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GARNER | The Hancock County Board of Supervisors is exploring how it can best use the more than $600,000 remaining in the Mokry and Funnermark trusts for county-related social services, like mental health care.

The trusts, totaling about $640,000 of donated monies, were restricted to education, training and maintenance at the former Duncan Heights Residential Care Center, formerly known as the county home or county farm. The care center closed in 2016, and the supervisors sold the property in October, which means the funds are no longer accessible for those purposes.

“We’ve talked about using (the money) for several projects, and once I started looking into it, we can’t,” County Attorney Blake Norman said on Oct. 22 to the board. “Right now it is locked up and we have to come up with funds somewhere else.”

Earlier this year, the county explored using money from the trusts to offset expenses incurred by Winnebago/Hancock/Worth County Social Services Board for rehiring Sandy Mireles after County Social Services, the 22-county mental health region that includes the three counties, terminated her position.

On Monday, Nov. 5, the supervisors unanimously approved Tim Anderson, a Garner attorney, to work with Norman to modify the Mokry and Funnemark trusts into an endowment that could be accessed by the county on an annual basis for social services expenses.

Anderson said his work would be “on (his) dime, not the county’s dime.”

The board’s vote comes after the supervisors discussed the trusts in October with Norman, who advised them if they wish to use the funds for county-related social services they need to either terminate or modify them.

The county board did not vote at that time, but instead, decided to continue the conversation.

The modification being worked on by Anderson and Norman will be presented to the board once it’s drafted.

Anderson suggested the board allow the withdrawal of 4 percent of the endowment each year, while the remaining balance accrues interest. That’d be about $25,000 annually, Norman said.

“The nice thing is that you may have some special social services type need that arises in a given year and then you can target these funds for that as opposed to having to come up with extra money out of the budget, especially if it happens to be the year of a perfect storm and you’ve got issues either other places in the budget or revenues,” he said. “It will be something that you can deploy in different directions within that umbrella each year.”

Supervisor Florence “Sis” Greiman said she supported the establishment of an endowment, while Supervisors Ron Sweers and Jerry Tlach were unsure the trusts carried enough money to warrant one.

“I just don’t know if there’s enough money in it to start it,” Sweers said.

If the county board didn’t modify the trusts into an endowment, it could terminate them and receive the entire balance with the stipulation of it being used for social services.

“I know the county can burn through $600,000 in cash quickly, and then it’s gone,” Norman said.

Once the supervisors review the draft, they will have the opportunity to decide if its something they’d like to move forward with.

Anderson said he didn’t believe it’d be prepared by the county board’s next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

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Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.

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