November 27, 2022

Courthouse concrete improvements project gets new direction

Prices are estimated to increase, prompting discussion on how to approach repairs

The board of supervisors gave the maintenance director some more direction moving forward with the courthouse concrete improvements project. Two bids for the project were rejected in 2021 and 2022 for being too costly, prompting another approach.

The concrete improvements project at the Jasper County Courthouse was initially put on hold after the board of supervisors rejected two bid openings in 2021 and 2022. Back then the bids were considered to be too expensive. Maintenance director Adam Sparks asked supervisors on Nov. 15 what to do moving forward.

“The concrete is obviously getting no better. It’s getting worse. By the end of the winter we’re going to have a lot of spots that are honestly going to look like gravel and not concrete,” Sparks said of the surrounding sidewalks. “So I just need to know kinda how to move forward.”

Every day the county doesn’t do something to address the concrete, he added, the concrete gets in worse shape, and the prices to fix it continue to rise.

“If we’re waiting for the price to drop, we could wait a year (or) we could wait many years,” Sparks said. “So I’m just trying to get some direction, whether it’s ‘Let’s not talk about it again for a while’ or ‘Let’s work on a piece and a part’ or whatever it is, I guess. Just looking for something so I know how to ask.”

For now, Sparks is to find out how much it would cost to do the project a quarter at a time. Jasper County Supervisor Doug Cupples recommended the board set aside a certain amount of money each fiscal year until the project is completed in sections. Fellow supervisor Brandon Talsma was not opposed to the idea.

Cupples walked around the courthouse the other day and while he appreciates Sparks’ attention to detail and acknowledged areas in need of repair, the supervisor said he doesn’t know if it’s to the extent at which it would require a full replacement. Sectioning the project would also mean a less upfront cost.

The project could cost more over time by breaking it up into sections, but the previous two bids were way too high for the county to consider approving. For instance, the August 2021 base bid was $339,570. Supervisors rejected it and wanted to wait for prices to drop. By April 2022, the base bid increased to $354,000.

“It seems more logical, to me, as far as financially,” Cupples said of the idea to separate the project into sections.

Another matter Sparks wanted to address were the concrete planters, oftentimes referred to as the bunkers by county officials. Initially it was agreed upon to demolish the bunkers. Sparks wanted a firm answer: Do they stay? Or do they go? Cupples had no problem with the bunkers.

“I’m not a fan of getting rid of the bunkers,” Cupples said. “I don’t think they look that bad. So that’s my personal opinion. I think we could have them probably decorated, have them painted or something. I know that in the past others have not liked them. But that’s me.”

Talsma and supervisor Denny Carpenter, who attended the meeting through a Zoom call, do not like them and want to see them gone. However, Talsma is on board with removing them when it is absolutely necessary, like when the county decides to redo any crumbling approaches to the courthouse.

In addition to finding out the estimated costs to do the project a quarter at a time, Cupples wanted to know the percentage of deterioration in each area. Talsma said the county’s architectural firm, BBS Architects & Engineers, may not have to get involved, which would leave the budgeting at Sparks’ discretion.

Sparks will return to the board at a later date with some more detailed options.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 560 or

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.