Close to $2 million in business assistance/nonprofit grants were approved for 85 Douglas County entities at the Douglas County Board meeting Tuesday, Sept 15.

The money came from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Douglas County received more than $4.6 million in CARES Act funds to provide assistance to area businesses and nonprofits that were impacted by the shutdown due to COVID-19.

Nicole Fernholz, director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, provided an update to the commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting. In all, there were 188 requests made to the AAEDC, which was in charge of administering the funds. A committee was formed and those members reviewed the applications and then made recommendations to the Board of Commissioners.

The total amount of funding available was close to $3.6 million. However, the amount requested was more than $6.2 million. Fernholz said it broke her heart that not all the requests were granted. But she did say that if the townships, which were also granted funds, didn’t use all of the allocated dollars, there could be a second round of funding available later this year.

The dollar amount requested by for-profit businesses was a little more than $5.2 million, while the amount requested by non-profit organizations was more than $991,000.

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Fernholz broke down the requests into categories. The categories and how many requests were made in each are as follows:

  • Senior living: 2

  • Child care: 4

  • Manufacturing: 5

  • Health: 14

  • Salon: 16

  • Service: 26

  • Tourism: 26

  • Retail: 27

  • Nonprofit: 31

  • Restaurant: 37

The average request amount was $34,463 with the maximum amount granted being $50,000. There were 15 entities that each received the full $50,000, including Fairfield Inn and Suites, Days Inn, Andes, Bio Corporation, Bon Jos, Carlos Creek Winery, Epic Manufacturing, Lakes Area Graphix, Salon Alexis, Ella’s Salon, D. Michael B’s, DJ’s Taphouse, Pike and Pint, Interlachen Inn and Pizza Ranch.

The smallest amount granted during this round was $1,079, which was awarded to Hansen’s Festival Concessions.

Board Chairman Keith Englund thanked Fernholz, as well as those on the committee, for all their hard work on going through the applications and figuring out the funds.

Also during the meeting, the board approved two other requests from within county departments for items related to COVID-19.

They approved a new laptop and docking station ($1,193) for Julie Anderson, the county’s public information officer, and a book sanitizing machine ($4,575) for the Douglas County Library.

Both items will be paid for using CARES Act funding.

Reduced rates

The commissioners approved a one-time 25% reduction in fees for those who apply for food, beverage and other licenses through Horizon Public Health.

Jessica Peterson with Horizon Public Health said that because the hospitality industry was so severely impacted by COVID-19 that it would be a nice gesture for next year (2021) when such businesses have to renew their licenses or for new businesses that are applying for a license.

The fee schedule that was presented to commissioners did not reflect the 25% reduction, but Peterson said it would show up on their bill as a one-time cost savings.

Commissioners Tim Kalina thought it was a good idea.

“I think we should do something as we did it for liquor license fees,” he said.

Although the reduction in fees could result in a loss of revenue of about $66,500 for next year, the commissioners approved the one-time reduction in fees.

Preliminary levy

The commissioners set the preliminary levy for 2021 at $29.1 million, which is a 2.5% increase from 2020. A budget hearing, where Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow will present detailed information about the county’s budget, has been set for Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the commissioner’s board room at the courthouse.

Here’s a look at previous levies:

  • 2020: $28.4 million – 4.2% increase

  • 2019: $27.2 million – 3% increase

  • 2018: $26.4 million – 1.84% increase

  • 2017: $25.9 million – 1.96% increase

  • 2016: $25.4 million – No change

  • 2015: $25.4 million – 0.47% decrease

  • 2014: $25.6 million – 4.25% increase