Supervisors discuss proposed transition of Vet’s Club into a military museum, public hearing February 24 for property tax levy

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, February 17 to address a variety of agenda items including the appointment of Solid Waste Management Board members, the hiring of an assistant mechanic for the Secondary Roads Department and discussion of the Allamakee County Historical Society’s potential use of the Vet’s Club building.

During Public Comment, Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) provided an overview of several events that took place over the weekend within the county including such Waukon events as the Oneota Film Festival at the Town Theater and the Dueling Pianos concert at the Waukon Banquet Center, as well as Lansing events including Coffee on the River’s Valentine’s Day Dinner, the Safe House’s Murder Mystery and the Busch Light Curling Event.

Allamakee County Director of Waste Management Dave Mooney addressed the appointment of Solid Waste Management Board members agenda item by indicating current board members Martin Halverson and Kim Welch have both agreed to continue serving and to each accept a five-year term. The Supervisors approved the appointment of Halverson and Welch to five-year terms on the Solid Waste Management Board. The Supervisors also approved the appointment of Steve Wiedner to a three-year term on the Historic Preservation Commission.

The Supervisors reviewed the liquor license request from Waukon Harley Davidson discussing that a shaded outdoor area and main business building would be used for occasional events with alcoholic beverage sales. The liquor license for Waukon Harley Davidson was approved.

Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour addressed the next agenda item relating to the hiring of an assistant mechanic for the Secondary Roads Department. Ridenour indicated that due to a recent retirement, this position is currently vacant and that a recommendation is being made to hire Devin Johnson with a start date of March 2 at $20.62 per hour per Union contract. The Supervisors approved the hiring of Johnson.

Under Department Head Updates, Ridenour discussed recent weather conditions with some drifting taking place on gravels over the weekend. Ridenour indicated that preparations are being made by the Secondary Roads Department in anticipation of winter storm conditions that have been forecasted.

Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker provided an update on the winter storm forecast for the county with a potential of three to five inches of snow being predicted with accumulations likely to begin that Monday afternoon. Snitker also discussed two recent flood outlook webinars relating to the La Crosse, WI area and the entire state of Iowa. Snitker indicated that there is some concern relating to high river levels and soil saturation, with western Iowa likely to be impacted by the Missouri River later in the year.

Snitker also provided an overview of the recent tabletop exercise that took place in Waterville relating to an EF3 tornado event. Snitker indicated that 41 individuals were involved in the tabletop exercise including representatives of fire departments, emergency medical services (EMS), Alliant Energy, Rural Electric Cooperative (REC), the Board of Supervisors, City of Waterville, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Highway Patrol and Veterans Memorial Hospital. Snitker reported that a tornado scenario was discussed with damage taking place from the Rossville area through Waterville. Board of Supervisors Chairperson Larry Schellhammer confirmed that he and Supervisor Dennis Koenig were in attendance at the tabletop exercise. Snitker said that he was pleased with the discussion and results of the exercise.

Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer advised that the Notice of Public Hearing for the Proposed Property Tax Levy was published February 12 in both newspapers in the county with that hearing to take place February 24. Beyer indicated that work continues relating to township budgets.

The Supervisors moved into the discussion and consideration of the Allamakee County Historical Society’s use of the Vet’s Club building on Allamakee Street in Waukon. Historical Society President Jim Garrett indicated that the Historical Society Board has discussed the potential use of the Vet’s Club building in Waukon, currently scheduled to be turned over to the County, as a military museum. Garrett presented a binder of information and photos to the Supervisors relating to a local veteran’s extensive collection of Vietnam era military items, which could be showcased in professionally designed displays within the proposed military museum.

Historical Society Board member John Bauercamper advised that there are additional military related items available for display including a World War I era Hodgkiss machine gun, a submachine gun, Civil War muskets, swords from the Spanish American War, Civil War documents and various military uniforms. Garrett indicated that the Historical Society would include the Vet’s Club’s membership in the planning and organization of the proposed museum. Garrett discussed that there is also interest in using the basement area of the Vet’s Club for genealogy research.

Tom Regan, representing the Vet’s Club, addressed the Supervisors and indicated that there is a willingness to donate the building to the Historical Society for the museum purpose. Regan discussed that some space in the Waukon City Hall basement is currently being used for flag storage and that some storage space within the Vet’s Club would be appreciated for a podium and some large items typically used only once a year. Regan described the military museum concept as the best possible outcome for the building’s use.

Schellhammer questioned Garrett about the financial impact of operating the building as a military museum. Garrett indicated that the cost of exhibit preparation would belong to the Historical Society with assistance for costs relating to heat and electricity likely necessary as the Historical Society would endeavor to keep the museum open year round. Supervisor Dan Byrnes discussed that utilities for the building have been budgeted with the transfer of ownership to the County taking place and that an estimate for set-up costs would be necessary. The use of an existing movable ramp was discussed for handicapped accessibility purposes.

Jack Sweeney said he was attending this meeting on behalf of individuals interested in using the kitchen area of the Vet’s Club for a new business. Sweeney indicated that the military museum would be a better use of the Vet’s Club building, rather than a private business, with his original suggestion being withdrawn. Koenig indicated that the Vietnam era items would be a great attraction. Byrnes commented that this would be a great use for the building with the upstairs used for military displays and basement area used for genealogy research. Schellhammer agreed that genealogy research space is needed and that he would like to see this project move forward.

Historical Society Board member Jim Janett advised that the building may be eligible for the National Registry of Historical Places and that a security system upgrade may be necessary. The Supervisors agreed that their consensus is to move forward with this project and to act upon the matter officially as planning solidifies.

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