Hearings on county borrowing Monday

Supervisors to hold separate public hearings on facility borrowing


LEE COUNTY – The Lee County Board of Supervisors will hold two public hearings on Monday for discussion on issuing $6.3 million in total bonds to construct two county buildings.
The first would be an EMS ambulance facility to replace the deteriorated Keokuk facility on Blondeau after buying property adjacent to the current structure for $70,000. That facility will house the expanded staff serving the Keokuk area in the wake of the closure of the Keokuk Blessing Hospital in 2022, including the Emergency room.
The county has approved a contract with Schickedanz Construction and that project is scheduled to break ground in the coming weeks with completion planned for July of this year.
Both projects are being offered under the state’s urban renewal program which allows the bonds to be issued without going to a formal vote of county residents. However, Iowa law allows for a petition process to force the issue in front of voters.
The other public hearing is for the proposed new Lee County Health Department/EMS facility in Fort Madison.
The project had a 2022 estimate of $5.5 million from Carl A. Nelson Co., the construction managers for the build. Close to $3 million in funding has already been secured for the project to include $1 million in county ARPA funds, $974,000 from a USDA Rural Emergency Health Care grant, $600,000 from a Community Development Block Grant and $500,000 from the Lee County Community Foundation. There is an additional $2 million for the project currently wrapped up in the Congressional Farm Bill under a Community Development Project appropriation. However, that bill has not been brought to the floor by the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. Latest information out of Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks' office is that bill could come to the floor in the first week of March.
Supervisor Chuck Holmes, who sits on the Lee County Community Foundation board, said additional funding is likely to come forward when the project is underway.
However, the Lee County Farm Bureau has been circulating a petition at county functions for the past nine days trying to gather the roughly 1,150 signatures needed to  put the measure on a ballot during the general election.
With more than $1 million of the funds wrapped up in ARPA funding, the Fort Madison project would need to be completed prior to the end of the 2026.
The county farm bureau board of directors met with county officials last week and questioned the need for the new building in Fort Madison and why other options have been so quickly dismissed.
Those options included two buildings in Keokuk that could have been purchased for about $500,000.
Supervisor Chairman Garry Seyb gave an empassioned defense of building the structure. Supervisors Chuck Holmes and Ron Fedler were also in attendance.
“I just showed you $5.1 million potential and $3 million you got that didn’t cost the private taxpayers here more. It’s tax dollars but would you rather have it go to Des Moines, rather have it go to Washington D.C., rather have it go to Texas? We were given grants under the auspice that it would be a new building built there. Why is everyone against building it there? I just don’t get it,” Seyb asked the farm bureau board.
“I promise you if we don’t do it, it ain’t gonna happen. Show me a champion of this project. Who’s going to champion it?”
Farm Bureau board chairman Brent Koller said a year ago the county said they were close to being broke.
“That’s a scary a thought. Just a year ago you were in this room 'we don’t know how we’re going to make it',” Koller said.
The farm board asked the county what the long-term government infrastructure plan is for Lee County.
“How the hell I would know,” Seyb said. “Nobody knows. Do we have plans long-term? Secondary roads does, but they are all notions. As funding comes up, we prioritize and do what we can do.”
He said he has no problem being second-,guessed on decisions, but he said the decisions are personal to him.
“It’s not just a job. And when some of you elected me it’s personal. I do everything I can to work for you in what I believe is in your best interest. If you want to fire me, the time to do that is this year, if I run. I’ve announced I’m running but I’m taking a lot of things into consideration.”
Joel Bobb, another member of the farm bureau board, asked county officials what’s next, hinting at having to deal with courthouses.

Lee County News, Fort Madison, facilities, bonds, borrowing, public hearings, Monday, meeting, Pen City Current, news, Iowa,


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