Supervisors hold public hearing on the paving of Heytman Drive, discuss English Bench Watershed

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, December 3 to address a full agenda of items including discussion of the Assistant County Attorney position, the English Bench Watershed and a public hearing regarding paving Heytman Drive. There was no Public Comment.
Assistant County Attorney Anthony Gericke provided a letter of resignation for his current position to be effective January 2, 2019, at which time Gericke will be assuming the role of County Attorney he was elected to in the November 6 General Election. Gericke advised that he has provided a copy of the text used previously to advertise the Assistant County Attorney position with some minor updates for the January 2 vacancy. Gericke and the Supervisors discussed the division of responsibilities for the County Attorney and Assistant County Attorney and scheduling for the Assistant County Attorney. The Supervisors accepted and placed on file the letter of resignation from Gericke and approved to advertise the Assistant County Attorney position.

Coordinator Jean Bossom with Allamakee Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) discussed the Evaluator Sub-Contract for the Iowa Partnership for Success Grant utilized by her office. The Supervisors approved the signing of the sub-contract.

The Supervisors moved into the consideration of the Medical Examiner’s Course agenda item. Lansing/New Albin Police Chief Conrad Rosendahl indicated that a grant opportunity to potentially fund this training did not materialize and that he enrolled, with the first 100 prepaid students only being accepted due to limited space. Rosendahl discussed that the training will take place January 7-11 in St. Louis, MO and indicated that the County is responsible for providing medical examiner services.

Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick discussed the list of medical examiners currently available and the cost of the training at $1,750 not including travel and meals. Mellick indicated that a Deputy Sheriff that also serves as an EMT has expressed interest in the training. The Supervisors approved to reimburse the City of Lansing $1,750 for the cost of the Medical Examiner Course for Rosendahl taking the course.

The Public Hearing for the Paving and Grading of Heytman Drive was opened. A capacity crowd was in attendance with property owners and residents living on or near Heytman Drive, including Carl Mullarkey, Romona Mullarkey, Ray Mullarkey, Jim O’Neihl, Leon Mohn, Bonnie Mohn, Jerry Mottet, Sam Miller and Sue Miller.

Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour provided an overview of the history of this project, which was re-added to the County’s five-year plan in 2016 and is currently in the Fiscal-Year 2020 five-year plan. Ridenour indicated that the project received 46 of the required 50 points by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) criteria for paving without a public hearing and involves 1.75 miles of gravel road to be paved at an approximate cost of $1.1 million.

Ridenour advised that the DOT has provided a traffic count of 140 vehicles per day, which is an increase due to the additional homes constructed on Heytman Drive accounting for 60 total addresses. Ridenour discussed the written comments received, with property owners Kinch and Jami Donithan and Jim and Sue Dyer indicating that they would be willing to contribute $10,000 to the paving project.

Leon Mohn addressed several concerns raised during Public Comment at the November 13 Board of Supervisors meeting, indicating that he believes that accidents are not frequent and that problem spots should be fixed to improve safety, rather than paving an entire road, with River View Road in comparison being a greater safety concern.

Mottet indicated that he feels strongly that Heytman Drive should be paved and conveyed a similar message on behalf of family members who are property owners along Heytman Drive. Mottet discussed safety concerns and difficulties pulling a boat trailer on Heytman Drive following rainfall.

Ray Mullarkey expressed concerns relating to the prioritization of the Heytman Drive paving project over similar roads. Mullarkey said that there is a disconnect regarding the perception of safety on Heytman Drive compared to the safety of River View Road, which he indicated is a greater safety concern.

Mullarkey questioned how many road projects are being bypassed in order for Heytman Drive to be paved.

Romona Mullarkey indicated that she is against the Heytman Drive paving project and that a school bus driver has frequently driven too fast on this road, creating safety issues for other motorists, and should be reprimanded as a result. Carl Mullarkey discussed his history living in the area and his frequent use of Heytman Drive for walking and driving over the years. Mullarkey indicated that the road is fine as is and he does not recommend the paving project.

