BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – Lee County Attorney Ross Braden has filed four injunctions against property owners in the Mooar-Powdertown district for failing to upgrade septic systems as required by code.
At Tuesday’s regular Lee County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Rosa Haukedahl, outgoing program director for Lee County Health Department’s Environmental Services, said in addition to the four injunctions currently with the courts, seven other properties could face injunctions in the future, but county officials are working with them to get systems upgraded.
Haukedahl announced she was leaving the Lee County Health Department for a job with the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals.
She said one of the Mooar-Powdertown properties is on a purchase agreement that will close in April, which will allow the new owners six months to install a septic system. Three residents have acquired permits in 2017 but didn’t do any work. The county extended those permits for a year and now those are expired.
One person did come forward and get a permit for the work to be done, she said. There were also two systems that were installed in 2017, but those are failing so the county is working with those property owners to get those rectified.
Braden said residents will have 20 days to respond to the injunctions and then 10 additional days before they go into default. The residents must file an answer to the court whether they agree or disagree with the claims. If the residents hire attorneys, Braden said it would be argued in court and if the county is successful in its argument, a court order could be issued, which could result in displacement of the residents.
“We’re asking for a permanent injunction from them essentially being able to continue to reside there without an approved sewage system,” Braden said. “We’re also requesting civil damages for their failure to comply and their continued contamination of that area.”
According to court documents, one of the residents issued an injunction died in 2017.
He said the two with failing systems may be treated differently because the owners have retained attorneys and the situations have gotten bad.
A program was started in 2016 to get 38 homeowners with unpermitted septic systems to have upgraded or new systems installed. The effort began when the Iowa Department of Natural Resources told Lee County that Chatfield Lake, located in the township, was contaminated and had to be cleaned up. DNR officials at one point threatened the county with fines of up to $25,000 per day if efforts weren’t undertaken to get the district and lake cleaned up.
In an unrelated issue, the board approved a second health care option for county employees. The new Health Savings Account compatible option would put $100 per month into a savings account for county employees with single policies and $200 per month for family policies. The accounts would be used to cover qualified medical expenses in a plan with higher deductibles.
The employees would also be able to contribute additional funds tax-free into the account, which at retirement age could be treated as a retirement account with no penalties for withdrawals at age 65. Tax, however, would be assessed at that point.
With the HSA option, employees would pay for prescription and office copays until the deductibles are met, which would be $3,000 for a single and $6,000 for a family. Employees would also have the option of staying on the current plan with no changes.
Employee premiums would stay the same on both policy options.
In other action, the board:
- approved, 5-0, the state-mandated five-year road plan.
- approved, 5-0, selling the county shed in Argyle with the structure in tact rather than tearing the shed down and selling the lot.
- approved, 4-1, to continue a voluntary wellness program through Health Solutions for the county employees. Employees save $600 per year in health insurance premiums if they participate. Board Chairman Gary Folluo voted against the measure citing the $600 incentive served as a penalty to those that chose not to participate in the program.
- approved, 5-0, a proposal from Calhoun-Burns and Associates for on-call structural engineering services.