Supervisors hear resident concerns about road safety and proposed public safety center and jail project

by Bob Beach

During public comment time at the regular meeting of the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors Monday, April 20, Maury and Kay Mooney and Beverly Platten of rural Harpers Ferry expressed concerns about the condition and safety of Sweet Ridge Drive, where they reside. They said that truck traffic to and from the nearby quarry has always been a concern, but the planned construction of a hog confinement along the road has added to their concerns.
In addition to heavy wear and tear on the road, particularly during this time of year, the dust is often blinding. They asked the Board about the possibility of paving Sweet Ridge Drive or diverting truck traffic to Lafayette Ridge, which is paved. Board Chairman Larry Schellhammer said that the Secondary Roads Department is working to repair road damage and that he would speak to Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour about keeping the road in passable condition. Supervisor Dan Byrnes pointed out that Ridenour uses a ranking system to determine which roads get added to the County's five-year plan for paving projects.
Also during public comment time, Tom Hustvet of Waukon expressed what he called "grave concerns" about the planned public safety center and jail. He said that Allamakee County is one of many counties that have been convinced to pay for a "federal level" prison. He said that the County has "all the makings for a great Board and a great Sheriff, but not a lot of experience in management." He said that if the Board dedicates $400,000 from the County's reserves to pay for the project, other County departments will expect the same.
Hustvet also said that the size of the facility proposed concerns him because it may be used to house prisoners from other counties and that everyone involved will feel pressure to keep the new facility full, pressure that he said would likely fall most heavily on minorities. "If I were a Latino or Somali from Postville, I would worry," Hustvet said. Chairman Schellhammer said that the Board would weigh Hustvet's concerns and encouraged him to attend and participate in public meetings this week regarding the proposed public safety center.
In a related matter, Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick reported that the County's application for a derelict building grant to help fund the demolition of the Makee Manor building was recently denied. Despite that news, the Board authorized Midwest Construction Consultants to move forward with requesting proposals for asbestos testing and removal at the Makee Manor building location.
The Board also met with Allamakee County Attorney Jill Kistler, who presented the Board with a letter of support for a grant application for the Humane Society of Northeast Iowa to a fund a spay/neuter program to control the feral cat population. Supervisors Schellhammer and Byrnes voted to sign the letter of support, but Supervisor Dennis Koenig voted no, offering a suggestion he said would be a "simpler" solution to the problem.
In other business, Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer reported that the ballots for the May 5 special election have been received and that absentee ballots are now available. Beyer also asked the Board to consider possible changes to the County's payroll policies. The Board also met with Coordinator of Disabilities Services Kim Waters, who reviewed the agenda for an upcoming meeting of the County Social Services Board. The Board also scheduled Monday, May 11 at 9:30 a.m. as the date and time for a public hearing on an amendment to the County's budget for fiscal year 2015.