Drastic times call for drastic changes, and given the coronavirus pandemic, the need to act quickly and the large amount of federal funds coming into Guilford County government, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has granted County Manager Marty Lawing the right to spend more than 10 times the amount he usually can without approval from the county commissioners.

Normally, Lawing has a ceiling of $90,000 on purchases he can legally make at his discretion without getting the OK from a majority of the nine-member Board of Commissioners. However, at a recent work session, the board raised that cap to a cool $1 million.

That power was granted to Lawing due to the need to move quickly in a State of Emergency such as the one the COVID-19 pandemic has created.

Guilford County has also been granted nearly $94 million in COVID-19 response funds from the federal government and that money must be spent by the end of the year or returned to Washington DC. The board generally only meets once every two weeks and large purchases typically take a good while from the time of a need assessment to an actual expenditure.

“I can’t imagine a single purchase that would be in the million-dollar range,” Lawing told commissioners before the board granted approval. “I think it would be over time within a two-week period between meetings.”

It is a cumulative $1 million cap – that is, if Lawing spends a million dollars without board approval, then the board would have to come back and vote yes on another million.

And, of course, Lawing still must inform the commissioners what he’s spent the money on, so don’t look for him to come to a meeting and report that he’s purchased a brand new fully-loaded Cadillac for the sole use of the county manager.

Lawing said he can’t predict what emergency needs will come up.

“I don’t know what that would be at this point,” Lawing said.

In addition to this process-streamlining move, the county doesn’t have as much red tape to work through before spending the money since some purchasing requirements using taxpayer money are waived under state and federal law during a State of Emergency.