County to validate Farm Bureau petitions

Ag bill vote could determine fate of health department/EMS project


LEE COUNTY – Two petitions filed by the Lee County Farm Bureau Sunday may have put the future of a health department and ambulance facility in Fort Madison up to voters.
At Monday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, Chairman Garry Seyb said petitions had been received in opposition to the county bonding for a total of $7.3 million to complete an EMS facility in Keokuk and a new health department/EMS facility in Fort Madison. Two public hearings were held for a $1.3 million bond for the Keokuk facility and a $6 million bond to start construction in Fort Madison.
The majority of the borrowing, which Seyb had said previously wouldn’t be near that total amount, would be to show the USDA that the county had funding in place to trigger grants from that agency and a Community Development Block Grant from the state.
The petitions were accepted by Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise on Sunday at the Lee County offices, a day before the deadline. Any petition had to be filed with the county prior to the day of the hearings.
The USDA money could total close to $3 million if a $2 million Congressional appropriation is approved as part of the annual Farm Bill. That bill is scheduled to come back to the House of Representatives the first week in March.
Brent Koller, the president of the Lee County Farm Bureau board, spoke at the hearings reciting a wish list of how he would have liked to have seen the issue handled better.
“There’s been a lot of emotions and opinions, but there’s a lot of questions still out there,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things I wish that would have happened and I listed a few things.”
Koller said he wished there was a blank check to fund all county needs, and he wished the county knew if the ag appropriation was going to get passed.
“I wish we knew what would happen at the state level with speed cameras, and I wish we knew what the future of the health department looked like,” he said.
He said he wished everyone had seen the floor plans for the new health department months ago, and referenced the county’s financial situation where a year ago they had to use ARPA funds to keep from “going broke”.
At last week’s meeting, Holmes pointed out that different investing is producing about $1.2 million a year in interest earnings – a move Seyb credited to County Treasurer Becky Gaylord. Seyb said that should have been happening a long time ago.
Seyb has also referenced additional funding the county is getting in reimbursements for ambulance services through the Ground Emergency Medical Transport program that enhances Medicare and Medicaid payments.
Koller said he wished the county wasn’t subsidizing the EMS ambulance service by about $3 million per year, and that the county didn’t have the second-highest general basic levy and highest overall basic levy in the state.
“Those are all wishes and we have to deal in fact. Farm Bureau started this petition, but the people of Lee County are the ones that signed it. They’re the ones asking for the ability to vote. That’s what this petition does - no more, no less.”
Koller said Farm Bureau is not against the Health Department or the EMS, but he said the county cannot continue doing business the way it is being done.
Seyb, who declined to comment following the board meeting, did say during the meeting he’s unsure what path supervisors will take with the Health Department/EMS facility in Fort Madison. He said that the EMS facility in Keokuk will go on as planned with funding already in hand. That construction could start as soon as today.
“The board may make the decision not to do it and scrap the (Fort Madison health department/EMS) project, but that would be up to the board of supervisors,” he said.
The resolution on the Keokuk bond to have the signatures verified was approved 3-2 with Ron Fedler and Chuck Holmes voting against it saying it wasn’t necessary if construction has started and money has been allocated.
The resolution to verify signatures on the $6 million bond was approved 6-0. Seyb asked that the issue be put back on the agenda for next week to determine the board’s action going forward.

Lee County, Iowa, USDA, Fort Madison, Keokuk, health department, construction, facility, Farm Bureau, petition, news, Pen City Current, Garry Seyb,


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