Supervisors hold annual organizational meeting to start new year, proclaim January National Mentoring Month during pair of recent regular sessions

National Mentoring Month Proclamation ... The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors signed a proclamation at its Monday, January 9 regular meeting designating January as National Mentoring Month in Allamakee County. Pictured above at the proclamation signing are: Left to right - Front row: Helping Services for Youth and Families Mentoring intern Gabby Bizal, Helping Services for Youth and Families Mentoring Coordinators Colinne McCann and Kathy Schwartzhoff, and Helping Services for Youth and Families Director of Community Engagement Ben Krouse-Gagne; Back row: Allamakee County Board of Supervisors members Dennis Keatley, Dan Byrnes and Mark Reiser, and Helping Services for Youth and Families Executive Director Carson Eggland. The Helping Services for Youth and Families Mentoring Program offers a caring adult role model for youth between the ages of six and 16. Standard photo by Joe Moses.

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in a pair of regular sessions within less than a week of one another this past week due to the New Year’s Day holiday being observed on the board’s regular meeting day, Monday, January 2. Coverage of both the board’s Tuesday, January 3 and Monday, January 9 regular sessions appears below.

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors began 2023 with its annual reorganizational meeting in regular session Tuesday, January 3 following the Monday, January 2 closure of the Allamakee County Courthouse due to the New Year’s Day holiday observance. Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer called the meeting to order with Dan Byrnes being appointed Board of Supervisors Chairperson and Mark Reiser being appointed Chairperson Pro-Tem for 2023, with Supervisor Dennis Keatley also present at the meeting.

During Public Comment, via Zoom web-conferencing, CEO Michael Coyle of Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) provided an update relating to the City-ownership to County-ownership transition of the hospital. Coyle made note of communication with Baird Holm Law Firm, VMH’s legal counsel, relating to the transfer of real estate involved in this transition and further recommended increased communication between the hospital’s legal counsel and the County’s legal representatives including Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke and Attorney Katie Cownie of the Dorsey & Whitney Law Firm to ensure this process continues to move forward in a timely manner.

Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) discussed recent and upcoming events within the county. She noted that there were 75 individuals present for the “First Day” Hike at Yellow River State Forest (YRSF) event held Sunday, January 1. Reinke noted that a group in Lansing is doing work relating to the Iowa Great Places program with focus groups starting later in the week.

The Supervisors moved into the next agenda item with the approval of setting meeting days and start time for Board of Supervisors meetings in 2023 as Mondays at 9:30 a.m. with 10 minutes of Public Comment time.

The meeting moved into the consideration of Supervisor appointments to various Boards, Committees and Commissions. Beyer and the Supervisors reviewed the list of Board/Commission appointments with the Supervisors approving an updated list of appointments as follows:

Byrnes: County E911 Board, County Revolving Loan Fund, County Board of Health, County Substance Abuse Board, Iowa Workforce Development Chief Elected Officials Board, Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation (NEICAC) Executive Board, NEICAC Transit Board, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A), Regional Upper Explorerland Revolving Loan Fund, Upper Explorerland Regional Housing Authority Board. Byrnes will also be an alternate for the Emergency Management Commission, Northeast Iowa Juvenile Detention Board, T-21 DOT Policy Board and the County Social Services Board of Directors;

Reiser: Courthouse, County Farm, County Conservation Board, 28E Board, DECAT Empowerment, Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health Board, Northeast Iowa Response Group, T-21 Advisory Board, Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund. Reiser will be an alternate for the Emergency Management Commission and the Board of Directors of the Judicial District Department of Corrections;

Keatley: Northeast Iowa Juvenile Detention Board, County Social Services Board, Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D), Board of Directors of Judicial District Department of Corrections, County Economic Development Executive Board, T-21 DOT Policy Board, Emergency Management Commission, Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC), UERPC Executive Board. Keatley will also be an alternate for the Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund.

All of the Supervisors will be representatives on the County Conference Board, County Economic Development, Roadside Management, County Planning & Zoning Board, County Solid Waste and the County Historical Society.

Beyer also discussed the next agenda item relating to 2023 Claim Due Dates, Pay Dates and Payroll Dates. The Supervisors approved those dates unchanged from last calendar year.

The Standard in Waukon and The Postville Herald were approved as official newspapers of Allamakee County. The Supervisors approved the Resolution setting the mileage rate for 2023 as 50 cents per mile. Bounties for 2023 were approved including coyotes at $5 each and gophers at 50 cents a pair for front feet, with these feet being in clear bags with no more than 10 pair per bag.

