By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
The Jones County Board of Supervisors heard updates from many county entities during their regular meeting on Jan. 15.
Bob Hatcher, Jones County Tourism director, praised Jones County Tourism for a great year in 2012.
“Last year was one of the best years for Tourism here,” said Hatcher.
Annually, Hatcher asks the Board to consider helping to fund Tourism with $15,000, plus 100 percent of the county’s hotel/motel tax. Hatcher said $500 is spent each year on a membership to Eastern Iowa Tourism.
“It’s money well spent,” said Hatcher.
In 2012, Jones County Tourism saw a 14 percent increase over previous years. Hatcher explained the major areas of interest include: shopping, museums, motels, camping and river activities; however, he said river requests were down last year due to low water levels in the Maquoketa and Wapsi.
On average $248 is spent per day by a tourist in Jones County. The average tourist party is 2.4 people. Tourism employs 110 people locally, whether full-time or seasonal.
Jones County ranks 44th over all in Iowa as counties people like to visit.
“That’s not too bad based on the size of this county,” said Hatcher. “But it would be nice to be higher on that list.”
Through advertising, Tourism reaches roughly 2.5 million people, spanning a 200-mile radius.
“We need to be reaching 3.5 million to 5 million,” noted Hatcher, “and should be doubling our advertising costs.”
Hatcher said he is getting more and more requests for electronic mailings versus snail mail tourism information. Jones County Tourism is currently working to upgrade its website to attract more viewers.
“Our goal is to support every town in Jones County,” Hatcher said, “because they support us.”
Hatcher works out of the Tourism’s Anamsoa office 35 to 37 hours a week.
“We’re happy to see you stay here,” commented Supervisor Joe Cruise. Last year, Hatcher announced he was looking to retire. “You do a great job and are a great leader,” added Cruise.
Jennifer Husmann, Jones County Safe & Healthy Youth Coalition project coordinator, met the Supervisors to ask for a funding request of $3,000.
“We thank you for your support in the past and now in the present,” said Husmann. “You lead the way in Jones County to get things done with policy changes.” One of those new policies was the passing of the Social Host Ordinance.
“You’ve changed things significantly,” added Husmann.
She said it’s nice for the Coalition to be recognized as an official county organization by the Board.
In 2002, the JCSHYC received its first grant to organize a coalition. Husmann said they are coming to a close on that grant funding.
“We’d like to work on sustaining our efforts and keep going in the future,” Husmann said. “We’re asking for your help to meet our action plan that can’t be funded through grants.”
Supervisor Keith Dirks, who is a member of the Coalition, offered, “The meetings of the Coalition are widely attended. I’ve been impressed by the input from local law enforcement and youth. This group is very goal-oriented. They are a great organization to be a part of.”
Dusty Embree, Jones County Economic Development director, presented the FY 2014 county funding request: $2 per capita rural and 50 cents per capita general, coming to $27,379.
“We had a pretty good year,” said Embree of 2012. “A lot of growth has been happening.”
Embree elaborated by saying companies are looking to add shifts and expand; however, JCED has seen a shortage locally of skilled workers.
“Training is a big piece of it,” she said.
Right now, Embree shared that she is working on a promising prospect interested in commercial parks in both Anamosa and Monticello.
“We’re crossing our fingers,” Embree said of the possible development. “I’m very hopeful about it.”
Embree noted the JCED is working on a strategic plan and moving towards helping existing businesses grow.
“Organizational stability is a big piece for us,” Embree said. “We’re trying to get new investors for JCED.”
Supervisor Joe Oswald asked if other towns in Jones County are involved with JCED. Embree said she tries to visit with City Councils throughout the area.
“We’re working on a marketing plan,” Embree noted, “to recruit businesses and explain why they’re a good fit for Jones County.”
Supervisor Cruise asked if there have been any developments in the Kirkwood area in Monticello. Embree said there have been some “rumblings,” but nothing has happened yet. She was optimistic that within the next couple of years, there could be some growth in that specific area.
In other county business:
• The Board approved a preliminary plat for the Rowley First Addition subdivision in Fairview Township.
• Joe Oswald gave an update on the Advancement Services project in Monticello. He said they held a pre-construction meeting earlier in the month and contractors have already dug holes and placed some footings as of Jan. 15.
• The Board placed a letter on file from the Compensation Board, recommending salary increases for elected officials. The recommendations ranged from 2.3 percent to 6 percent. The Board will take action on this at the budget hearing.
• The Board approved to take part in a strategic goal-setting program through ISAC (Iowa State Association of Counties). Supervisor Ned Rohwedder commented that this program would be a good fit with the county’s five-year road program and comprehensive plan. All county departments will be invited to participate.
• Deb Schultz, County Community Services coordinator, informed the Board that they have a deadline of April 1 to submit their intent to form a mental health region.
• Derek Snead, Jones County engineer, gave the Board an update on county road equipment.
“It’s not a good time for equipment,” commented Snead.
He noted that a motor grader, bridge truck and a loader are all in need for either major repairs or replacement.