Supervisors hear County Compensation Board recommendations for elected official salary increases, do not approve proposed management agreement with Iowa DNR

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, February 12 to address a full agenda of matters including the Grady’s Superhero Run 5K scheduled for August 2 in Dorchester, a recommendation from the Allamakee County Compensation Board relating to Fiscal-Year 2025 (FY25) elected official salaries and the consideration of signing an agreement with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources relating to four properties within Allamakee County. The meeting was called to order by Board of Supervisors Chairperson Dan Byrnes with Supervisors Mark Reiser and Dennis Keatley present.

During Public Comment, Executive Director Val Reinke of Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) provided an overview of recent and upcoming events within the county. Reinke noted that Busch Light Curling is scheduled to take place in Lansing Saturday, February 17. Reinke made note of several events that took place Saturday, February 10 including Lansing Main Street’s Trivia Night, Hollywood History Trivia at the Waukon Event Center and the “Smooch Your Pooch” Valentine’s Day shopping event at Paws Up Pet Supplies in Waukon. She also noted that the Waukon Event Center will be hosting a comedy night Saturday, February 17 and that the Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center in Lansing will be hosting a Critter Meet & Greet event that same day.

The meeting moved into the discussion and consideration of Grady’s Superhero Run to be held August 2 of this year at 7 p.m. in Dorchester. Present to address this matter were Rose Onsgard and, via Zoom web-conferencing, Dana Hammel. Onsgard introduced Hammel, the mother of Grady Lundgren-Hammel, and provided an overview of the proposed event which is being planned as an annual fundraiser and activity moving forward.

Onsgard noted that Grady passed away December 29, 2022 after a 13-month battle following a diagnosis of a rare NUT protein carcinoma. Onsgard further noted Hammel’s intent to raise funds for the community and to increase awareness of this rare form of cancer. The funds raised by this initial event will be divided between a family experiencing a medical issue and to allow for the establishment of the Grady Lundgren-Hammel Memorial Scholarship.

Onsgard advised that Grady’s Superhero Run will include a family friendly 5K and kid’s fun run with a bounce house, cotton candy, kids’ games, prize giveaways and music in the yard area of Knotty Marie’s in Dorchester to follow. Byrnes noted the preparations and planning that have taken place with no official action being necessary relating to this event.

Byrnes encouraged continued communication with the Allamakee County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management relating to the planning of this event. Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour discussed the potential full closure of Waterloo Creek Drive to accommodate this event with an estimated number of participants being helpful in determining safety measures to be in place. No action was taken.

The meeting moved into the next matter relating to the Allamakee County Compensation Board’s recommendation for Fiscal-Year 2025 (FY25) elected official salaries. Representing the County Compensation Board, Jane Regan of Upper Iowa Insurance Services provided some background on this matter noting that the Compensation Board met December 12, 2023 to discuss this matter. Regan thanked and noted the cooperation of the public officials that provided a review of their positions and fiduciary responsibilities as required per Iowa Code.

Regan further noted that Allamakee County is fortunate to have highly trained, dedicated and committed elected officials and staff members. She discussed the role of the Compensation Board in making comparisons using data from counties across the state of Iowa. From an evaluation of this data, Regan advised that the Compensation Board has determined that the salaries of Allamakee County elected officials remain low in comparison, which she said puts the County at a disadvantage in attracting and retaining skilled employees with staff salaries tied to a percentage of department head salaries.

As a result, Regan advised that the Compensation Board is recommending a $2,000 increase in salary for the Board of Supervisors Chairperson due to additional responsibilities, an eight-percent increase for the County Sheriff’s salary and a six-percent increase for other elected positions, including the Board of Supervisors.

Byrnes noted the board’s appreciation of the service provided by the Compensation Board in its function in making comparisons and evaluating data, with the suggested recommendations to be considered. No action was taken. As follow-up, Regan discussed proposed legislation that would eliminate Compensation Boards statewide and their role in comparing data and providing recommendations.

The Quarterly Reports for Allamakee County Environmental Health and Veterans Affairs were both accepted and placed on file. The Supervisors approved 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 27 for the Public Hearing for the Proposed Property Tax Levy.

The meeting moved into the consideration of signing a management agreement with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) for Heytman’s Landing, Harpers Slough fishing access, Nobles Island Boat Landing, and the Harpers Ferry Public Boat Landing including shops and residence.