The meeting moved into the appointment of an alternate voter for the Board of Supervisors on the Northeast Iowa Response Group. Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker noted that he attends these meetings and as an appointed alternate voter, he is able to vote in the absence of a Supervisor. Following a brief discussion, Snitker was approved as an alternate voter for this group.

The Supervisors moved into the consideration of appointing the 2023 County Weed Commissioner. Laurie Moody was approved for this appointment.

Beyer discussed the next agenda item relating to the consideration of 2023 wages for Precinct Election Officials (PEO), alternates, Health Care Facility (HCF) team and the Absentee Board. Following Beyer’s overview of the matter, the Supervisors approved PEOs to receive $15 per election training session, $175 per day for all elections with chairpersons to receive $215 per day for all elections, and for alternates to receive $15 per training and $50 on-call pay if not called into work. As part of this approval, HCF team members will receive $10 per hour, Absentee Board members will receive $10 per hour with the Absentee Chairperson to receive $11 per hour with minimum pay of two hours for all Absentee Board members and with mileage for all positions.

The Supervisors approved to adopt the Construction Evaluation (Master Matrix) Resolution for February 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024 for Allamakee County. The Master Matrix refers to the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) scoring system used in evaluating the siting of permitted confined animal feeding operations (CAFO).

The Supervisors approved the Resolution Authorizing the County Engineer to Execute the Certification of Final Completion of Work for all Farm-to-Market, Federal or State Aid Construction Projects.

The meeting moved into the consideration of appointments to Supervisor appointed Boards and Commissions. Discussion and review of applications took place with no action taking place relating to Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) and Conservation Board appointments. The Supervisors approved the appointment of Jan Ellingson to the Board of Health and Gene Averhoff to the Board of Adjustment.

The liquor license renewal for Wings in Dorchester was approved. The Manure Management Plan update for Saffron LLC was also accepted and placed on file.

Jane Regan of Upper Iowa Insurance Services provided an overview of the County’s Workers’ Compensation dividend eligibility and calculation. Regan noted that the dividend paid to the County this year is $34,477 and discussed a recommendation for the County to consider the use of pre-employment physicals to establish a baseline for employees to get back to following a work-related injury or loss under the Workers’ Compensation policy. Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour discussed the potential use of VMH for pre-employment physicals and questioned whether there would be a perceived conflict of interest due to VMH’s conversion to being a County-owned hospital. Regan noted that a recommendation from the County Attorney would be advisable relating to that matter.

Regan further discussed that VMH’s workers’ compensation coverage is separate and does not affect the County’s coverage in any way, noting that the County’s experience mod is unaffected by VMH’s workers’ compensation policy. No action was taken relating to this informational matter.

Beyer provided an overview of the 2022 Valuation Report for Taxes Payable in Fiscal-Year 2023/2024 with the meeting then moving into Department Head updates. Allamakee County Treasurer Jennifer O’Neill noted that individuals with a CDL instruction permit should be aware of the driving test deadline before the new EDTL requirements go into effect.

Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker discussed the weather forecast for the week ahead. Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour updated the Supervisors about weather related road maintenance and the interview process to fill positions within the Secondary Roads Department.

Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick discussed the Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday weekends. Mellick noted that there were some icy conditions earlier that same morning on gravel roads. He advised that the late Deputy John Grampovnik will be inducted into the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. during Police Week, the week of May 15, which is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Prior to adjournment, Beyer noted that a special election will be held March 7 relating to the City of Postville Hotel/Motel Tax and that budget meetings will begin next week.

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, January 9 to address a full agenda of matters including the National Mentoring Month Proclamation, the consideration of motor grader quotes and setting a letting date for the English Bench Site #9 Watershed Project.

Chairperson Dan Byrnes introduced the Public Comment agenda item and noted that this 10-minute portion of the meeting is exclusively for members of the public to speak, with any discussion from the Supervisors relating to matters raised by the public to be added as agenda items to a future meeting agenda.

Jack Knight of rural Waukon briefly commented on farmland preservation in Allamakee County by noting options available for steep or less desirable land, typically surrounding cropland, and the cropland covered under Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) applications reviewed by the Soil & Water Board. Knight advised that letters were sent out to applicants over several years discussing the option to exclude the best cropland from their application to allow the rental or farming of the best portions of farms. Knight noted that this concept would allow for the best cropland to be available for young farmers to rent with steep land to provide conservation benefits and to allow CRP dollars to be stretched further. Knight noted that over several years, no applicants pursued this option to preserve the use of farmland.