Sam Miller, a resident living near River View Road, discussed providing 15-20 form letters expressing support that were signed by residents in anticipation of the public hearing originally discussed to take place later in December, which would have been a scheduling issue for some seasonal residents. Sue Miller discussed that many of the residents are younger and unavailable due to work schedules or living two to four hours away, making their attendance at this meeting unlikely. She discussed the tax revenue based on the $7-8 million in property values on Heytman Drive and provided feedback concerning commercial and resident traffic. She also advised that the lower section of Heytman Drive is treacherous and that property owners have continued to build and improve upon their homes with the understanding that this road would someday be paved as part of the five-year plan.

Bonnie Mohn expressed concerns about the use of tax dollars toward this proposed project. Leon Mohn discussed the criteria being used describing a 10-200 daily traffic count as appropriate for a granular surface and not requiring a paved surface. He further discussed the use of the boat landing with Allamakee County Conservation Director Jim Janett, indicating that the Heytman Drive paving would likely not cause a major increase in its use. Janett further clarified that the boat landing’s use would not drastically change as a small craft launch, which is not designed for large boats or pontoons that may be more easily transported on paved surfaces.

Ridenour further discussed the DOT criteria for the 50 points required for a paving project based on the classification of the route, traffic counts, closest paved parallel route, percentage of truck traffic and other factors. Supervisor Dan Byrnes advised of the 15-plus letters received in support of the Heytman Drive paving project.

Supervisor Dennis Koenig discussed the road conditions mentioned earlier in the meeting with icy and slippery roads being an issue on all secondary roads due to recent weather conditions and not being specific to Heytman Drive. Koenig recommended that straightening problem areas of this road may eliminate some safety issues.

Byrnes advised that the Heytman Drive paving project has been removed and re-added to the five-year plan. He further advised that 850 miles of secondary roads are maintained within the county, including bridge maintenance. Byrnes indicated that he would be fine leaving this project in the five-year plan but would not be supportive of bidding-out this project at this time.

Board chairperson Larry Schellhammer indicated that there are benefits with a paved road but speed would likely increase, which is a safety concern, and that paving would not enhance safety but straightening the road would. Schellhammer indicated that the school bus issue has been reported to the school district with follow-up from the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Department. Schellhammer discussed that there is value in paving this road and that paving projects should be in the five-year plan; whether or not this project moves forward remains to be seen.

Byrnes indicated that lowering the speed limit on Heytman Drive may be an option to improve safety with Schellhammer discussing that seal coating and blacktop may be alternatives to paving. Ridenour recommended that a definitive direction is needed to keep the project in the five-year plan.

The motion to leave the Heytman Drive paving project in the five-year plan with a preliminary survey to be done, proceeding with condemnation, if chosen, was approved by roll call vote, with Koenig and Schellhammer voting yes and Byrnes voting no.

The Supervisors moved into discussion of the English Bench Watershed. Ridenour recommended that the watershed’s level should be lowered for the winter and discussed needed repairs including the broken outlet pipe. LuAnn Rolling of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) provided feedback on the matter. Rolling discussed the unanticipated amount of rainfall that has affected the English Bench Watershed with the artesian spring bubbling being unrelated to the water being held by the dike.

Byrnes and Ridenour discussed the cost to excavate and create a channel. The Supervisors approved to move forward in hiring a contractor to handle the excavation to clear a channel allowing more controlled water flow in case of a breach.

Under Department Head Updates, Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer discussed the Auditors Conference held in Des Moines last week focusing on elections and human resources. Beyer also discussed election changes to take place in 2019.

Janett discussed an appointment to the Conservation Board and provided an update on visitor numbers for the Driftless Education and Visitors Center in Lansing.

Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Tom Blake discussed that Solutions IT Services will not provide support for Windows 7 resulting in necessary upgrades and new laptop purchases with a budget amendment to be discussed. Blake discussed some recent equipment activity involved in the grading and maintenance of a logging road in the Bluffland Protection District. Blake indicated that the individual has agreed to stop this activity pending further investigation.


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