County issues $1M in bonds for jail, building repairs

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

LEE COUNTY – County officials voted unanimously Tuesday to issue just over $1 million in bonds to pay for ongoing maintenance projects in county facilities.

The county issued the bonds and amended it’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget by $1.075 million to pay for repairs at Lee County Jail, both courthouses and the Lee County Administrative Building in Fort Madison.

Travis Squires, the county’s bond attorney, said the county received a 1.37% rate from a Utah bank that was well below other bids for the bonds that range from 1.74% to 2.25%.

The county issued two separate bonds and the first was for $405,000 to upgrade the camera systems in Lee County Jail. The cost of the upgrades was about $320,000 with the rest being bonding costs, according to Lee County Budget Director Cindy Renstrom.

Renstrom said the cameras are considered essential services and must be dealt with separately.

The other $670,000 is for multiple projects including upgrades to jail showers, where cinder block is being installed to replace drywall shower stalls that were easily damaged by offenders.

Other work to be done with the 10-year bond will be to cover costs of the new boiler systems in the South Lee County Courthouse, redo the retaining wall, steps and sidewalk at the North Lee County Courthouse, and a state-recommended upgrade to bathrooms at the Administrative building.

The upgrades will bring the bathrooms into ADA compliance and redesign some piping to prevent winter freezing of waterlines.

Only Pilot Grove Savings Bank submitted an informal local bid for the bonds.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the sale of the bonds to Zions Bank Corp in Salt Lake City.

Renstrom said the bond, in addition to several other unexpected changes in the budget including COVID-19 expenses and staffing changes at the jail, would require the county to issue a budget amendment and amended appropriations.

“We’re amending to cover the expenses to these bond issues. Also we have to amend for the six full-time employees at the jail and taking out the part-time officers, and for ambulance services,” Renstrom said.

The county added just over $67,000 to this year’s budget for costs related to the transition into a county-owned ambulance service. The majority of those costs are for the new part-time director, Dennis Cosby, who was introduced to the board on Tuesday.

The county has applied for more than $400,000 in reimbursements for COVID-related expenses, but those expenses have to be accounted for in the budget. Any reimbursement received will go directly into the general fund as a revenue received.

“In January and February when we did this fiscal year budget, there was no way we could have been aware of these things,” Board chairman Ron Fedler said.

Supervisor Gary Folluo said revenues haven’t been coming in as steady with sales tax. But Renstrom said the state’s been pretty accurate in their projections and actually have upped anticipated sales tax revenues by $240,000 through the fiscal year for the county.

Folluo said he believed that estimate will probably be adjusted.

In other action, supervisors:
• voted to approve a $10,000 contribution to the Great River Housing Trust Fund, a program coordinated by Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission that helps with down payment assistance, low-income rehabilitation support and upper story apartment development among other housing stock improvements.
• heard an update on the Powdertown’s Chatfield Lake clean up. County Attorney Ross Braden said the county is now down to just four properties that haven’t remediated the septic discharge systems and efforts, from 33 original properties.
• set an Oct. 20 public hearing date on an application for a proposed shooting range at 2958 County Road 103 in Lee County.
• appointed Lonnie Glasscock to the Veteran’s Affairs Commission.

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