The Brookhaven City Council has unanimously approved a resolution allowing for Mayor John Ernst to negotiate an agreement with DeKalb County for $6.3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The intergovernmental agreement is between DeKalb County and the 12 cities in the county and allows the county to distribute $32.5 million of its federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds among its cities. Brookhaven is set to receive $6.3 million from the agreement.

During an Aug. 11 council meeting, city attorney Chris Balch said the agreement is “time-sensitive,” and the resolution allows the city to approve the agreement without having to worry about scheduling delays between city and county meetings.

“I know this is a little unusual, but given the delays between your meetings and how the county does its business and coordinating the responses of 11 other cities in the county, this is the most expeditious mechanism we believe of getting this finalized and getting this done,” Balch said.

Balch said attorneys from all 12 cities in DeKalb County agreed on edits to the intergovernmental agreement, and now the county needs to approve the edits in order for an agreement to be reached.

The edits made by the city attorneys remove the county’s power to conduct audits on the cities’ use of the funds, which was outlined in the original intergovernmental agreement. Instead, city attorneys edited the agreement so the cities comply directly with state and federal audit requirements and face state consequences if they do not comply. The city attorneys also made edits so the cities do not have to give “periodic status reports” about the use of funds to the county but provide the county information “upon reasonable request.”

The resolution allows Ernst to make the final negotiations regarding those edits and various other wording changes in order to approve the agreement without input from the council.

The council will still decide how to allocate the $6.3 million once the city has those funds, Balch said.

“This gives us the flexibility on the fly to have a deal done,” Ernst said.

City staff will bring forward a budget amendment to the council to plan how the money will be spent once the agreement is finalized. CARES Act funds do not replace other city revenue streams and must comply with the federal guidelines for where the money can be spent, which mostly has to do with COVID-19 relief efforts.

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