by Joe Moses
The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, May 22 to address a full agenda of matters including the consideration of the Resolution in support of naming the bridge that crosses Yellow River on Highway 51 at Mile Marker 4 “Trooper Ted Benda Memorial Bridge”, consideration of appointing members of the Pioneer Cemetery Commission and a Building Committee bid update relating to County Courthouse improvements. The meeting was called to order by Board of Supervisors Chairperson Dan Byrnes with Supervisors Mark Reiser and Dennis Keatley present.
During Public Comment, Colleen Gragg discussed the maintenance of pioneer cemeteries and made note of some items including a truck bedliner and tailgate that will need to be removed from a pioneer cemetery on Green Valley Road prior to Memorial Day. Keatley and Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick discussed handling the removal of these items prior to the holiday weekend.
Marcia Rush provided an update relating to the Pioneer Cemetery Commission and the organization’s membership. Rush made note of a recent Pioneer Cemetery Commission meeting and further noted that five new burials were located and two areas needing fencing identified. Rush said the Commission will have a table at the upcoming Heritage Days in New Albin with Rush further discussing plans to purchase additional supplies for the Commission this summer.
Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) advised that an event will be taking place at Mt. Hosmer Tuesday, May 23 in honor of new trail signage, a project made possible through the assistance of Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D). Reinke also noted the open house at Lansing Housing Products from 2-7 p.m. Thursday, May 25 in recognition of its 20th anniversary in business and rebranding as Tough Tek Metals. Reinke advised that Taste of Lansing will also be taking place Thursday, May 25 with 29 stops scheduled for participants purchasing passports to this event.
Allamakee County Assessor Ann Burckart made note of a small section of missing concrete in the County Courthouse parking lot. She advised that this muddy area of the parking lot should be repaired with Reiser noting that this will be included in the sidewalk bids being submitted by contractors.
Burckart also discussed that House File 718 has passed, creating an additional exemption for homeowners 65 years of age and older by removing $3,250 from the taxable value for the 2023 assessment year and removing $6,500 from the taxable value for the 2024 assessment year. Burckart noted that the Military Service Tax Exemption is changing from the current level of $1,852 of property value to $4,000 automatically for those qualifying for this credit or exemption. Burckart advised that advertisements and public notices will be published in the newspaper over the next several weeks relating to this recent change in legislation affecting the Homestead Tax Exemption for claimants 65 and older.
The meeting moved into the Discussion/Consideration of a Resolution in support of naming the bridge that crosses Yellow River on Highway 51 at Mile Marker 4 as “Trooper Ted Benda Memorial Bridge.” Lieutenant Brian Senne, District Commander Northeast Iowa Area of the Iowa State Patrol read aloud the Resolution: “Whereas residents of Allamakee County and the State of Iowa have benefited from the presence of law enforcement provided by the Iowa State Patrol; and whereas Trooper Ted Benda of Waukon, Iowa of the Iowa State Patrol worked tirelessly for 16 years enforcing the laws of the State Legislature focusing on driver safety along Highway 51; and whereas Trooper Ted Benda, a 16-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol, died in the line of duty while protecting citizens of the State of Iowa on October 20, 2021. Therefore, be it hereby resolved by the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors, that by majority vote, the Highway 51 bridge that crosses over the Yellow River at Mile Marker 4 shall be memorialized as “Trooper Ted Benda Memorial Bridge” recognizing Trooper Ted Benda’s contribution to traffic safety and the citizens of Allamakee County for the length of his career.”
Sheriff Mellick noted, “On behalf of the Allamakee County Sheriff’s office, I would like to add our support for naming this bridge in recognition of Trooper Ted Benda.” Mellick further noted that Benda and his work in Allamakee County will be greatly missed with Mellick adding a personal comment that Benda was a good friend.
Byrnes noted that this will be a very fitting memorial. Without further comment, the Supervisors approved the Resolution in support of naming the bridge that crosses Yellow River on Highway 51 at Mile Marker 4 as “Trooper Ted Benda Memorial Bridge.”
Mellick addressed the next matter relating to the discussion and consideration of using the County credit card to purchase evidence preservation equipment and traffic enforcement equipment. Mellick advised that this matter relates to the purchase of items used for evidence storage including bags for electronic devices and two vehicle window tint meters which he noted will allow the Sheriff’s Department to assist those purchasing used vehicles in determining whether or not after market window tint is in compliance. The Supervisors approved the use of the County credit for this purchase not to exceed $600.
Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Stephanie Runkle provided an overview of plat requests, including Robert J. and Phyllis D. Waters, Brennan and Hogan Farm – a partnership, Brothers Olson, LLC, and Catherine M. Mulholland. Following review, the Supervisors approved the four plat requests as presented.
