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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 25, 2018

Van Buren bumps wages for road workers

By Rusty Ebert, Ledger correspondent | Feb 16, 2018

KEOSAUQUA – The Van Buren County Board of Supervisors approved a new one-year labor agreement for the secondary road department during its regular meeting Monday.

It calls for a 3 percent increase in wages. It also removes those sections that are not allowed to be bargained for under the new collective bargaining law passed in 2017 by the Iowa State Legislature.

• The county supervisors also had extensive discussion on renewal of the tax abatement ordinance, which expired Dec. 31. The ordinance, which involves new construction in unincorporated areas, gives an abatement of taxes of 50 percent over three years. Iowa code allows up to 100 percent for three years or a sliding scale over 10 years.

The county reduced it to three years, in part because “it became a nightmare to administrate,” Van Buren County Assessor Dixie Saunders said. “At one time we had 450 abatements going at one time, when both the cities and counties had 10-year abatements.”

Supervisors voted 2-1 to begin ordinance readings to extend the abatement program for an additional five-year period. It has to have three readings before being approved. Voting for were supervisors Mark Meek and Ted Nixon. Voting against was supervisor Bob Waugh.

Cities have their own tax abatement ordinances and the county has one for unincorporated areas.

Those within city limits must apply with their city hall for approval, and those in the township must attain an application from the assessor’s office to submit for approval by the county supervisors.

While the ordinance has expired, that shouldn’t affect tax abatements already approved in 2018, because they had until February 1 of the year in which the exemption is first claimed, according to Saunders. After that, it’s unclear what happens to future applications.

Supervisor Bob Waugh said he had some concerns about renewing the ordinance.

“I don’t see where it’s an advantage to the county,” Waugh said. He added that people who are building new structures in the county would have done so without the tax abatement.

“If we did not have the rural tax abatement, I don’t think that would hinder any of the construction. If we lose some, it won’t be enough to offset the gain in revenues,” Waugh said. “If you are going to use this as an incentive to build then you are going to have to have it greater than the other counties are doing, otherwise it’s not an incentive.”

“You are looking short term. Long term is you get that increase in property tax base forever. If someone goes somewhere else, they get that forever,” Nixon said.

Saunders said, in her own opinion, people don’t necessarily choose between counties where they decide to build, although some of the nearby and adjacent counties have it and some don’t. The fact that cities have the abatement and if the rural areas didn’t, might affect a few, she said.

“Where you might see a difference is am I going to build in the city limits or out of the city limits,” Saunders said. Incorporated cities in Van Buren County do offer tax abatement, which wouldn’t be affected if the county chose to end the abatement.

Waugh said he didn’t think that would affect a person’s decision. But, Saunders added the county doesn’t advertise it has a tax abatement.

and many times, people are pleasantly surprised when they find out, although some know about the abatement ahead of time. She said their office informs people of their options when they build.

There is a chance that it could impact a person’s decision to build in the county, if it was marketed better by the county, Saunders said.

“You could publicize it to outsiders and maybe you’d gain a few,” Saunders said. “If we are not publicizing it to potential builders, you are not getting the full effect of it.”

Supervisor Mark Meek said “that was the whole idea behind it, to encourage people to move here, to build here.”

Meek said that while he understands that a person is probably going to build whether or not the abatement is there, it still is an “asset to the county. Even if you had only one or two people build, you get that, plus the local businesses get that,” said Meek.

• Van Buren County Engineer Ryne Thornburg was present to update the board on the following projects including 2018 dust control permit applications, employment changes and issues.

• The county will allow soy oil for dust control. The county tried it at Pittsburg in 2017. “The performance for that was actually quite good. We also did Jersey Trail from Ivy to Chequest Creek bridge. And that did well, too,” said Thornburg.

Thornburg asked if supervisors wanted to do another year of treatment before giving permission for the rest of the county. The cost is about double the regular, however, it seemed to do better under last year’s dry conditions. Several other counties allow for the application of soy.

Supervisors gave their blessing to allowing soy for dust control.

• The road foreman will be stepping down with the operator position that is open, Thornburg said. The present assistant to the engineer may be interested in the road foreman position, which would leave an opening for assistant to the engineer.

Waugh asked about another individual that might transfer to the road foreman’s position. Thornburg and Waugh discussed that possibility.

Thornburg asked if the board would want to advertise for the road foreman position, the assistant to the engineer position or both.

The board’s preference is to advertise for both.

• “On Thursday (February 8), we had an incident where a snowplow struck the shop building, the new addition,” Thornburg said.