Allamakee County Assessor Ann Burckart discussed upcoming budget meetings and the scheduling of the GIS budget review and discussion. Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) noted that the Allamakee Energy District is scheduled to meet Tuesday, January 10 at the ACED office. Reinke and the Supervisors discussed upcoming T-21 Advisory Board and T-21 DOT Policy Board meetings.

The meeting moved into the National Mentoring Month Proclamation with Youth Mentoring Coordinator Kathy Schwartzhoff of Helping Services for Youth and Families providing an overview of mentoring services offered by the organization in providing caring adult role models for youth ages six to 16. Schwartzhoff noted that Helping Services for Youth & Families has been providing this program for over 20 years with 10 youth-mentor matches in place during the current fiscal-year within Allamakee County and four youth currently on a waiting list in Allamakee, while further noting that the need and demand for mentors is much greater than that waiting list number. Schwartzhoff added that 96 youth have been served within the organization’s multi-county area covering Allamakee, Howard, Winneshiek and Delaware Counties.

Schwartzhoff discussed goals and positive outcomes achieved through this program including that 100 percent of youth participants can say “no” to drugs, life-long friendships are created, 141 adult participants have attended substance abuse prevention trainings with 215 individuals serving as volunteers. Youth Mentoring Coordinator Colinne McCann read aloud the Proclamation of January 2023 as National Mentoring Month in Allamakee County with the Supervisors approving this proclamation.

Executive Director Carson Eggland of Helping Services for Youth and Families addressed the next agenda item relating to the organization’s Fiscal-Year 2024 (FY24) funding request. Eggland thanked the Supervisors for the County’s previous support and consideration of a $1,500 contribution in FY24. Eggland noted that funding is used for the organization’s greatest needs including mentoring and domestic violence advocacy. He further noted the office space used within the Allamakee County Courthouse by the organization’s domestic violence advocates in addition to the organization’s main office in Decorah.

Eggland discussed the non-profit organization’s fundraising efforts, including the Holiday Lights event each year in Decorah, necessary in generating approximately $300,000 in private funds of the organization’s $1.7 million annual budget to provide services to an eight-county region in northeast Iowa. Eggland added that Helping Services is celebrating its 50th anniversary of providing services with the organization being founded in 1973. He noted that 25 individuals were served by domestic assault advocates in Allamakee County in the past year, which is down slightly from the previous year. Eggland also discussed the number of volunteers and services provided at schools within the multi-county region.

Director Deanna Hageman of the Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) discussed the program’s funding request for FY24. Hageman provided an overview of the program which matches Howard, Winneshiek and Allamakee County individuals 55 years old and above with local partners needing volunteers with matching skills and interests to positively impact communities and programs. She noted that RSVP has been in operation for 22 years and has grown 39 percent in the last year within Allamakee County. Hageman advised that the Pen Pal program has been part of this growth with 56 volunteers writing to 83 third grade students in Allamakee County, an effort assisting students learning cursive writing.

Hageman noted RSVP volunteers assist in meal delivery and that three food pantries within the county utilize RSVP volunteers for their operations. She advised that RSVP has 619 volunteers within the three-county region with the organization’s operating budget at approximately $85,000 with 1.4 person staffing. Hageman further noted that the 33,700 volunteer hours performed last year has been independently valued and estimated in the $900,000 to $1 million range, making the RSVP program a good investment. She noted that there is interest in adding another part-time position for eight to 12 hours weekly to assist with this program with those details included in the funding request presented to the Supervisors.

Allamakee County Treasurer Jennifer O’Neill presented the Treasurer’s Semi-Annual Report to the Supervisors with that matter being approved following review. The County Recorder’s Quarterly Report was accepted and placed on file.

The meeting moved into the consideration of appointing members of Supervisor appointed Boards and Commissions. Following discussion, the Supervisors approved the appointment of Jeanie Carroll to the County Conservation Board and Fern Rissman to the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) Board.

The Supervisors next addressed the Richard A. Bennett Trust Plat request with Byrnes noting that this matter was tabled three weeks ago to allow for additional public comment. Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Stephanie Runkle provided an overview of the matter, which she advised has gone through the Planning and Zoning Commission and Plat Review before being presented to the Supervisors.

