By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
The county’s five-year construction program brought several people to the Jones County Courthouse on Dec. 17 for the public hearing.
During the Supervisors meeting, they moved proceedings to the Community Room to allow for more room for those attending the hearing. Both Jones County Engineer Derek Snead and Assistant Engineer Todd Postel answered questions and clarified the five-year plan for those present.
“Previously, the plan was a compilation of projects, a wish list,” Snead offered. “Due to the current financial burden, it’s not realistic.”
He said they identified problem areas in the county, covering hundreds of miles of paved roads, asphalt roads, bridges and gravel roads.
“A large portion of our roads are over their existing lifespan,” Snead explained. He said these are the roads and structures they focused on when devising the five-year program. “Forty-one out of 189 bridges are posted in some shape or form with load limits. Thirty percent of the roads and bridges are past their useful life.”
In attacking the list, Snead explained they looked at structures that need to be replaced sooner rather than later, and how fiscally constraining the project would be. “We reorganized the projects and built a priority list. We need to attack these before we do any new projects.”
Postel added, “We need to take care of what we have.”
Snead said other, smaller projects throughout the county could be handled by their own crewmembers to keep costs low.
“Derek is just being realistic with the program,” commented Supervisor Keith Dirks.
Several landowners along 70th Street wanted to know when their road was going to see some attention. Right now, it is listed under calendar year 2019 on the program. They said it’s been over 60 years since their road has seen any improvements.
“It’s a local road and we want to use local funding for that,” Snead said. He said the Secondary Roads crew could do some ditching along the road to help improve water flow. Snead explained the idea is to bring the road’s grade up.
“There are lots of places like this throughout the county,” said Snead.
Supervisor Joe Cruise emphasized the need to fix 70th Street, assuring the residents along that road that the county has not forgotten about them. “It needs to be a priority,” he said.
The Supervisors also encouraged the dozen or so people there to contact their local state legislators and emphasize the need for additional state funding to help repair and replace roads and bridges throughout the county.
When it comes to funding, the majority of projects are funded with Farm-to-Market funds and federal aid. Secondary Roads expenditures include roadway maintenance, snow removal, traffic control, equipment operations and employee wages. These total approximately $5.5 million a year, increasing each year. This allows for very little local funding for construction projects.
“It’s critical because we spend state and federal money to get our projects done,” commented Postel. He said an increase on the road use tax would definitely help. “It been a struggle,” he said. We’re behind equipment upgrades and out fleet is falling apart. The road use tax keeps our umbrella open.”
In other county business:
• Sheriff Greg Graver gave the Board an update on the remodel project concerning the dispatch center.
“There is nothing more important than addressing the dispatch issues. That’s been the biggest efficiency in my department since I took office.”
Graver said he spoke with five contractors on the remodel project, with two willing to take on the work after looking over the scope of the project. He received two bids at around $8,000 from Iowa Wall Sawing in Independence and $9,500 from Monti Home Improvements from Monticello. Graver was also able to secure windows and other equipment from the old Marion Police Department as donations.
“That was a $15,000 cost savings for us,” he said.
The Board was in full support of the remodel project, allowing the dispatch center to have more room, and gave Graver the go-ahead to contact both contractors to come in and meet with the Board before a final decision is made.
• The county received notice from FMEA regarding new flood plain maps. A public meeting will be held in Monticello on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m.
• Brad Mormann, conservation director, gave the Board an update on several county projects including the Eby’s Mill acquisition of 530 acres for wildlife management, the Central Park septic system upgrade and lake improvements.
He thanked the Board for their continued financial support, but brought up an issue with storing county trucks and equipment in the open elements due to decreasing storage space. The Board suggested the Conservation Department speak with the other county departments that are currently storing equipment out there for financial aid in building an additional storage unit.