Board considers tax abatement
A request for property tax abatement for The Bonnell Project was tabled for a week at Monday’s Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Roland Wells came to the board asking for abatement of $20,000 in property taxes due for the old St. Mary Catholic Church property on North Third Street.
“It’s used as a community incubator,” said Wells. “The Bonnell Project has two properties, the former St. Mary’s property and the building at Burlington Avenue and Main Street.
“We provide space for people to follow their passions.”
He said one example is Ideal Energy, the local solar energy company, which started with space in The Bonnell Project and now that it is well established, has purchased warehouse space in town and will move there.
“Rent is not paid at the incubator, all participants cover expenses as a membership organization,” said Wells. “People are able to grow their businesses. We have nonprofit status with Iowa and the IRS.”
Sheri Blough, Jefferson County assessor, said property taxes are treated differently than income taxes.
“I walked through your properties, and people told me they paid rent,” she said.
Supervisor Lee Dimmitt said he would have to abstain from a vote whether to waive the $20,000 property taxes.
“My wife rents space there,” he said.
The three-member board of supervisors was only two on Monday with chairman Dick Reed’s absence. The vote was tabled until there could be a vote with more than one supervisor.
“Next week works fine,” said Wells. “But there is a time factor. The property is due for a tax sale in June.”
Wells and James Moore, organizers for the second annual FAIRfest, asked the board if the June 20-22 music festival could once again use electricity provided by the county courthouse transformer for the outdoor stage as it did last year.
“Our sound man is asking for a closer location to hook up, such as the spot by the tower,” said Moore.
Supervisor Becky Schmitz, acting chairwoman, told Moore to check with Live Wire about changing the location source of power from the courthouse.
Dimmitt agreed they should check with Live Wire and also with Reed.
“We can approve using the electricity,” he said. “I think the spot you used last year was worked on to increase power for FAIRfest. Just check with Dick and Live Wire as to which source.”
Wells said changing sources was a distance and safety issue because of running ground cords and pedestrians in the area.
In other business, the board approved a liquor license for Four Corners Restaurant in Lockridge, after consulting with Sheriff Gregg Morton about any issues with alcohol being served there. Morton said he’s seen no problems.
Morton asked the board for an upgrade in an emergency notification system used by local law enforcement. He said the Wireless Audio Visual Emergency System in use is 12 years old.
“Our WAVES hardware is a nightmare,” said Morton. “We’ve grown beyond its capabilities. We don’t have enough panic buttons for all offices in the courthouse.”
A new system Morton has researched, available from Secure Tech Systems Inc., for approximately $11,000 can send email and text messages without an audible alarm. He said the Public Health Department at Briggs Avenue and Second Street could be looped into the courthouse system.
“The company will come here, install and set it up and train us in its use,” said Morton.
The supervisors approved the purchase.
Supervisors also approved hiring Anderson, Larkin & Co. PC, certified public accountants, at $15,000 per year through 2016 to perform the annual county audit. It was the only bidder and has been conducting the county audit each year.
The board approved the amended 28E Agreement with Southeast Iowa Response Group, the regional emergency, haz-mat response group headed by Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller. The amendment included deleting Mahaska County as it has left the group and adding Ringgold County.
Fay Vittetoe, president of the Friends of Lake Darling, asked the supervisors for a contribution to Lake Darling.
“We’re finishing the last cabin,” said Vittetoe. “The park opens July 1. The water is blue and beautiful. Lake Darling has the longest handicap accessible fishing trail in the state.”
Schmitz said she wasn’t sure the board could take any action Monday in Reed’s absence.
“We’ve not had time to put this in the budget,” said Schmitz.
“We’ll table this. The only budget line I saw we could use is in an area that Dick Reed handles.”