BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Lee County Board of Supervisors has given its blessing to putting a large turbine in Estes Park along Main Street in Keokuk.
At Tuesday’s regular board meeting, the board voted unanimously to allow the turbine, which was part of the dam and is being donated by Ameren, to be placed in the county-owned park as part of a Keokuk Dam Museum display.
Supervisor Rich Harlow who voted in favor of the motion said the county should still try to divest itself of the park and put it in the hands of Keokuk taxpayers.
“It’s time for people of Keokuk to assume ownership of Estes Park. It’s okay for Lee County Supervisors and people of Lee County to continue with the Heritage Center in Keokuk, but things like this could come up again and again and my personal opinion is to let Estes Park go to the citizens of Keokuk.
“Let’s don’t go down that road today,” said Board Chairman Matt Pflug. “Let’s stay with what we’re going to vote on here. That could be something for the future.”
However, the Keokuk City Council has not shown interest in accepting the park from the county. The county was given the park in a deed from a local bank several decades ago. Most of the supervisors and county staff were unaware of how the county came to own it until several weeks ago.
Supervisor Ron Fedler said with the Memorial Day weekend just passed, he thought the park should be retained as a memorial to the civil war.
“Even though it wasn’t a battlefield, a lot of men were treated and died there that were soldiers and then the U.S. government started the U.S. National cemetery there and that got me thinking that these were both Union and Confederate soldiers that were treated at that hospital and they were all Americans,” Fedler said.
“When I thought about all those veterans that died there, that to me would make it hollowed ground and sacred to those that died.”
Fedler suggested that the park would be better served with a memorial to the Civil War veterans and draw even more tourism.
Kathy Asbury, representing the Keokuk Dam Museum, said the museum has procured a very old photograph of the doctors at the hospital and plans to make that part of the museum’s display.
Pflug said he did get a letter of support from Keokuk Main Street who joined the conversation about the new display in Estes Park several weeks back that indicated they support moving forward with the project.
“Both Main Street and the museum folks got together and came to an agreement that they would support the turbine in Estes Park. And that was unanimous from when I spoke with Josh Kirchner of Main Street,” Pflug said.
Pflug said he had more than 50 comments on the turbine in the park and he said the majority of those comments were to have the turbine down closer to the river. Main Street wanted to have the turbine down by the bridge, but Asbury said there are logistical problems getting the 90-ton turbine down to Victory Park.
“I just feel the connection to the museum is very important to have it (at Estes Park),” she said.
Asbury said the museum board is committed to taking care of the display and the park upkeep.
“This will be part of us – a part of the museum, so we’ll be happy to mow. Tourism and the dam museum did take care of trimming the shrubs and things for several years, so it’s nothing new to us.”
Supervisor Garry Seyb said it was very encouraging that Main Street and the dam group were able to come together, and he said Keokuk Mayor Tom Richardson is supportive of the project as well.
Asbury said the Youngren building along Main Street is reportedly going to be rehabilitated. The museum board was looking at that lot also as a place for the turbine.
In other action, supervisors:
• approved an application for a Byrne Jag Grant for the Lee County Narcotics Task Force
• approved an agreement with Blessing Health Keokuk Clinic for post-offer pre-employment physicals.
• approved an extension of an agreeement with IDEMIA for the sheriff’s fingerprint scanning machine
• approved the hiring of an election administrator to replace Nikki Sugars, who’s accepted a position as the county’s Veteran’s Affairs director.
• approved depositing American Rescue Funds into an interest bearing account with Connection Bank. The county received the first half of $6.5 million in funds from the stimulus plan signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.