JCED, Volunteer Center provide updates, request county funds

Board of Supervisors
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Economic Development and the Jones County Volunteer Center are keeping busy and doing great things for the county.

     The organizations’ directors shared an update with the Jones County Supervisors during their Jan. 15 meeting. They also requested their respective funding needs: $40,000 for JCED and $3,000 for the Volunteer Center.

     Despite starting in June 2018, JCED Director Derek Lumsden has hit the ground running.

     “I’ve been able to get quite a bit done,” he said.

     Lumsden serves on several boards and committees outside of his economic development role, which takes him throughout the county.

     Since 70 people lost their jobs with MedPlast in Monticello, which closed its doors late last fall, JCED has organized job fairs to help those people find jobs locally and remain in Jones County. Lumsden said of those employees just chose to retire; some went back to school for continuing education. He said he’s been able to retain about 50 percent of those employees either living or working in Jones County.

     “We want to try and get more people involved in trades,” said Lumsden. “In these small towns, there’s no one to replace that type of work.”

     Lumsden is working with Kirkwood to assist people who want to learn a particular trade and immediately go into business ownership.

     “We need a succession plan,” he added of losing trade workmen in small towns like Olin, Oxford Junction, etc.

     Lumsden also worked with the City of Oxford Junction on a Catalyst Grant for $100,000 to help rehab an old building into something useful.

     He’s also in talks with Monticello officials on a possible rehab plan for the middle school after the new addition is built in a couple of years, as well as Anamosa on downtown revitalization.

     “We need to bring more life into Anamosa,” said Lumsden.

     He said the county needs an overall plan in place for what they want Jones County to offer. “Jones County has a lot of potential,” he said. “But the problem is there’s no overall vision.”

     Lumsden also received the board’s approval in going after the Home Base Iowa (HBI) designation. HBI exists to connect veterans with HBI partners and resources. Lumsden said he hopes to make Jones County a HBI community as a whole.

     He’s already started and completed much of the leg work, visiting with businesses and Susan Yario, Veteran Affairs, on compiling a list of incentives that can be offered locally for veterans.

     Should Lumsden be successful in the program, signage would be placed throughout the county designating the HBIU distinction.

     Amy Keltner with the Volunteer Center outlined her successes in 2018. The Transportation Program, which primarily serves senior citizens in the county, took on 67,042 miles in Fiscal Year 2018, reimbursing drivers over $32,000. Though there is a suggested donation for trips outside of the county, Keltner said no clients are denied transportation due to lack of finances.

     Also in FY 2018, the SHIIP program served 128 clients saving them a total of $90,000 thanks to the free health insurance program.

     VITA (the free tax service) volunteers completed 163 tax returns last year. She said they hope to complete 198 tax returns this year, beginning Feb. 5.

     “I think it’ll be a good season,” said Keltner of the VITA program.

     In addition, Keltner organized several service projects for Days of Service, working with many local groups such as Camp Courageous, Starlighters, and Senior Dining.

     Something new Keltner started is a literacy kit program in connection with Day of Caring in May.

     “This is something new for Jones County,” she said.

     Keltner received a grant from Alliant Energy to help with the cost of children’s books and activities to go along with the books. She said it’s all about reading and comprehension.

     Keltner has been visiting with local service clubs to help promote the efforts of the Volunteer Center, and to boost her volunteer numbers.

     In all, the Volunteer Center was served by 4,000 volunteers who put in over $100,000 of volunteer hours in Jones County.

In other county business:

     The board approved the issuance of requests for qualifications for an insurance consultant for the county’s property, casualty, and workers’ comp. Requests are due by Feb. 25.

     • Supervisor Wayne Manternach informed the board that during a recent city council meeting, the City of Wyoming approved acquiring the former Dirks Oil Shop, which is county property.

     “It only makes sense because it’s in the city,” said Manternach, who attended the council meeting.

     • The board approved a contract with Emergency Planning & Consulting, LLC to update the county’s hazard mitigation plan.

     Emergency Management Coordinator Brenda Leonard said her board sent out RFPs and heard back from four consultants. Three were from Iowa; one from Colorado. The prices ranged from $7,175 to $24,950. Leonard said the highest price was still cheaper than what the county paid five years ago.

     Leonard said she doesn’t anticipate a lot of changes to the hazard mitigation plan. She said an updated plan, though, is needed to apply for grants.

     • The board set a public hearing regarding a property nuisance at 13461 Ramsey Rd. in Amber for Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 8:45 a.m.

     Land Use Administrator Michele Lubben reported she has sent the owner several letters about the condition of the property. “No contact has been made at all,” she said of the owner acknowledging the communication.

     The owner had until Jan. 11 to remove the items surrounding the property, which has come and gone. The hearing gives the owner an opportunity to discuss the matter with the supervisors.

     • The board approved the final voucher to Taylor Construction for work on the Bluebird Road bridge replacement project. The final project cost was around $675,000.

     • Weed Commissioner Wes Gibbs met with the board to discuss the 2018 weed commissioner report.

     Over the past couple of years, Secondary Roads has used its own staff to spray noxious weeds throughout the county. This has saved the county money versus contracting the work to an outside source. Gibbs said he’s noticed a huge difference in keeping that work in-house.

     “It’s a pretty dramatic cost difference,” said County Engineer Derek Snead. The contract cost used to be around $75,000. Now, the county is spending maybe $25,000.

     Gibbs said one year of contract spraying has helped to pay for new equipment as well.

     Gibbs reported on some changes to the noxious weed laws in Iowa. “The laws haven’t changed in decades,” he said.

     Some of the changes include a way of evaluating weeds that may or may not need weed control, a shorter noxious weed priority list, and classifying weeds into two categories (Class A Noxious and Class B). Gibbs said Class A are weeds that have to be removed. Class B are weeds that require some control to keep from spreading.

     “Operation-wise, it doesn’t really change that much for us,” Gibbs said.

 

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