BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Lee County Supervisors bristled Tuesday at a $116,679 increase to the cost of the boiler replacements at the South Lee County Courthouse.
The increased costs were approved at Tuesday’s regular meeting by a 4-1 vote. Supervisor Chair Ron Fedler voted against the change order and voiced his concern again over maintaining two courthouses
“This is what I’ve feared all along,” Fedler said. “You’ve got really old buildings, 150 to 170 years old and you don’t know what to expect when you start a project like this.”
Fedler said the boiler replacements alone have gone from $249,000 to $384,000 and the county has already spent $1.4 million on the south Lee County Courthouse, but has done nothing with the North Lee County Courthouse.
Fedler said the proposal to consolidate the courthouses, which failed in a referendum of county voters by a 69% to 31% margin in the fall of 2016, would have saved taxpayers $8.5 million over 20 years.
“It’s horrible we have to spend so much money on buildings that are so old… This is now starting to cost us a tremendous amount of money and that’s all I have to say about that.”
Supervisor Gary Folluo moved to approve the change order up to the estimated cost.
“I’m not real happy that we’re having to pay for that. That’s part of the reason why we hired an engineering firm to make sure these things didn’t happen,” he said.
But Follou said Fedler wasn’t considering the interest that would have been owed on a 20-year bond, and said the county wasn’t close to it’s 10-year planned spending on courthouse rehabilitation.
“It’s not a fair comparison and it’s over and done with and we’ve rode that horse to the ground. We’ve got maintain the buildings and if it takes a million dollars every 25 years that’s not bad,” he said.
Fedler said there was a huge campaign of misinformation that lead to referendum to build a consolidated Lee County Courthouse/Office building.
“Voters were told the buildings were basically sound. And we’ve already spent $1.4 million on Keokuk and haven’t done nothing on the Fort Madison building,” he said.
“People didn’t believe what I had to say, but believed all the other information that was put out and that sadly has come down to a north vs south, Keokuk vs. Fort Madison thing.”
Supervisor Rich Harlow said this will continue to be the case with two courthouses in the county.
“We know that when people of Lee County want two courthouses we have to pay for it. Things come along like this that we have to pay that we weren’t expecting to pay it’s not a very good feeling,” Harlow said. “But that’s what happens when you maintain two courthouses, right?”
Supervisor Matt Pflug said the board cannot forget what the voters wanted.
The change orders include a $56,331 for additional cold and hot water piping including fire prevention connections. The second was for a new chimney stack liner for the new installation at a cost of $60,349.
“I thought we had a company that looked into the boiler and was supposed to be able to tell what needed to be done,” Larkin said. “I’m just curious why were getting these change orders. It seems like quite a bit.”