also assist families who otherwise would not have internet access.
Commissioners are only working with schools based in Richland County. Students living in the county who attend districts based in neighboring counties should work with those school districts, Vero said.
"I am not comfortable at this time asking for a motion to appropriate money for school districts outside of (Richland) county," Vero said.
Also on Tuesday:
-- Commissioner Marilyn John said she would meet this week with Jodie Perry, president & CEO of the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development, and county Auditor Pat Dropsey to flesh out details on a plan to use CARES Act funds to provide up to $5,000 grants to businesses that meet eligibility requirements. She expects to seek appropriation of about $275,000 to fund the program.
-- commissioners heard a request from county Recorder Sarah Davis for $612,000 in CARES Act funds to update property records maintained in the office, dating back to the early 19th century. The work would be done by Kofile, a company that helps maintain and preserve governmental public records. Commissioners took no action on the request, but will revisit it on Aug. 4, John said.
-- approved a request from Richland County Veteran Services Director Ken Estep to allow three plaques honoring sponsors be added on the north side of the base of the Gold Star Families Memorial on the front lawn of the county courthouse.
-- approved $20,480 in COVID-19-related reimbursement expenses for the Domestic Relations Court ($8,000), Clerk of Courts ($6,800) and Recorder's office ($5,680).