Cass County endorses Black History Month, designates ARPA funding

Published 3:11 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

CORRECTION: The board did not approve a motion to dissolve the solid waste planning committee. The motion was defeated by voice vote. 

CASSOPOLIS — From the days of the underground railroad to current community residents and leaders, African American culture has been a prominent part of Cass County’s history – and local officials took the time to officially recognize this last week.

At its regular meeting on Feb. 17, the Cass County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to endorse February as Black History Month, and encourage all community members to participate in related events. 

According to the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, the first fugitive slave arrived in Cass County in 1832, five years before Michigan became a state.  From 1830 to 1860, several areas of the county served as Underground Railroad “stations,” and more than 1,500 freedom seekers passed through the area – assisted by Quaker and Free Black communities. 

“Free Black families arrived here, bought land and established thriving farms,” the county board resolution states. “Many descendants of those families still reside in Cass County.”

According to the resolution passed by the board, Cass County is currently home to more than 4,000 African American residents. The county also celebrates its history with Underground Railroad Days, held every year in Vandalia. 

“Our African American brothers and sisters are part of our modern story as leaders and important members of our county community,” the resolution states. 

In other business, the board approved several resolutions distributing funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, passed Mar. 11, 2021, by the federal government. The law established $350 billion for Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, which provide governments across the country with the resources needed to fight the pandemic, maintain vital public services, invest in long-term growth, replace lost public sector revenue and invest in infrastructure.

The county will receive more than $10 million in CSLFRF funds, and commissioners created an ARPA committee to decide how funds should be spent. At the recommendation of the committee, the commissioners have decided to distribute some of it in the following ways:

  • $991,493 authorized for Cass County Road Commission Revenue Loss
  • $500,000 obligated toward the Local Infrastructure Investment Matching Program, to be administered by the road commission
  • $297,000 designated for Sheriff Office Improvement Project, which will go toward improvements to the Multi-Purpose Room, Public Interview Room and Report Stations
  • $1.5 million designated for funding the Jail Improvement project, which will provide mechanical separation of heating, cooling, and fresh air system allowing the facility to effectively meet CDC guidelines governing the separation of incoming detainees and provide for medical isolation in cases of positive COVID-19 cases. The project will also enhance the ability of the jail facility to address any future infectious virus outbreaks that may arise and help ensure the health and safety of incoming detained or incarcerated people and facility staff.
  • $ 5 million designated for the Historic Courthouse Renovation Project