Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 25, 2014

Iowa has another side to it

By Eva Norlyk Smith | Jun 05, 2014

To the editor:

Iowa is about farmers and farming, this is true. But Iowa is also about smart business, smart investing, and about making smart decisions.

Over the past 10 years, a total of $275 million in venture capital invested in local businesses has created more than 2,000 jobs in Jefferson County, according to FEDA. That growth has translated into home value gains for homeowners and many shared amenities for the whole community to enjoy.

The Heartland Co-op project, however, is neither smart business, nor smart investing, nor a smart decision. Here are a few examples:

People say Heartland tax dollars will benefit the county. In the currently proposed location, for the first 10 years, the property tax income from the facility would go to pay off the TIF bond for paving Osage Avenue south of the facility. That’s just the beginning of costs (more on that below).

People say grain trucks are too few to be a problem. According to Heartland, there will be 18,000 trucks a year. But according to Heartland’s DNR and RRLG grant applications, the facility will process 20 million bushels of corn and 12 million bushels of soybeans a year. At an average of 800 bushels per truck or tractor load, that translates into 40,000 loads. At 75 percent capacity, it translates into 30,000 loads, or 60,000 to and fro trips.

People say grain trucks will go via Highway 34. Farmers living to the north of Jefferson County (i.e. in northwest Wapello, Keokuk, Washington, northeast Henry counties) cannot access the facility via Highway 34. They have two main options: Either through city streets via Highway 1 to Burlington or Pleasant Plain to D Street, or to bypass the city, they can go via Salina to Nutmeg Avenue.

People say north traffic will come via Nutmeg. Nutmeg Avenue is a gravel road with a single-lane underpass. In a recent report commissioned by the county engineer, the underpass was given an expected life span of six to eight years. To make the Salina-Nutmeg north access feasible, Nutmeg would have to be paved to the tune of $2.8 million-plus, and the underpass would have to be upgraded. With no plans in place to have either Heartland or BNSF Railway pay for this, that bill could fall to Jefferson County taxpayers to pay, if they want to get trucks off city streets.

Before the project proceeds, let’s get in place clear plans for how trucks coming from the north will get to the facility without going through city streets. Let’s get a traffic study of what the increased maintenance costs on country roads will be and how these will be covered.

Creating a community with rising real estate prices where everyone enjoys living is not easy to accomplish. The growth of Fairfield in recent years is evidence that we have accomplished exactly this. Let’s not be in a hurry to sacrifice that by rushing into an ill-advised, poorly researched project that could become a drain on taxpayer dollars for a long time to come.

 

– Eva Norlyk Smith, Fairfield

 

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