County supes approve sale of $5.5M in general obligation bonds

Also lobbied for a new jail

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

The Greene County supervisors, who for decades have prided themselves on having no capital debt, unanimously approved a resolution at their Sept. 30 meeting to issue up to $5.5 million in general obligation urban renewal capital bonds.

The resolution followed a public hearing at which no members of the public spoke and no written comments were read into the record.

The bonds will pay for urban renewal projects including the regional career academy adjacent to the new Greene County High School. Payment of the bonds will not increase property taxes for county landowners, as repayment will come from tax increment finance (TIF) revenue derived from the first turbines in the Beaver Creek Wind Park.

The building will be owned by the county but through a 28E agreement with Greene County Schools, the school will be responsible for managing it for use by Iowa Central Community College.

The “reports” portion of the meeting, which preceded the public hearing, included livelier discussion, with law enforcement, jail needs, and building security being the topics.

The meeting began with reports of two truckloads of stolen property, active shooter training, and the need for a new jail.

County sheriff Jack Williams reported getting search warrants and discovering “two truckloads of stolen property” during the past week.

County attorney Thomas Laehn said, “Some crime in Greene County would not be occurring if people were serving full sentences.” In his view, “the prison system is absolutely broken.”

Laehn said people who are sentenced to terms in prison are often released with a fraction of the sentence served because parole boards base parole decisions on “whether a person poses a threat to society.”

If offenders are sentenced to county jail time, more of the original sentence is served before release, according to Laehn. In Greene County, this would necessitate a new jail due to current lack of space.

“That would take a public vote,” was supervisor Dawn Rudolph’s reply.

Laehn reported the courthouse security committee has met and will make future recommendations for implementation of courthouse security measures. He recommended security training sessions for employees and “active shooter training.”

The board was in general agreement “as long as everyone knows it’s a training session (with an active shooter.)”

Laehn also reported he is organizing the law library, saving law books that are “historical, pre-1975” and weeding out “hundreds of books” that are available digitally now. Laehn said there are some historical books from the 1850s and 1860s.

Chuck Wenthold, environmental department, reported no information from Department of Natural Resources yet about the cause of the fish kill in Hardin Creek in August. Wenthold reported the August unemployment rate in Greene County was 2.3 percent. This is similar to the Iowa unemployment rate.

County engineer Wade Weiss presented the board with designs for replacement banners for downtown Jefferson using a photograph of the stained glass dome in the courthouse. He also asked about taking stage sections to the next DOT auction in Ames in November. Chair John Muir asked about other groups that might have a use for the stages. The board agreed to the stages being taken to auction “unless someone shows interest.”

Supervisor Rudolph reported on her attendance at a Central Iowa Community Services meeting and children’s mental health advisory board. Genesis Development’s recent financial problems have decreased the number of providers available.

The board went into drainage district trustee mode to open bids concerning improvements to DD-14. Representatives of Bolton and Menk, engineering and consulting firm, opened bids from seven contractors. Bids ranged from $310,905 to $479,479. The lowest bid was from Midwest Mechanical Industrial of Logan. The Midwest company will be accepted by the board at the next meeting, Oct 7, after Bolton and Menk checks its credentials and officially recommends Midwest to the board.

Also as drainage district trustees, the board heard information about a proposed drainage district between Jefferson and Scranton, south of Highway 30. If formed, the district would be DD-191. Twelve members of the public gallery had spirited discussion of the costs, benefits, and issues involved.

Representatives from Bolton and Menk fielded questions and concerns, showing proposed projects within the proposed district on a map.

No action was taken at the meeting. The board will send ballots to landowners in the proposed district to get information about support for the various parts of the proposed project. The public hearing will continue Monday, Nov 25, at 9:15 am.

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