Byrnes noted that there were many individuals present at Monday’s meeting for this matter in addition to the petition being received entitled “Petition to Increase Protection of Allamakee County Irreplaceable Agricultural Lands”. Byrnes read aloud the text from the petition: “We the undersigned residents of Allamakee County are concerned with the loss of Allamakee County farmland to real estate development. We ask the County Supervisors to discontinue approving the subdivision of crop producing land into multiple residential parcels. We ask that a review of the current zoning and subdivision ordinance take place. The goal of this review is to more accurately reflect County residents’ preferences for land use and ensure that farmlands are being preserved and protected.”

Byrnes noted that a message from Dick Sullivan had been received earlier that day which discussed that the opportunity to purchase this property was offered to Heath Hartwigh, who chose not to purchase the 38 acres at $15,000 per acre and instead purchased Lot 1 across from this property. Sullivan’s statement further noted that all requirements were met relating to the new subdivision with some required changes made, with Sullivan further recommending that the County keep its word based upon what was previously agreed.

Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke discussed State Code relating to this matter with the Supervisors in the past reviewing and approving plat requests that are in compliance. Gericke noted that remedies are available for the Supervisors to deny an application. Todd Wild, among several others present at the meeting, voiced concerns about cropland being turned into subdivisions, housing clusters or commercial developments. Concerns relating to land values and the negative impact upon new farmers and future generations were mentioned.

Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour discussed entrances, visibility and safety which have all been reviewed, with emergency vehicle access confirmed. Ridenour noted that today’s discussion relates less about safety and more about land use. Via Zoom web-conferencing, Heath Hartwigh discussed his opposition to this cropland being subdivided into building lots. Jim Pladsen advised that the Planning and Zoning Commission has done its due diligence relating to safety concerns and in following State Code.

Runkle further discussed this process by noting that Plat Review has looked at access and acreage requirements with the matter then reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission. She advised that these groups are bound by State Code and have moved forward accordingly. Teresa Severson, realtor and member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, noted that the general concerns raised can be reviewed in the future but the Bennett Trust Plat has been under review for two months and that it would have been preferable for feedback to have been provided before now.

Supervisor Mark Reiser commented on the loss of agriculture land and this trend’s negative impact upon ag businesses and communities. Reiser made note of the high level of opposition to this subdivision. Byrnes discussed the role of the Planning and Zoning Commission and Plat Review in this process with the Bennett Plat meeting requirements.

Byrnes noted that it would not be prudent to deny this request at this point and that he recommends approval of the application. Keatley noted the importance of property owner rights and personal rights with the requirements being followed relating to the Bennett Trust Plat. Byrnes and Keatley voted to approve the plat with Reiser voting against, with the matter being approved by split vote.

Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick requested that the agenda item relating to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Sheriff’s office, Teamsters Union #238 and Jarrod Olson be tabled. Mellick noted that discussions are ongoing relating to this matter. No action was taken by the Supervisors.

Secondary Road transfers were approved including $8,473.94 from the General Basic Fund and $97,680.54 from the Rural Basic Fund. Ridenour discussed a request to use the County credit card for the purchase of safety labels and decals through at a cost of approximately $100. Ridenour noted that local retailers did not have these items available. The use of the County credit card was approved for this purchase.

Ridenour also provided an overview of the next agenda item relating to the consideration of motor grader quotes. Shaun Ramler of Martin Equipment/John Deere of Dubuque and Jared Bucksa of Ziegler Caterpillar of Postville provided feedback and answered questions relating to their respective line of motor graders. Following discussion, the Supervisors approved the purchase of a CAT 140 all-wheel drive motor grader from Ziegler Caterpillar.

The meeting moved into the consideration of setting a letting date for the English Bench Site #9 Watershed Project. Ridenour discussed the repair and maintenance to be performed at this site and provided a recommendation to set the letting date as February 6 at 10 a.m. The Supervisors approved that recommendation.

Under Department Head Updates, Mellick discussed the impact of recent ice and snow on road conditions. Ridenour noted that fans and dehumidifiers have been removed from the basement of the County Engineer’s office. Ridenour noted that a local contractor will need to assist with some drywall and insulation replacement following the damage resulting from a frozen water pipe. Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer discussed ongoing work with the Supervisors relating to budget planning.

The Supervisors held a budget work session for FY24 following the regular business portion of the meeting. Another budget work session was also scheduled for January 10.