Family to donate close to eight acres valued at about $117,000
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Details were released Wednesday on an agreement between Lee County and the owners of property where the former Iowan hotel was located.
The county and Circle M Inc., owned by the Glen Meller family, had been in talks since November about the property. The county is interested in possibly building a new Lee County Health Department on the site.
The county released details of the tentative agreement indicating that the Meller family has agreed to donate the property to the county for the new facility.
The county would be acquiring 7.76 acres of land valued at about $117,000 from the family.
Becky Carlsen, a spokeswoman for the family, said the decision was easy for Glen Meller and his family.
“They are happy to have this property go to such an important entity of the county. The property was once a thriving business in our community and they look forward to it being a vital part of the area again,” Carlsen said Wednesday.
The county is currently considering using $2 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding to build the facility. The county is also investigating a state Community Development Block Grant and a potential non-voted bond to help pay for the facility.
According to county ARPA fund administrator Chuck Vandenberg, the Meller family was willing to take the structure down that is still standing on the property in the 5000 block of Avenue O in Fort Madison. But the county has asked to hold off until the property can be inspected to see if the current structure could be used as part of the new facility.
“The Meller family has been with us in this conversation about 10 minutes in. When Mr. Meller heard we were wanting to build a health care facility and that property seemed to be the best location for it, he suggested donating the property to the project,” Vandenberg said.
“When Glen offered to donate the property, the county indicated it would be willing to attach the family’s name to the property in the deed. So as long as the property is publicly owned, any structure would carry the Meller name, and the county is honored to be able to do that.”
Vandenberg said final rules for ARPA funding were handed down by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury last week and in that is an additional written justification requirement for any capital expenditure projects funding with more than $1 million of a county’s ARPA allocation.
That report has to outline why the new construction is a better option than others including leasing. It also requires a comparative report looking at at least two other options for the county’s health department. Details on those justifications are still being outlined by the county advocates including the Iowa State Association of Counties.
The new facility will house the Lee County Health Department and the Fort Madison bay of the Lee County Ambulance service. A design prepared in 2016 priced the structure at $2.6 million without the ambulance bay. That project was slated for county-owned property in Montrose.
The ambulance bay can’t be located at the Montrose location due to response time requirements for the ambulance service to the county’s northeast side.
Lee County has received $3.25 million and will receive another $3.25 million in May this year.