Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 17, 2014

Citizen critiques supervisors’ actions

Mar 29, 2013

To the Editor,

Following is an excerpt taken from a letter written by me to the Henry County Planning and Zoning Commission:

“Please understand I am not casting aspersions on your dedicated work on the P&Z. I only mean to point out that there was no real work for you to do with respect to your mandate in the Code of Iowa.

The long and short of it is that you were being asked to make a general endorsement of a project proposal. This is a political consideration where opinions may differ sharply and is outside the scope of your mandate which, I feel correct in saying, is to formulate and administer zoning rules, rather than make general endorsements of project proposals. That is the bailiwick of our elected officials.

Discussion of the proposed ‘Jewel Avenue experimental test project’ at your meeting makes it clear that no firm plan has been developed. The names and number of principals involved in the project proposal were never made clear nor was there any clear exposition of what will happen at the end of this ‘experiment’. So, from start to finish the discussion was fraught with vagueries and hypotheticals, hardly a firm basis for making good decisions, but perhaps adequate to making endorsements.

I am disappointed that you have been led into making a group political endorsement of the Jewel Avenue proposal.

I expect the Jewel Avenue proposal will come before the supervisors again and that much of the discussion that took place in your meeting will be repeated there. That said, I would be delighted to see you offer your thoughts and opinions individually as opportunities present in the future.”

This was written in response to the P&Z’s endorsement of a proposed seal coat project that was brought to the county by one or more private persons. This proposal is that private money will pay for the seal coating of a portion of county road adjacent to landowners’ homes. The project has been touted as costing the county nothing but will in fact surely result in costs to taxpayers. After the project was brought to the county supervisors it came to be known as an ‘experimental test project’. This language was introduced by supervisor Lindeen. The project proposal was brought to the board of supervisors publicly at meetings in mid August of last year. A request for documents related to seal coating resulted in production by the county engineer of a letter written by him to Mr. Lynn Richards in that regard in February of 2012. Other documents have been produced requested and some generally scant material has been made available. No written form of proposal has been offered in response to an open records request for all documents and materials related to the proposed seal coating project. Presumably, none exists. Neither has the county released copy of a letter mentioned during a public meeting as having been received by it.

With this history the Jewel Avenue proposal was placed on the agenda of the P&Z and discussed at a meeting on March 12. At that time the commission passed a motion “to recommend to the board of supervisors to continue to explore this Jewel Avenue paving proposal”.

When supervisor chairman, Mr. See was asked recently if he knew how the Jewel Avenue proposal came before the planning and zoning commission his reply was: “No that was a surprise to me. I have no idea.” At the P&Z public hearing the county engineer was the principal speaker and presumably was representing the county. One wonders how this happened without the supervisors being informed.

A project proposal presented by a private citizen became discussed and tacitly ‘adopted’ the by supervisors at public meetings in August of 2012 (with no notification by agenda); became a proposed project of the county without ever having been voted on by the supervisors; became an agenda item presented acted on by P&Z without the chairman of the supervisors knowing this was to occur. One wonders how this happened.

Ron Osborne

New London

 

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