Supervisors propose lowering levies by a dime or more
Jefferson County Board of Supervisors set a public hearing for 9 a.m. March 11 for the fiscal year 2014 county budget, at Jefferson County Courthouse, first floor meeting room.
The supervisors Tuesday set levy rates for fiscal year 2014. The county tax levy for residents living in incorporated towns will be $7.13, down 11 cents from the current levy of $7.24. The county tax levy for rural residents will decrease 10 cents, from $9.53 now to $9.23 for fiscal year 2014.
The board approved a 28E Agreement with Maharishi Vedic City for maintenance of certain roads, which now goes to the town’s city council for action.
“I’d like to acknowledge all Nancy [Watkins, Maharishi Vedic City attorney] has done,” said supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt. “I’ve been informed the signs are taken down as requested and the only ones up are the county’s.
“We have looked into it, to be consistent, to see whether the county followed procedure about those 45 mph speed limit signs.”
County engineer Scott Cline had said previously the signs were in place when he started on the job in July.
“As far as I know, the county put them up,” said Cline.
He said while he’s doing a traffic study of other locations around Maharishi Vedic City, he could include the area with the signs.
“I can verify through a study if the 45 mph signs need to be there,” he said.
Cline said he should be able to begin a traffic study in a few weeks.
Dimmitt said he and Watkins had lengthy discussion about street names.
“We both agree the 911 emergency system needs to be aware of street names,” said Dimmitt. “Whatever the names are is OK, as long as all emergency responders know and the signs are legal” [the required colors and size].
Watkins said since the town had supplied maps previously with street names to the county law enforcement center, she had thought everything was handled.
Batavia road needs repair
In other roads’ discussion, Batavia Mayor Randy Major asked about Ash Street, a Farm-to-Market Road that runs through his town. He brought photos to show the broken pavement and ruts.
“It’s almost impossible to have two-way traffic on this road,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it, when can it get repaired. The pavement is deteriorated and even the curbing is beginning to disappear. Traffic has to drive down the center.”
Cline said Ash Street is in his five-year plan of repairs, but not on the schedule for this summer’s construction season.
“We’re looking at a bridge project in Batavia,” said Cline.
“Ash Street is on our five-year program, but we can’t just go out and do it. We are aware of it, and I’ve looked at it,” said Cline. “Something will have to be done with its sidewalks, too.”
Supervisor Dick Reed said they would add Ash Street to Monday’s road tour; the board of supervisors and Cline take road tours around the county to check road conditions.
“We’ll discuss our options of making it as safe as possible until it can be resurfaced,” said Reed.
Bridges and box culvert
Supervisors approved plans for a box culvert to replace a narrow, pony truss bridge on Brookville Road and agreed for Cline to get contracts to replace four bridges on 218th Way and 220th Street.
“We’re looking to get all transportation corridors up to standard,” said Cline. “We’re replacing low-load rated bridges. If we do four bridges on the same contract, we can get a better price.”
Cline said the design plans would cost $23,000 to $24,000, or close to $100,000 for all four bridges.
“This is not on the five-year program yet,” said Cline “I want to add this to the 2015 fiscal year. We can borrow money to move it up in schedule.”
Tax abatement request denied
Supervisors denied a request for tax abatement brought to the board.
Robert Nady donated land along North B Street to the city and has asked for an abatement of property taxes billed.
“Nady owned the property the entire year of 2011,” said county assessor Sheri Blough. “It takes 18 months to collect taxes on property. So the bill in 2012 was for the tax year 2011.
“Budgeting bodies have already levied this and for the county to abate the taxes, you would take a shortfall. I think he should pay the $677 due for 2011.”
Reed said he agreed.
“I see this like any other real estate transaction,” said Reed. “We have to be fair and equitable.”
In other business, the supervisors:
• Approved a 15-cents per capita contribution from Jefferson County to AHEAD Regional Housing Trust Fund. The Housing Trust Fund, started in 2011 serves households at or below 80 percent of either the Median Family Income as determined by the Iowa Finance Authority or at or below 80 percent Mortgage Rate Base from the U.S, Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It can provide low interest loans or general relief funding. The Housing Trust Fund has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to prevent homelessness. Projects must retain and improve structural integrity of a house or housing unit. Owner-occupied and rental units can qualify.
• Approved a 4 percent pay increase for county engineer Cline. He was hired last summer to replace retiring engineer Tom Goff. Cline, a professional engineer and professional land surveyor, began July 1 with an annual salary of $81,000.
• Agreed to follow the Compensation Board’s recommendation for county elected officials’ salaries. The Compensation Board met in December and recommended a 2.5 percent increase in salary for supervisors; a 4 percent increase for all county department heads, except the county attorney. The board recommended a 5 percent increase for the county attorney.
In a recent interview, Reed spoke about the possibility of Fairfield and Jefferson County sharing law enforcement.
“Really, Fairfield and Jefferson County should be talking with one another for law enforcement coverage,” he said. “I think small government is the best government. But maybe it could save taxpayers money. I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but if the subject isn’t brought up, nothing ever changes.”