Supes hear cost to repair RRVT bridge

Also get briefed on proposed housing in Jefferson

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

The Greene County supervisors got information they’ve been waiting for since ice took out a bridge over the Raccoon River on the Raccoon River Valley Trail in March.

Conservation director Dan Towers reported at the May 13 supervisors meeting an estimate of $250,000 to repair 70-foot section of the bridge and another $150,000 for the needed pilings. The estimate was provided by engineering firm WHKS & Company of Mason City.

Towers plans to attend a FEMA training for writing applications for funding. According to Towers, the county may have to contribute at least 10 percent of the total cost of repair.
The popular bike trail, which stretches from Des Moines to Jefferson, is closed between 265th and 290th St until the bridge is repaired. An estimated 350,000 bicyclists use the trail annually, and it’s an integral part of tourism in the county.

Trail users have been asking about alternate routes around the closed bridge on the trail. Towers said, “We haven’t been designating a route because of liability and signage would be needed.” However, cyclists have found the highway past Squirrel Hollow or Highway 4 are possibilities.

Also at the meeting, the supervisors heard a presentation by Andy Rowland of Rowland Construction of West Des Moines. He was accompanied by Ken Paxton, Sid Jones, Derek Kennedy and John Rigler III of the Greene County Development Corporation.

Rowland, a 2007 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, has built three duplexes in Bondurant and two duplexes in Waukee. His interest in building workforce-type housing in more distant counties comes from the saturation of building in Des Moines suburbs and the high cost of land there, he told the supervisors. Rowland said he would be interested in building units in other Greene County communities if units built in Jefferson were successful.

Rowland described the proposed units as being 4-plexes with a pair of two-story units in the center and ranch units on each side. There would be detached two-car garages for each unit. They would be built slab on grade style with no basements.

Supervisor Dawn Rudolph asked about storm shelters. Rowland said they were not included in his plan.

The units would be all-electric with heat pumps, forced air, and electric strip heaters for back-up if necessary in the coldest of winter. With his units in Bondurant, utilities run between $60-$100 a month.

Each unit would have two bedrooms. The ranch units would have one bathroom and the two-story units would have 1-1/2 baths each. Each unit would have laundry hook-ups. Units would be about 1,000 square feet.

Lawn care and snow removal would be contracted for locally and this cost would be included in rent. Rowland anticipated that rent would run about $850 per month.
Rowland said there are several possible lots available in Jefferson, one being on the east side of the 500 block of N. Olive St. That property is owned by St Joseph Catholic Church. That location would be within walking distance of a grocery store, businesses, and downtown.

After the presentation, the supervisors discussed the information and compared it to a proposed housing development from J Corps in 2014-2016. That project was not built primarily due to challenges in obtaining financing. In general, the supervisors were more favorable toward Rowland Construction and felt the rent and size of the units was more in line with local needs.

There was discussion of the county purchasing land and donating it to the construction. No action was taken as the presentation was only informational.
Sheriff Jack Williams informed the board that about 20 people per week are coming to

Greene County to be fingerprinted for jobs in other counties. The reason is that Greene County doesn’t charge for fingerprinting and other counties charge $25-$50 per person.

According to Williams, the jailer can fingerprint an individual in about 20 minutes.
Board chair John Muir told Williams, “Come up with a number (cost figure), and we’ll get a policy on it.”

The board unanimously approved a resolution to hire Caleb Crowder as deputy sheriff with a yearly salary of $42,500 and $1,000 on completion of the Law Enforcement Academy.
Crowder is a Guthrie Center native, attended college at Waldorf University in Forest City, and has a bachelor degree in criminal justice. Crowder’s hiring brings the sheriff’s office to full staff.

County attorney Thomas Laehn described a pilot project in connection with Boone County Probation involving a contract for supervision of informal probationers from Greene County over the next 12 months. This would start July 1, continue for a year, and involve 20 people on informal probation. Boone County estimated a cost of $8,500. Laehn indicated he hopes to have a contract ready for board consideration next week.

Jenny Showman, representing the Tower View Team, described a proposed art fair to be held during Deal’s Orchard Fall Festival on Oct. 12. The TVT would like to use the courthouse grounds on the east side driveway and parking area. They propose vendors, food, and music from 10 am until 4 pm with a possible connection to wine-tasting at Thomas Jefferson Gardens. Muir was favorable toward the proposal, “if we can maneuver through liability in using courthouse grounds.”

County attorney Thomas Laehn explained, “there’s a difference between community activities and art displayed as free speech,” on courthouse grounds.

The board unanimously supported the proposed art fair.

Philip Heisterkamp reported to the board on temporary lighting for the Bell Tower Festival involving wrapping trees and hanging lights to create ambience near the stages. In a related issue, the board agreed with engineer Wade Weiss that unnecessary speakers be removed from the roof of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower and that a skylight be replaced there this week.

Muir proclaimed the month of May 2019 to be Mental Health Month in Greene County. The board signed the proclamation and read it aloud.

Weiss reported on an “ugly” gravel situation in the county due to spring ice and rain damage to gravel roads. “There are 750 miles of gravel roads in Greene County,” he explained, “and most are in need of gravel.” He discussed various solutions to procuring additional gravel. Other topics for future discussion included a wall at the bell tower and replacing individual flags at various spots.

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