Supervisors vote to hold public hearings on putting maintenance costs up for bonding
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Lee County officials are considering bonding close to $700,000 for maintenance projects at county facilities, after reduced sales tax revenues and costly repairs the past several years have depleted the county’s repair fund.
Board Chairman Ron Fedler told supervisors at Tuesday’s regular meeting that sales tax revenues for the current calendar year are down about $80,000, and repairs to the exterior of the South Lee County Courthouse have taken close to $900,000 out of the fund.
“There’s not enough revenue to take care of the projects that need our attention,” Fedler said. “We’re currently replacing two boilers in the South Lee County Courthouse and that’s about $250,000 and we need to replace the camera’s at the county jail.”
Fedler said the camera repairs are considered essential by the county’s bond counsel, but other maintenance issues are piling up as well. He said the work on the boilers is currently underway and payment will be needed on those in the very near future.
“We need to think about that too as we consider what we’re going to do,” he said.
The estimate on the cameras for the jail is $220,000. County officials are also considering restroom upgrades at the North Lee County office building to make them ADA compliant at $80,000. The North Lee County Courthouse retaining wall and sidewalk need replaced at an estimate of $47,500.
Inspectors have also been dinging the jail staff on inferior showers for inmates. Several of the showers have been upgraded to brick, but two still remain with drywall and there’s a $75,000 price tag on getting those two remaining showers upgraded.
The total of all the projects including the boilers in Keokuk, total $671,500.
Budget Director Cindy Renstrom said she would recommend first looking at local lender to borrow the money for the projects, but if there are no takers, then bonding would be the next option.
Since the cameras are essential services, the county would need to hold separate public hearings on that expenditure.
Fedler said the county isn’t required to hold a referendum on bonding for the money, if the amount is below $750,000.
“With these projects being completed it would take a load off maintenance and maintenance revenues,” Fedler said. “The long-term goal is to get these done and not wait for someone to put us in litigation.”
The North Lee County Courthouse is also in need of tuckpointing that has been delayed, but Fedler said the deteriorating retaining wall and sidewalk could be a lawsuit waiting to happen.
The county is currently paying on two other bonds, one for the jail and one for the conservation building. The jail will be paid off in 2023 and the conservation building will be paid off in five years.
“Those are two large bonds that will be paid off in the next two to five years,” Fedler said.
The supervisors voted 5-0 in favor of setting the public hearings.
In an unrelated issue, the board approved gas and diesel contracts with Jet Gas Corp. of Houghton for $72,583, which is $350 more than the lowest bid from Agriland FS of Danville.
The decision came because Jet Gas is in Lee County and Agriland is in Danville, which is Des Moines County. Ron Fedler, a former employee of Jet Gas said that had no bearing in his decision to advocate for the local bid. The county does have the authority under bids with small expenditure differences to take the bid that isn’t the lowest.
Jet Gas did have the lowest bid for diesel fuel at $219,363 compared to Agriland’s $219,535 resulting in a total difference of gas and diesel of $1.50.
“I certainly understand the board’s decision,” said Lee County Engineer Ben Hull. “The counterpoint is that competition is good and Agriland may not take the time to bid next year. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can see both sides to this and can live with this decision.”
In other action, the board:
• tabled a decision to approve a replacement on the Veteran Affairs Board. The board wants to readvertise the position and hope some women will come forward to apply to try and have female representation on the board. Currently there are now no women on the board.
• voted 5-0, to approve hiring three temporary county security officers for courthouses for the next 90-days to help control foot traffic with courthouse reopening during the pandemic.