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Local

County will get new precinct boundaries

Pictured above is the proposed new Jasper County Precinct map passed in its first reading at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. If approved, the map will redraw the county’s 10 voting precincts into nine districts. The map is based on the results of the 2010 census and is formulated to make the least amount of changes to the current polling places. The map will require three readings before its ultimately approved.
Pictured above is the proposed new Jasper County Precinct map passed in its first reading at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. If approved, the map will redraw the county’s 10 voting precincts into nine districts. The map is based on the results of the 2010 census and is formulated to make the least amount of changes to the current polling places. The map will require three readings before its ultimately approved.

For most of this year, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors has been discussing the need to replace the heating and cooling system in the courthouse, and a variety of systems available and their merits.

At Tuesday’s supervisors’ meeting, the discussion focused on a method of payment for a new heating/cooling system. Supervisor chair Denny Stevenson acknowledged that the courthouse is overdue for an upgrade on the furnace.

“The present system is at the end of its life,” Stevenson said. “There are boiler problems, and the pipes are bad and must be replaced.”

The supervisors hired AJ Associates earlier this year, and the prognosis was that a replacement was definitely needed. A geothermal unit would run the county approximately $1.2 million, with no state grants available. An exact replacement of the current system, or a reverse refrigeration unit, more efficient, would cost $1.1 million. Although federal grants were available for a reverse refrigeration unit, the project must be completed by March 31, 2012, and Stevenson said that deadline may increase the cost.

The supervisors agreed that bids should be obtained for each of the system options. In addition to the possible grants, some state tax credits may be available as well.

Although the project could be paid for out of the county’s cash reserves, supervisor Joe Brock said he would rather have the public’s input, and the issue will be put on the November ballot for approval by Jasper County voters. The issue would require a 60 percent majority. The supervisors agreed to ask to borrow a maximum of $1.45 million. Bids for the project should be ready for discussion in October.

Although there are too many variables at this time to determine how county residents’ property taxes would be affected, due to the uncertainty of the grants available, Parrott anticipated it would be a minimal amount. The supervisors plan on a series of town hall meeting throughout the county in October to explain the need for a new heating system,the potential costs, and the impact to citizens.

New precinct boundaries

Following the 2010 census, the county was required to redraw its voting precinct boundaries, so that no precinct should have a total population in excess of 3,500. Each precinct must be completely contained within an existing legislative district.

Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott said the county must re-draw precinct boundaries. In the past, the re-drawing was done by hand, but this year, GIS director Laurie Jackson prepared a map with the new election precinct boundaries utilizing geographic information system data.

“The new map is as close as we could come without any city losing any polling places,” Parrott said.

The supervisors approved the first reading for the precinct boundary changes. If ultimately approved, the county would go from 10 rural voting precincts to nine. The one rural polling location that would be eliminated would be the one at St. Andrew’s Church, which is currently used for voters in Buena Vista and Elk Creek townships. Those two townships are now in different legislative districts, so they cannot be combined to use the same polling location. In the new map, Elk Creek and Lynn Grove townships will be combined into a precinct with the polling location to be in Sully.

In other action Tuesday, the supervisors:

• Approved a six-month contract with Integrity Audit Services to audit the county’s telephone invoices, searching for potential cost reductions. Integrity owner Tameca Howze said there would be no up-front costs, but her company would take 40 percent of whatever she could save the county in telecommunication fees.

• Set Oct. 4, as the date for a public hearing on a rezoning request for Eugene Bogash. Bogash had requested a rezoning of approximately 52 acres north of Valeria to develop a 19-lot rural subdivision, with lots from 2 to 4 acres each. The project had some opposition from local residents, who cited concerns about water runoff and close proximity of neighbors.

Although the issue was on the agenda of the July Planning and Zoning Commission, no recommendation was made to the Board of Supervisors for approval or disapproval, leaving the developers wondering what their next move might be.

Since time is drawing close to the end of the building season, the supervisors agreed to hear the rezoning request, rather than send it back to the P&Z.

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