Allamakee County Conservation Director Ross Geerdes provided an update relating to this matter noting that the Conservation Board has requested the ability to review this agreement with IDNR in five years with that change reflected in the current version of the agreement.

Geerdes noted the residence or house in Harpers Ferry which the IDNR, per the new agreement, would like to return to County Conservation due to decisions at the State level relating to IDNR no longer being allowed to provide housing to staff. Geerdes noted that this house has been used for a variety of purposes including office and meeting spaces, evidence storage and seasonal employee housing. He further noted that IDNR may be interested in renting this meeting space back from the County with seasonal staff housing and short-term bed and breakfast (B&B) housing suggested as being other potential revenue streams through this property.

Geerdes advised that the availability of seasonal housing may allow for additional seasonal employees from a wider geographic range and attract college age candidates needing this type of experience for their conservation-related career path. Reiser advised that the County does not need this house due to a variety of expenses including monthly utilities, appliance repair and replacement, necessary flooring replacement, among other necessary improvements, prior to this house being acceptable for short-term or seasonal renting. Geerdes noted that the average monthly utility cost for this house is $125.

Keatley advised that there doesn’t appear to be a great benefit in keeping the house but that he is not against the matter, but he also noted there are a lot of unanswered questions with a more in-depth cost analysis being necessary. Byrnes questioned whether the IDNR would entertain an agreement not including the house. Following further discussion, the Supervisors approved to not approve the management agreement and to return the agreement excluding the house to the IDNR for review.

Ridenour addressed the next matter relating to the consideration of detouring traffic onto County roads due to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade scheduled for next month in Waukon. Ridenour noted the detour route of 9th Street SW/X12 and Iron Mine Drive from 12-3 p.m. Sunday, March 17 for the annual parade. The Supervisors approved the detour route as presented.

The meeting moved into the consideration of quotes for a pick-up truck for the Secondary Roads Department. Ridenour noted that a Chevrolet Crew Cab 2500 pick-up truck had been ordered through R.W. Pladsen Inc. of Waukon, quoted at $46,284, with some delays experienced through Chevrolet in fulfilling this order and a delivery date not yet provided. Ridenour further noted that Torkelson Motors of Waukon has provided a quote for a Dodge Ram 2500 pick-up truck at $47,450 with delivery projected in three-and-a-half months. Ridenour advised that R.W. Pladsen has provided another option available for a 2024 Custom Chevrolet Crew Cab at $53,704 which was previously ordered for a customer who later decided not to purchase the vehicle. The Supervisors approved the purchase of the Dodge Ram 2500 pick-up truck through Torkelson Motors of Waukon.

Under Department Head Updates, Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick noted that a phone system upgrade to fiber optic has gone well at the Public Safety Center. Geerdes advised that the geothermal system at the Driftless Area Education And Visitors Center is back online and working well following work performed by Winona Controls in cleaning filters.

Ridenour noted that the letting for a couple of asphalt projects will be on the agenda for next week with pavement marking quotes to be reviewed the following week. He advised that work continues relating to maintenance rock resurfacing maps.

Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer noted that in-office absentee voting and the mailing of absentee ballots starts Wednesday, February 14 with Monday, February 19 at 5 p.m. being the deadline to request a mailed ballot for the Local Option Sales and Services Tax (LOSST) Election. Beyer noted that election equipment testing and budget work continues.

The Supervisors moved into Closed Session with Attorney John Anderson to discuss strategy for Collective Bargaining Negotiations as authorized by Section 20.17(3) Code of Iowa and exempt from Chapter 21 requirements.

Following the return to open session and prior to adjournment of the meeting, the Supervisors held a budget work session for the Fiscal-Year 2025 budget to discuss budgets, carryovers and levies.

Later that same day, the Supervisors and the Allamakee County Courthouse Building Committee met to discuss options for the Category 6 (Cat 6) cable installation throughout the Allamakee County Courthouse building in preparation for the installation of new security cameras and the voice over internet protocol (VOIP) phone system project. The Supervisors and the Courthouse Building Committee were in agreement to consult Wieser Brothers relating to the next step involved in this planning process. Head of Courthouse Maintenance John Roe will be following up relating to plans for the installation of drop ceilings in addition to Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker following up relating to security camera specifics.