June 20, 2024

Jasper County seeks estimates to remove concrete bunkers in town square

Supervisors give maintenance the go-ahead to search, would likely remove north side structures first

Supervisors have given maintenance permission to seek estimates for the removal of the four concrete bunkers outside the Jasper County Courthouse.

Supervisors have directed maintenance to find estimates for what it would cost to remove the concrete bunkers outside the Jasper County Courthouse, an initiative that has been discussed for the past few years. The bunkers served as aesthetically pleasing markers in downtown Newton but have proved challenging.

Oftentimes maintenance crews have had difficulties navigating around the bunkers for heavy snow removals. Past attempts at concrete replacement projects proposed the bunkers be removed, but bids were coming in too high and put the projects on hold. But the county did reserve money for concrete work.

Jasper County Maintenance Director Adam Sparks said there was $40,000 in the budget for fiscal year 2024 that was used for flatwork on the outside of the courthouse. The county focused its efforts on concrete squares that were either raised, broken or had some other flaw that could have caused an accident.

With another $40,000 earmarked for concrete work in the fiscal year 2025 budget, Sparks needed to know if supervisors wanted the bunkers removed. When conducting the flatwork, maintenance made sure to stay away from squares that were near or attached to the bunkers.

If it turned out the supervisors wanted the bunkers removed, then it would have likely required crews to dig up newly set concrete, making it a waste of money.

“We didn’t want to tear it back out and waste all that concrete,” Sparks said. “So I guess the question is moving forward … Are we keeping the bunkers? Can the bunkers go? I need to know that so I can kind of figure out how we’re going to spend this money and know what to tell people that are bidding on this project.”

The bunkers are located at the northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast corners of the inner town square.

Sparks said he would like to focus on the two sets of bunkers on the north side of the town square first. The south side bunkers could be more difficult because of their adjacency to U.S. Route 6, which Sparks suggested would require collaboration with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

He also knows the $40,000 budget for concrete work will not cover all of the bunkers at once. The north side bunkers are also equipped with drains. After speaking with city staff, Sparks determined there is no set standard that needs to be followed but there do needs to be some sort of drainage system there.

Without the drainage system installation, Sparks estimated it would cost about $15,000 to just remove one set of bunkers. Depending on the price of adding a drainage system, the county could have enough room in the budget to remove both of the north side bunkers. Supervisors were not opposed to removing them.

But they did want know how much it would cost.

When asked by supervisors why the bunkers were installed in the first place, Sparks said it was a project led by a group that is either not as active or has completely dissolved. The bunkers were paid for by a group many decades ago. Since then other groups have resorted to other beautifying means.

For instance, Newton Main Street utilizes seasonal planters during the spring and summer months, and they can be removed before the winter months.

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.