Supervisors hold meeting at New Albin Public Library, tour community’s new splash pad

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, August 31 at the New Albin Public Library as part of the board’s annual tour of county libraries. The board addressed a variety of agenda items including a resolution requesting reimbursement from the Iowa COVID-19 Government Relief Fund, the Second Reading of an amendment to the Allamakee County Zoning Ordinance and an update relating to the New Albin Public Library.

During Public Comment, Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) discussed the Eitzen, MN Lions Club’s Fall ATV/UTV Ride that took place Saturday, August 29 as a scholarship fundraiser for students at Caledonia, Kee and Waukon High Schools in Minnesota and Iowa.

Reinke and Supervisor Larry Schellhammer also discussed that another food shipment will be distributed to the public at 3 p.m. later that Monday at Iron Ridge Church in Waukon, through the Farms to Families Program with the USDA. Schellhammer said that the response has been overwhelming to this program and that he would like to see this food distribution continue twice a month, if possible.

Reinke also advised of her concerns relating to a dead tree near the intersection of Cemetery Road and Upper Iowa Road, which may need to be addressed by the Secondary Roads Department. Reinke said that she and Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour have discussed the matter. Reinke also discussed the recent barbecue held by Christ Community Church, indicating it was well attended and included children’s games and a bounce house.

New Albin Public Library Director Heather Abrahamzon provided an update relating to the library’s operations. Abrahamzon reported that the library averages over 240 visitors per month and provided an overview of books, magazines and movies in circulation. Abrahamzon said that there is a steady flow of children each using the 30 minutes of allotted time on computers on a daily basis and discussed the cataloging of books in the main library area and that three additional computers, one laptop and two desktop computers, have been added with only the cost of programs being necessary.

Abrahamzon advised that while the library was closed to the public due to COVID-19 she was able to clean and organize the back storage room and add shelving with work ongoing in cataloging these books in storage. Abrahamzon said that VHS movies are being phased out and that work continues in reorganizing library materials in the main library area while actively working on acquiring new movies and books.

Abrahamzon advised that community education programming has been canceled due to COVID-19 precautions but that she hopes to reschedule these programs at a future date. She closed her library update with a quote from Andrew Carnegie: “A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never ending spring in the desert.”

The Supervisors moved into the review of a Manure Management Update from Martins Site, which was accepted and placed on file. The Quarterly Report from Allamakee County Environmental Health was also accepted and placed on file.

The resolution requesting reimbursement from the Iowa COVID-19 Government Relief Fund was next addressed, with Schellhammer providing an overview by indicating that eligible costs can be reimbursed for COVID-19 pandemic related expenses through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Schellhammer advised that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has allocated $125,000,000 in funding for local governments with Allamakee County requesting a reimbursement of $173,523.88 according to the county’s population-based eligibility. The Supervisors approved the resolution.

The Supervisors moved into the consideration of the Second Reading of an amendment to the Allamakee County Zoning Ordinance by changing the zoning district boundaries, and changing the zoning district from C1 (commercial) to A1 (agricultural) for parcels located at 933 and 929 Lansing Harpers Road and all adjoining land zoned C1. Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Tom Blake provided an overview of the matter and indicated that these properties were previously used commercially but have since changed ownership and that a request to rezone as residential has been made.

Blake advised that the Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended that a change to A1 be approved to better match surrounding properties zoned A1, or residential. Blake indicated that he has not received any comments or objections relating to this matter. The Supervisors approved the Second Reading of the amendment to the Allamakee County Zoning Ordinance. Supervisor Dan Byrnes recommended to not waive the Third Reading of the amendment, with Schellhammer and Supervisor Dennis Koenig in agreement to include that third reading on the next meeting agenda.

Under COVID-19 related items, Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer provided a recommendation to return the Allamakee County Courthouse’s open hours for the public to 4 p.m. in anticipation of in-person voting starting October 5. Schellhammer suggested that this matter should be added to the next meeting agenda. Schellhammer discussed that the State of Iowa has provided guidance for County Treasurer’s Offices to continue with appointment-only drivers license testing.

In discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Schellhammer commented that Allamakee County ended the fiscal-year in a financially strong position and advised that with tax statements going out, many property owners are choosing to pay for the full year and that local option sales tax revenue has been better than expected.

Blake reported that building permits have been steady while there have been some derecho related issues restricting the flow of building materials and slowing construction progress. Blake advised that many are still planning construction even though material delays are currently being experienced. Schellhammer discussed that there are currently challenges affecting lumber prices, the availability of contractors to do the work and causing building material delays.

Reinke indicated that tourism-related information requests continue to be received with cabins, kayaking and hiking allowing for social distancing. Reinke added that a new business in Postville, the Next Door Coffee Shop, will be opening soon with weekend hours initially.

Betsy Whitlach and Jessica Meyer of the New Albin Improvement League (NAIL) provided the Supervisors an overview of the New Albin Park Improvement Project with the first phase relating to the splash pad now complete. Whitlach and Meyer indicated that future phases of the project will include the installation of new basketball hoops, new fencing, new playground equipment including musical instrument equipment and updated swings, a new 12’  x 32’ shade shelter, new benches, picnic tables and garbage cans, creation of a community garden using raised beds and planters, and the addition of permeable pavers for parking and beneath the garden area.

Whitlach and Meyer discussed assistance from Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) in planning and the development of concept renderings for the project and provided an overview of the fundraising process thus far and additional grant opportunities available. Whitlach advised that fundraising has gone well locally with $300,000 raised, exceeding the original goal of $250,000, which has allowed for additional improvements. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Supervisors visited the new splash pad site near the New Albin Municipal building.

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