Allamakee County Board of Supervisors hears updates and funding requests from Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission, approves extension for completion of recently delayed County Facade Improvement Grant project

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, December 11 to address a full agenda of matters including the Canvass of the December 5 Waukon City Council At-Large Run-Off Election Results, consideration of an extension request for the County Facade Improvement Grant Program, and an update and membership dues request by Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission. The meeting was called to order by Board of Supervisors Chairperson Dan Byrnes with Supervisors Dennis Keatley and Mark Reiser present.

During Public Comment, Director/General Manager Craig Lensing of Martin-Grau Funeral Home in Waukon noted the $1,200 benefit through the Allamakee County Relief Office for estates with less than $1,000 available for funeral expenses. As examples, Lensing advised that Delaware, Fayette and Clayton Counties, among others, allow families to add to this funding for final expenses with Allamakee County not allowing this practice relating to estates receiving this low-income benefit.

Lensing requested that the Supervisors consider changing the ordinance or bylaw restricting families from contributing to final expenses for estates receiving this benefit. Byrnes advised that the matter would be researched with Lensing to receive a response upon completion of that proposed research.

Executive Director Val Reinke with Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) noted that recent weather conditions have been beneficial for area retail stores and those choosing to shop locally. Reinke noted that the Safe House Saloon in Lansing will be hosting an event this Saturday, December 16 with 10-percent of sales and all tips to be contributed to costs associated with lighting the new bridge being constructed to replace the Black Hawk Bridge at Lansing.

Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer addressed the next matter relating to the Canvass of the December 5 Waukon City Council At-Large Run-Off Election results. Beyer noted that incumbent candidate Andrew Sires received 78 votes with 22 absentee votes (100 votes in total) and challenger Nicholas Engrav received 140 votes with 53 absentee votes (193 votes in total) with two over votes, a term used for spoiled votes resulting from a voter selecting more than the allowed number of candidates for a single elected office.

As a requirement to verify election integrity and the accuracy of voting machines, Beyer advised that the Iowa Secretary of State’s office chose to have absentee ballots hand counted by the post-election audit board, with those audit results ending up being the same as described earlier in her overview.

The Supervisors approved to declare Nicholas Engrav as winner in the December 5 Waukon City Council At-Large Run-Off Election.

Executive Director Rachelle Howe of Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) addressed the next agenda item relating to the UERPC update and membership dues. Howe provided an overview of the regional programs and services provided by UERPC in addition to noting that the organization appreciates the County’s support through membership dues which assist in qualifying for matching funds for a variety of programs, grants and projects.

Howe noted the cost/benefit analysis of the County’s $12,000 annual membership by discussing recent project totals and the 50-plus year history of the organization with $23.8 million specific to Allamakee County projects and programs. No action was taken by the board relating to this informational matter.

Howe and Housing Planner Chris Troendle with UERPC provided an overview of the next matter relating to the Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund (NEIRHTF) Fiscal-Year 2025 (FY25) funding request. Troendle noted the benefits of the NEIRHTF in assisting in the development and redevelopment of affordable housing needed for single-family or multi-family dwellings. Troendle discussed the $10,000 funding request and the Supervisors’ consideration of an increase benefiting this program. Howe clarified that $12,500 is the maximum available to be awarded for each individual project per family. Troendle also noted the positive impact of the program from a housing and safety standpoint. No action was taken by the board relating to this informational matter.

Beyer provided an overview of the next agenda item relating to the consideration of the 2024 Claims and Payroll Schedule. Beyer advised that claims are currently scheduled for the second and fourth Mondays of each month, with an additional claims date scheduled for June 28, 2024 in consideration of the end of the fiscal-year, in addition to payroll for County employees being scheduled for completion every two weeks. The Supervisors approved the 2024 Claims and Payroll Schedule as presented by Beyer.

Reinke provided an overview of the extension request for the County Facade Improvement Grant Program. She advised that Elissa Shepard, owner of the Driftless Gypsy Boutique in Lansing, has requested an extension relating to the completion of facade improvements at her retail store location on Main Street. Reinke noted that painting was not completed due to scheduling issues relating to a contractor with that portion of the project needing to be completed prior to the installation of lighting and signage.

Reinke advised that Shepard is coordinating completion of the facade painting through another contractor, Brennen Painting of Luana, with the Driftless Gypsy Boutique scheduled as the company’s first project in the spring of next year. Reinke further noted that this project was previously approved, with delays experienced being beyond Shepard’s control. Following discussion, the Supervisors approved a County Facade Improvement Grant extension to July 1 of next year for Driftless Gypsy Boutique.

Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour discussed the next agenda item relating to consideration of the Resolution to add Secondary Road Projects to the Construction Program. Ridenour provided an overview of the Resolution document specifying the addition of three projects including:

1. Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) Resurfacing on County Road X16 (Forest Mills Road) from Iowa Highway 76 (Old Stage Road) to County Road W4B (Yellow River Drive).

2. HMA Resurfacing on Whalen Hill from County Road X52 (Great River Road) to Waterview Lane.

3. Box Culvert Replacement on County Road X42 (Lansing Harpers Road).

Ridenour advised the costs listed for these projects were rough estimates with final designs and specifications not yet completed.

Ridenour further advised that the report relating to County Courthouse repairs and improvements has not yet been completed with decisions relating to the courthouse being made prior to committing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for Secondary Road projects. Reiser clarified that the road projects included in the Resolution were only being added to the Secondary Road Five-Year Program, a proposed work plan. The Supervisors approved the Resolution adding Secondary Road Projects to the Construction Program.

Under Department Head Updates, Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker noted plans to provide a one-hour presentation Monday, December 18 in closed session relating to the updated County Courthouse Security Plan following the scheduled regular session for the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors.

Ridenour provided an update relating to union negotiations with a meeting between the Union, the Secondary Roads Department and the Sheriff’s Department to take place in early January to allow the exchange of contract proposals.

Prior to adjournment, Beyer provided an update relating to work progress on valuations. She noted a recent webinar/Zoom web-conference relating to House File 718 and property tax reforms. Beyer further noted changes that will take place relating to the timing of a public hearing and mailing of statements to all taxpayers.

Beyer noted tentative March dates for the proposed property tax levy public hearing, and she also discussed an upcoming township trustee and clerk training session that can be completed virtually. Beyer added that this one-hour training session may be possible through funding available in the township budget with this proposed expenditure to be added for consideration by the Supervisors at a future meeting.