Upon recommendation by county attorney Blake Norman, Hancock County supervisors on Oct. 11 approved a resolution limiting use of the county’s law enforcement center basement meeting room to county officials for county purposes.
Norman said that after receiving a request for use of facilities (which was not county business related) he discussed the matter with Sheriff Rob Gerdes. Norman cited liability concerns about issues such as cleanup, lost/missing items, potential property damage, and a desire to have the space used for county and county-related business.
Norman noted that the approved resolution would not impact elected officials’ use of the facilities for official business. An example raised was representatives or senators visiting on their 99-county tours of Iowa. Supervisor Sis Greiman noted that those visits are about meeting with constituents and working and communicating with local officials and should not be impacted.
Norman said there is a subtle difference between elected officials visiting solely for a political campaign event, which would not be permitted in normal circumstances under this resolution, and elected officials engaging in official business. He also said that requests can be studied on a case-by-case basis. Norman also said that the resolution would not grant use of the facilities to groups seeking to hold political activism events, which would not entail official county business.
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“We’d like to make that a county-only or county business room,” Norman said. “It limits the use." He also said that it will not allow for county officials to use the room for “recreational” purposes that are not for county business.
Hancock County Supervisors frequently use the meeting space for public hearings, drainage meetings, or other special meetings where more space is needed than is available in their regular meeting room adjacent to the law enforcement center. It was noted that classes such as snowmobile training that has been held in the downstairs meeting room in the past, will no longer be held there.
County engineer Jeremy Purvis said the county has completed temporary work on the Duncan frontage road to get it ready for winter, removing broken pavement and putting down gravel. Supervisor chair Gary Rayhons noted that the frontage road work there has spurred a lot of questions (not complaints) about what is being done there.
“The Duncan frontage road is complete for now.,” Purvis said. “We removed bad concrete and replaced it with gravel on the west end by Nash Avenue to make for a smoother ride and make it easier on our plows this winter. Once the Iowa Department of Transportation transfers jurisdiction to Hancock County, we will look at replacing the road with asphalt. My hope is to do that next summer.”
Purvis noted that the DOT has already placed some right of way stakes in the vicinity, which possibly helped spur some of the questions from the public.
Supervisors also approved a resolution for the removal of bridge postings for three county bridges where improvements were completed this summer, according to National Bridge Inspection Standards. The bridges that are no longer required to be posted for load restrictions are located on:
• 170th Street over Boone River in Section 31, T-95N, R-26W, Boone Township.
• 180th Street over E. Branch Iowa River in Section 26, T-95N, R-24W, Liberty Township.
• 190th Street over Galls Creek/Drainage Ditch No. 177 Lat. 2 in Section 24, T-95N, R-23W, Ell Township.
Purvis said that the county also finished bridge work on a fourth structure (less than 20 feet in length) last week on Iowa Avenue, between 260th and 270th Streets. It was rated at three tons.
“We replaced this structure with a corrugated metal pipe and it is now open without any load restrictions,” Purvis said.
Supervisors also approved the sealed bid of Tucker Barickman of Garner at $231 per acre for rent of 37.7 acres, which is secondary roads department ground, in section 27 of Orthel Township. This lease of tillable acres on cultivated ground is for one year commencing in April 2022, with an option to renew it for one additional year. The total annual cash rent will be $8,708.
During a public forum, supervisor chair Gary Rayhons announced that he will reach out to Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline officials to request they discuss the project further with the board. Supervisors expressed concerns about possible impacts on drainage tiles and roads in Hancock County districts proposed to be impacted by a carbon dioxide pipeline.
“We don’t want our roads cut through and why not bore under,” said supervisor Greiman, citing concerns about too many bends in spots with a pressurized liquid pipeline. “Pressure and liquid could find its way out in that case. Anytime you have a weak area that’s where it could flow.”
Greiman also cited concerns with the company over an apparent lack of advance communications regarding the project with Purvis, the county engineer.
In other business:
• Supervisors signed onto a $6,500 agreement with Modus Engineering to study the existing HVAC at the Hancock County Courthouse. An agreement was previously in place for Modus to do a study assessment of the HVAC in the county’s LEC building and planned courthouse vestibule.
There have been pump, condenser, and sludge buildup issues that have occurred. County maintenance director Kevin Hoeft explained there have been many other issues with the courthouse heating and cooling system, which is about 21 years old.
“Every year, it’s getting worse and (difficult) trying to get someone to work on it,” Hoeft said. He noted that every spring and winter, all pipes need to be cleaned to clear sludge buildup and that the pump even had to be torn apart to allow water to drain.
Supervisors expressed hope that American Rescue Plan Act funds could help pay for HVAC-related costs in the courthouse, but county attorney Norman said he cannot say whether or not it would qualify for the federal funds at this time.
“The ventilation is obvious, but it is not time-sensitive or directly COVID related (like the LEC),” Norman said.
“I’m not sure who can tell us yes or no until we submit something and that could be a problem,” said county auditor Michelle Eisenman, adding that engineering funds are available for this study in the county’s budget.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at email@example.com.