BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DONNELLSON – Economic development, county services, and telecommunications are on the mind of Lee County Supervisor candidate Larry Haynes.
Haynes, a Democrat, is joining Democrat Rich Harlow and Republican James Steffen as candidates for the District 3 Supervisor seat being vacated by Don Hunold at the end of the year. Harlow and Haynes will face off in a primary June 5.
Haynes said after living in more than 20 places he settled in at Central Lee High School where he graduated, attended Southeastern Community College, and then went to work in Lee County. He held positions at the Lee County Youth Services near Charleston, then worked at Heintz Electrical in sales, before he went to work for himself in the construction business. His pasttime is riding motorcycles and following his wife who runs 5Ks, half and full marathons.
He said his position at the youth services home has encourage him to give back.
“When I got out of high school I went to work there. I came from that life and wanted to give something back. I’ve been able to better myself in my life and now I know that I want to help better the county,” Haynes said.
A common theme of all three of the candidates has been the county’s economic development. Haynes said he feels like the $200,000 the county gives the Lee County Economic Development Group is not being well-spent.
“I think all three of us running see the economic development problems in this county. All three of us have talked about that. I don’t think they’re doing the job they need to be doing and we’re giving them $200,000 a year?” Haynes said,. “There is nothing that’s growing in Lee County, so why do we keep spending that money?”
Haynes pointed to the slow progress of the Mills Group that took over the Steel Castings facility in Keokuk. He said there was confusion out of the gate as to where local grant money was coming from and, after two years, the facility is still a ways away from full capacity.
The county budget is also a concern for Haynes and said the time is right to start looking at what expenses can be cut because of the state pulling back on assistance to local governments. He referenced Ron Fedler’s warning to the county at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.
“They’re leaving us with a real headache, to be honest,” he said of state legislators. “Each year things cost more and more and everyone wants to increase their budgets and there isn’t any money, I don’t think we’re at the extreme that Ron was talking about Tuesday, but I think he was just putting a warning out there for everybody. This is what the group had to decide, not something one person decides.”
Haynes said cutting staff at the jail isn’t the answer. He even suggested that the sheriff’s department needs additional staffing.
“The sheriff’s department is a big thing right now. We need to grow that department,” he said. “The last two sheriffs haven’t asked for more personnel and you backlog on hiring and now you have to do all this catchup. But we need to be on top of crime and public safety. The population of the jail is growing and he needs to be able to staff that. I think three deputies on duty is sufficient. I know he wants laptops in the cars and the kitchen to save money on meals. We need to be careful with spending but we have to consider those things. That’s a big thing with me in this election.”
Secondary Roads, which along with the sheriff’s department and the Lee County Health Department, make up the largest portion of the county budget, is also something Haynes has given some thought to.
He said with County Engineer Ernie Steffensmeier closing in on retirement, he would support not backfilling that position. Promoting one of the current three supervisors in the department to Steffensmeier’s post and running with just two supervisors.
“We need to see improvement in roads. That’s a good thing, but is it being done efficiently?” Haynes asked. “I hardly ever see them, but if you hear a complaint you’ll see six trucks out there. I don’t think the county knows what they’re doing day-to-day. I do see the maintainer a lot, however.”
He said he also doesn’t believe the county needs all the heavy equipment it’s purchased.
“A lot of times they are contracting the work. I know we have a lot of equipment just sitting in sheds that they want for a rainy day. It’s paid for, but we could see that and then rent or lease equipment as we need it. Now they want new buildings to store it in.”
The campaigning is likely again to focus on delineation of north and south Lee County and duplication of services.
“I don’t think consolidation is a word we want to be using right now. That is a real divider. When the courthouse failed, and I was on that committee, but when the voters spoke and we let that go, I think that was one of the best things we could have done. We heard from the voters and we moved on. I think the county is right where it should be with regard to services.”
However he did say that he would support ending driver’s license services in the county because a lot of people are already getting their license renewed online and the program bleeds money from the county.
State assistance to local governments is getting thinner and thinner and Hayes said the budget should be adjusted to reflect that despite increasing potential revenues on the horizon from the Iowa Fertilizer Plant and the pipeline that was built two years ago. Aside from payments in lieu of property taxes that increase each five years for the first 20 years while the tax abatements expire, natural gas consumption fees will also be charged to the facility and those revenues could land in county coffers…or a portion of them.
“Nobody knows what that revenue from the fertilizer plant is going to be,” he said. “That money, when it starts to come in, I believe after three years, goes to the state and then they send it to the county. That’s how its drawn up anyway. So we don’t know what that will look like and, as far as the pipeline, and I haven’t heard much on that other than there was supposed to be a charge on the amount of product flowing through the pipes.”
He also would like to work with state legislators and help bring enhanced fiber optics and rural Internet to the area.
“How many businesses opened outside the population centers in the county, Harvestville Farms, Appleberry, Fat Jimmy’s, people like that trying to grow their business that can’t get decent rural Internet service,” he said, “As a supervisor, we should work with that and try to help those people. Who supplements that cost and is it worth the effort. I think it is. With all the 1-to-1 school programs with laptops and tablets and students, including SCC students, who can’t go home and get good Internet speed. That’s worth the effort and that’s a topic of my own. I haven’t seen the other people running talk about that.”
Haynes also said he believes in term limits for certain positions and the county board is one of them.
“I think two terms is sufficient for you to get what you want to get done done. If you can’t get your agenda done in eight years you should pass it along. Term limits would be a good thing to keep ideas fresh.”
He also said mental health is a big problem in the county and said he would like to help the county look for ways to provide a facility closer than the new access centers the state is looking at.
“We, as a county, need to have a house – for battered woman and mentally ill. Temporary housing – nothing like we’ve had in the past.”
He said the funding should come from the county’s mental health services budget because the state’s mandating a spend down of those funds and that money is just sitting in the fund.
The mental health fund in this year’s budget has no tax asking so property taxes will not be used in the that department’s budget in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year. The department is using the excess funds in the account to fund the year’s activities.