The meeting moved into the Building Committee update with Runkle providing background on this matter relating to a variety of repairs and improvements at the County Courthouse. Senior Project Manager Brian Pinnow with Wieser Brothers General Contractor, Inc. provided an overview of the process that would be used by his company if awarded this project. Pinnow discussed that an assessment of the building, information gathering, meeting with stakeholders, among other steps would be necessary in determining the HVAC, electrical and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements necessary to meet current standards.
Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke discussed fire suppression and the prioritization of the list of proposed improvements. Byrnes noted that there are two proposals submitted to the Supervisors with a work session likely necessary next week for discussion of this matter. No action was taken relating to this informational matter.
The consideration of appointing members of the Pioneer Cemetery Commission was next addressed by the Supervisors. Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer provided an overview of the applications received while noting that Marcia Rush was previously approved for a three-year term expiring in 2025. The Supervisors approved the applications for Jacqueline Everett, a term ending in 2024, and Doris Anderson, a three-year term ending in 2026.
Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker provided an overview of the next matter relating to the draft of Allamakee County Multi-Jurisdiction (MJ-7) Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. Snitker noted the work being performed by Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) relating to the hazard mitigation plan update process, which is close to completion. Snitker further noted that the six cities, three schools and the entire county are included in this planning process which is helping identify mitigation concerns and will be beneficial in qualifying for grant funding opportunities.
Snitker noted the addition of mental health needs relating to active shooter scenarios and human disease relating to COVID-19. He advised that this plan is available for public viewing and input and will be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for review and approval. Snitker added that he will be bringing a Resolution to the Tuesday, May 30 Supervisors meeting which will outline Allamakee County’s support of this planning and update.
Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour addressed the next matter relating to the consideration of hiring a full-time employee for the Secondary Roads Department. He provided a recommendation to hire Nicholas Kappussi at $21.84 per hour starting June 5 for the position of Maintenance Person III out of the Waterville shop. The Supervisors approved that recommendation.
The Supervisors and Ridenour discussed the next agenda item relating to the consideration of the Teamsters/Secondary Road Union request to reopen the contract for Fiscal-Year 2024 (FY24) wages. Ridenour noted that the County’s legal counsel had received a letter relating to this request to reopen wage negotiations for FY24, which was already secured. Ridenour advised that this letter outlined their request for an additional $2 per hour increase above the 74 cents increase agreed upon, a $2.74 per hour increase in total.
Ridenour noted Attorney John Anderson’s feedback and options available to the County, including that the County could do nothing, accept the Teamster’s recommendation and modify the contract, provide an addendum to the contract with a “take it or leave it” offer, or do more fact finding prior to discussion with legal counsel in closed session.
Reiser indicated that he believes the contract should remain as is, noting that the County provides good benefits, has taken care of health insurance premium increases, provides a four-day work week for Secondary Roads, IPERS, among other benefits. Reiser further advised, “they made a contract and I think they should stick with it.” Ridenour and the Supervisors further discussed challenges in hiring and employee retention. No action was taken with this matter to be addressed next week.
Under Department Head Updates, Snitker discussed the County’s membership in the Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC) Region 7, made up of 10 counties, with the current Chairperson set to retire and Snitker to assume that role. He discussed plans to attend the LEPC Regional Conference in June.
Snitker also provided an update relating to the Mississippi River flooding by noting that many of the areas impacted are now in a damage assessment phase and out of the flood warning. Snitker further noted damage and debris removal taking place in several locations with work ongoing by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and County Conservation relating to their respective areas. Snitker advised that signage has been posted relating to individual assistance available while noting that much of the housing on the river is secondary housing and not primary housing, with grant assistance requiring primary residences.
Coordinator Jean Bossom of Allamakee Substance Abuse Prevention provided an update relating to the County Substance Abuse Grant application through the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). Bossom discussed feedback received from IDPH which was positive relating to the strategy and work plan outlined with the only issue being the limited hours allowed for the part-time position, with the grant funding requiring a full-time position. Bossom provided a recommendation to withdraw this application.
Ridenour discussed staffing with two part-time positions not yet filled and his recommendation to advertise one full-time maintenance position. Ridenour updated the Supervisors about ongoing projects including W4B on Yellow River Drive with shoulders on new asphalt completed with some minor details remaining. Ridenour also advised that Bruening Rock Products has started gravel application.
Prior to adjournment, Beyer provided an update relating to County vehicle maintenance and noted that next week’s Supervisors Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 30 following the closure of the County Courthouse for the May 29 Memorial Day holiday. Beyer noted that a new employee will be starting this week in the Auditor’s office. She advised that she is communicating with school board secretaries and city clerks relating to the November city/school election.
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by Joe Moses