“One of the operators has come forward to confirm our assumption about what happened, that we based our investigation on, was accurate,” Thornburg said.

“We presently have an employee who has a medical condition and is not allowed to operate equipment or vehicles.”

This employee was involved in that incident, which involved moving a piece of equipment and that resulted in striking the building, Thornburg said. The employee left and did not report the damage, according to Thornburg.

Thornburg consulted the board with the next step in what has become a disciplinary matter. The board recommended he discuss the matter with the county’s insurance lawyer and proceed from there.

• Doug Jackson, representing Wellmark BC/BS, was present to review 2019FY county health insurance rates and other options available from Wellmark. The county will see a 7.25 percent increase, which about half of that (3.4 percent) is due to the health insurer fee. That fee goes away for one year beginning on January 1, 2019, so an adjustment to the insurance rate may be done at that time, Jackson reported. He also updated the board on the county’s options should it decide against a “grandfathered” insurance. Currently, the county has a “grandfathered” policy. It might be to the county’s benefit to consider a change, Jackson said.

• The board canvassed the election from last week’s school reorganization vote and there were no changes. The vote passed in both districts. The following results were declared the official results of said election: Harmony Community School District-Proposition A: Yes-448, No-171,

Proposition B: Yes-427, No-183. Van Buren Community School District- Proposition A: Yes-597, No-34, Proposition B: Yes-570, No-56. All measures approved in both districts. The new voting system worked well, reported Van Buren County Auditor Jon Finney, who enlisted the assistance of a deputy county auditor in a nearby county to also view how things went. The only problem associated with the vote was having to move a sign supporting the ballot issue in Farmington, where it was deemed to be too close to the precinct.

• A public hearing date of Monday, February 26, 10 AM in the board of supervisor’s office was set for receiving public comment on a proposal to lease the former Van Buren County Care Facility to Tenco Industries, Inc. on a perpetual basis beginning January 1, 2019.

• The board authorized the county sheriff, at his discretion, to waive written or physical examination and psychological testing (if such candidate has undergone such testing in the past five years) of currently certified active duty Iowa peace officers, and accept a civil service test score of an applicant that has taken the test within the past 12 months from the date of hiring, all for deputy sheriff positions to be filled by the Van Buren County Sheriff in the 2018FY.

• The county treasurer was authorized to assess special assessment liens against the following property owners in the former city of Mt. Sterling for delinquent sewer accounts: 1) Brad Smith -$173.37, 2) John Smith)-$173.37, 3) Kenneth Kennedy -$173.37, 4) William Kerr -$133.37.

• The following requests for rural tax abatement were approved: 1) Christine A. Wiley, 24843 170th Street, Keosauqua (parcel #58-07-04-400-420-Washington Twp.), 2) Betty Kirkhart, 16167 250th Street, Cantril (parcel #000161018300410-Des Moines Twp.), 3) Jeff Higdon, 17127 Hwy. 16, Douds (parcel #38-02-20-100-300-Lick Creek Twp.), 4) Spencer and Laura Elliott, 220th Street, Bonaparte (parcel #220821400420-Harrisburg Twp.), 5) Nicholas and Abby Boley, 17263 Hwy. 2, Cantril (parcel #181020100325, Des Moines Twp).

• The following applications for impoundment structure property tax exemption for the 2018-2019 tax collectible year were approved: 1) Kevin and Cynthia Karr in Section 12-67-9, 3) Duane Ripple in Section 25-68-10, 4) Michael Ryskamp in Section Sec. 33-68-10, 5) Nadine McKinney in Section 11-67-9.

• Supervisors approved an amendment to Resolution #5-8-2017 adopted on May 8, 2017, granting management of county property in the unincorporated town of Douds. It was amended by adding to said management area the following additional described land: Lot 4 in Block 4 in the unincorporated town of Douds.

• The following county government paid holidays were approved for the 2018FY: Independence Day-Wednesday, July 4, 2018, Labor Day-Monday, September 3, 2018, *Veterans Day-Monday, November 12, 2018, Thanksgiving Days-Thursday-Friday, November 22-23, 2018, Christmas-*Monday-Tuesday, December 24-25, 2018, New Year’s-Tuesday, January 1, 2019, President’s Day-Monday, February 18, 2019, Memorial Day-Monday, May 27, 2019.

• The following reports were approved: oath of office-VBCH trustees-Quenton Dodson, Heather Charbonneau/VBC Medical Examiner-Dr. David Parsons/VBC Deputy Medical Examiner-Dr. Dana Brecount, Sheriff-January.

• The board held a budget work session with the county auditor and deputy county auditor.

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