It was a standing-room-only crowd for the first Jasper County Board of Supervisors meeting of April, and the majority of those citizens came for the public hearing and opening of the sealed bids for Rader Timber Area, Amboy Ridge Wildlife Area and Hamil Wildlife Area.
As the bids were read, there was confusion among the bidders due to the fact that there never was a specification on whether the bids were per-acre or flat-price. This led to multiple recalculations during the meeting by Jasper County Conservation Director Keri Van Zante.
Citizen Todd Van Manen commented, “Every land auction I have ever been to has been by the acre.”
Despite the initial confusion, the bids and sales all became final during the meeting. Todd and Sara Van Manen won the deed to the 2.5-acre Amboy Ridge parcel for $625 or $250 an acre. Ernest and Melinda Adkison purchased the 3.2-acre Hamil parcel for $480 or $150 an acre.
Things got interesting as a bidding war erupted for Rader among two of the top three bidders for the 7.05-acre parcel of land. Frank Schwarz and Tedd See kept topping one another until at one point See posed a question to his competitor:
“Sir, would you allow me to hunt deer on your land?” See asked. Schwarz promptly replied, “No,” which caused See to raise his bid. He eventually won Rader for a cost of $2,256 or $320 an acre.
According to Iowa Farm & Land Chapter #2 Realtors Lands Institute as of March, the average cost of an acre of non-tillable pasture in the Central region, which includes Jasper County, is $2,557. The cost for an acre of land for timber is $2,139.
The board approved Community Services Director of Central Point Coordinator of Jasper County Jody Eaton’s resolution for an addendum to the contract with Optimae Life Services. The addendum will now create a peer support center for citizens with mental health issues located at 1422 First Ave. E. in Newton.
Eaton presented the resolution along with Brent Deppe, who will serve as peer coordinator for the center, and Connie Wright of Optimae Life Services, who will act as program director.
“We are fortunate to have a provider that recognizes that value peer services bring to an area,” Eaton said. “Optimae Life Services will coordinate peer service, they will employ and train a peer coordinator and offer the Jasper County area this valuable service. We are even more fortunate to have a peer coordinator (Deppe) willing to share his life experiences in order to help others find their path to recovery.”
“We feel very fortunate to be able to put together a program like this,” Wright said. “What we proposed is we would use the north end of our office as the meeting area for the program. We would like to begin May 4. I anticipate that we will start small, but I think that as people are brought into the program that people will build that support for each other, and we will grow from there.”
“This will help people not fall through the cracks,” Board chair Dennis Stevenson said. “Which I though was a bad, bad deal. This can help fill those gaps.”
Newton Director of Planning and Zoning Erin Chambers, along with Newton Historic Preservation Committee members Rita Reinheimer and Fred Chabot, updated the board on their progress to get downtown Newton on the National Register of Historic Places list.
“We want to thank you for the opportunity to have this conversation with you guys,” Chambers said. “We do feel it was important to include the county because you guys are at the heart of the district, the courthouse, and you do own some other buildings that are important.”
Chabot emphasized that the district would not impose any restrictions on property owners. There are 88 properties listed in the proposed boundaries.
“We are anticipating that we are going to be successful,” Chabot said. “Two-thirds of the properties are contributing according to the National Park Service rules. We believe this will bring positive notoriety to Newton and an improved sense of pride in the community.”
The board also approved Sheriff John Halferty’s resolution on the county offering plastic weapon permits in addition to the paper one. Halferty said the equipment to make the plastic permits will cost $4,000 and will come from forfeiture funds and can be operational as soon as next Monday. A plastic permit will run an additional $10 but is completely optional. Weapon permits cost $50 and last for five years.
A public hearing was held on the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget amendment. Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott emphasized that the amendment wouldn’t cost the taxpayers any additional funds and was going to adjust each department’s budget to better reflect the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The board approved the amendment, a liquor license request by Killduff 5 and 10 Inc. also was approved.
As the meeting was drawing toward adjournment, Ronald Van Genderen of Monroe sparked a lively debate on health insurance and socialism that included all three board members, Jasper County Human Resources Director Dennis Simon and Parrott.
“I’d like to know what this (health insurance) is costing the Jasper County taxpayer,” Van Genderen said. “How many dollars a year for employees’ health insurance? What are you planing on doing about 2014? Do you think that that’s fair to me, as a federal taxpayer, state taxpayer and a county taxpayer? I pay my own health insurance. The last payment I made was $15,000. Aren’t county employees capable of paying their own health insurance? And how many dollars would this amount to in a year? I could use several more of those rocks out on my route, and we could transfer it over there.”
The various officials took turns explaining things.
“In order to keep good people (county employees), you have to offer competitive wages and benefits,” Parrott said.
Stevenson added: “We’ve eliminated positions and cut down $400,000 a year. If you are suggesting that we quit paying health insurance, it ain’t going to happen.”
Van Genderen made references to President Obama, unions and socialism. After more back and forth, Parrott and Stevenson explained how union contracts work in Iowa, the fact 90 percent of county employees are union, and that the board actually lowered taxes the last two years. Stevenson ended the debate.
“I hear you and I understand your frustration,” Stevenson said. “We don’t just hand out money.”
Stevenson also advised Van Genderen he could run for the board if he wishes.
“I think, county employees in Jasper County do an excellent job for the dollar that they get paid,” Parrott said. “I do not think that they are overpaid. I am as conservative as anybody in this room, and I pay taxes as well, and I do know the job that they do. If he wants to come in and watch my office and take a look at what we do or anybody else’s, it takes a level of training and expertise. We do serve the public. I do take issue with the fact that he (Van Genderen) said county employees don’t do their job. Because they do do it, and they do it very well.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.