Supervisors approve resolution to add $4.9 million bond referendum to ballot

by Bob Beach

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors continued discussions Tuesday, August 26 about plans to construct a new public safety center to house the County's jail, Sheriff's Department, Emergency Management Department and E911 Department. County Attorney Jill Kistler presented the Board with a resolution to add a bond referendum to the ballot for the November 4 general election this year, which would ask voters to approve the issuance of $4.9 million in general obligation bonds to fund the project.
Supervisor Sherry Strub expressed concerns about the resolution, asking what would happen if the project ended up costing more than $4.9 million. She noted that a building site had not yet been selected, pointing out that if the new public safety center is built at Makee Manor, the cost of demolition of the existing building would add to the overall project cost. "I just feel like we're being rushed into this," Strub said. "I'm not comfortable with it."
Supervisor Dennis Koenig said that while he understands Strub's concerns, he has confidence in the work done by the Public Safety Center Committee.
Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick said that the jail consultant and architect had both expressed confidence that the project could be completed for less than $5 million. He added that grants are available for asbestos removal, which would account for a significant portion of the cost to demolish the Makee Manor building, if that turns out to be the site selected for construction. He also said that project plans could be scaled back in the event that the actual cost might exceed the $4.9 million estimate. Mellick said that the bond referendum would establish the maximum cost of the project and if it could not be completed for that amount, it wouldn't be done.
Kistler told the Board that if the bond referendum is not on the ballot in November, a special election would need to be held, which would cost the County approximately $10,000.
After some discussion, the Board unanimously approved a resolution to put the following question to voters November 4: “Shall the County of Allamakee, State of Iowa, enter into a loan agreement and issue general obligation bonds in an amount not exceeding the amount of $4,900,000, for the purpose of acquiring real estate (if necessary), preparing a site, and constructing, furnishing and equipping a Public Safety Center that will provide space for the Sheriff’s Department, jail, dispatch center, Emergency Management Department and E911 Department?”
In related matters, the Board agreed to hire Bob Josten of Dorsey and Whitney to act as the County's bond attorney for the Public Safety Center project. The Board also listened to presentations by representatives from Speer Financial, D.A. Davidson and Northland Securities, all of whom expressed interest in serving as the County's financial advisor and/or underwriter for the project. The Board agreed to table the selection of a financial consultant for the project until its next regular meeting.
The Board also held a public hearing regarding the adoption of an ordinance to establish the Local Option Sales and Service Tax throughout the County, which was approved by voters August 5. Hearing no comments from the public, the Board closed the public hearing and then approved the first reading of the ordinance, waived the second and third readings and passed the ordinance.
In other business, the Board met with Bruce Palmborg, representing Lansing Main Street Matters, who asked for the Board's approval to make final payment to a consultant who assisted with an application to add downtown Lansing to the National Register of Historic Places. He reminded the Board that the County had agreed to act as the fiscal agent for a grant to pay the consultant and asked that the County pay the $5,000 consultant fee, which would then be reimbursed.
Palmborg told the Board that Lansing's application to be added to the register had been unanimously approved at the state level, which he said is a very good indication that the application will be approved by the National Park Service. He said that once the application has been approved at the federal level, downtown businesses would be eligible for grants to restore their buildings. He added that designation as an official historic place may also result in more tourism in Lansing, as there are some who plan their vacations with the purpose of visiting historic places. The Board approved the payment to the consultant and thanked Palmborg for all his work on behalf of the City of Lansing.