Many unanswered questions about JETS facility

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     It’s been an ongoing battle as to whether Jones County JETS will see a new facility sometime in the near future.

     JETS works with ECICOG. Over a year ago, ECICOG applied for a transportation grant through the Iowa DOT to assist in the construction a building that would house JETS vehicles; keep them inside and out of the elements year-round.

     During the March 14 Board of Supervisors meeting, Brock Grenis with ECICOG met with the board, along with JETS Manager Kathy Koerperich and County Attorney Phil Parsons. All came together in front of the board to iron out the details regarding a possible JETS facility.

     “It’s a work in progress,” remarked Parsons of the agreement document between the county and ECICOG. Parsons said the biggest issue in the way now is getting specs in place for the proposed facility.

     Grenis said first thing’s first: They need to send out a request for qualifications and negotiate a price once the contractor is hired.

     “The DOT says that’s our best option,” said Grenis, “because we don’t have all of the specs in place.”

     Grenis said ECICOG would have to lean on the county, the user of the building.

     “We could put together a four- to five-person team,” added Grenis in terms of moving forward.

     Parsons once a contractor is selected, they would design and put together the specs for the building.

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach asked whether the timeframe of October 2017 was still in place. Grenis said the fine print on the grant stipulates July 2018 “until you can no longer get the funding for the project,” he said.

     “July makes quite a bit of difference,” commented Supervisor Wayne Manternach.

     Going through a contractor to design the specs and put together a list of materials could add at least 10 percent on to the total cost of the project, proposed Supervisor Joe Oswald.

     Grenis said that is always a possibility.

     The board also asked whether local, Jones County contractors could be consider for the project, with ECICOG taking the lead as the transportation agent. Grenis’ answer: “I’m not sure.”

     Manternach said if anything, he’d like to see some locals used for subcontract jobs.

     Zirkelbach agreed. “I would like to see local vendors part of the parameters.”

     Parsons still had concerns of his own. He said if the county has to purchase the land for the JETS facility, could that be considered part of the county’s 20 percent contribution.

     “I’d hate for us to own the land and give 20 percent,” he said. “I don’t want to cost the taxpayers additional money, especially if we can’t own the building for 30 years.”

     That 30 years is also a hang-up.

     “Is that 30 years firm?” questions Supervisor Lloyd Eaken.

     “That’s a rule-maker,” voiced Grenis. “That decision is particular to the grant source (the DOT).”

     Parsons said the timeframe needs to be defined in the agreement.

     Oswald asked what would happen 10 years or so down the road if ECICOG decided they didn’t want to the building anymore. “Could the county purchase it at a depreciated value?” asked Oswald.

     “The state would expect the pro-rated grant money back from ECICOG,” warned Grenis, “because we would own the building.”

     Parsons added that ECICOG would be forced to sell the facility, and the county may not necessarily be the one to purchase it.

     Oswald was also worried about the county losing its 20 percent investment if the building were sold. Parsons said language could be added to the agreement, protecting the county’s money.

     Parsons said the agreement stipulates that if the project folds, the DOT gets its 80 percent funding back.

     “Why can’t the county get its 20 percent?” he proposed.

     Another hit to the county would be maintenance of the facility. If anything were to go wrong, it’s on the county’s dime.

     “It gets more complicated all the time,” summed up Parsons.

     “Do we walk away from it?” questioned Zirkelbach. “There are a lot of hoops to jump through.” He asked what it would take to protect the JETS vehicles. “There are a lot of unanswered questions yet,” added Zirkelbach.

     The board felt it was necessary to meet with the DOT/Office of Public Transit before forging ahead on the JETS facility. A conference call was set up for the March 21 meeting.

     Koerperich said the facility agreement is no different from the agreement surrounding the JETS vehicles. The vehicles are leased through ECICOG to the county. “If anything goes wrong with them,’ we fix it,” said Koerperich. The difference in Oswald’s mind, “Yes, but you don’t keep a van for 30 years.”

     Parsons suggested if the board wanted to protect its 20 percent, maybe other organizations in the county could help come up with the difference. “That way the taxpayers don’t have to bear the burden,” he suggested.


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