The committee making recommendations to the Board of Overseers on how to spend its $7.22 million in federal stimulus funds last met Sept. 7 and asked county conservation to get 1, $25 million, with the remaining balance going to the expenses of the engineer’s office.
Chris Herbold, one of the citizen appointees to the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) committee, introduced the motion to allocate conservation $450,000 for bike lane repairs, $400,000 for the community center project. environmental education and $400,000 for Mariposa Park campgrounds.
“There are matching funds available on the nature center and research park that we want to establish east of (the sheriff’s office),” Herbold said, noting that the center would celebrate all things nature, conservation and agriculture. “And the rest would go to pay whatever we can at the secondary roads office.”
The motion passed by an 8-1 vote. Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma provided the lone dissenting vote. The recommendation will be brought to the Supervisory Board at a future meeting, in which case it will be up to these three elected officials to decide on the outcome of the committee’s request.
Keri Van Zante, director of Jasper County Conservation, later told Newton News that if this recommendation were approved by the Board of Supervisors, it would be like “nothing we’ve ever seen before.” Typically, the way conservation builds things is through years of writing grants, trying to achieve goals bit by bit.
“To have us a big portion, I mean it’s a gift for Jasper County and to be able to use it for something that would be there for our generation and generations to come, it’s really exciting,” said said Van Zante. “It’s almost overwhelming to think that this could actually happen.”
ARPA FUNDING COULD ACCELERATE CONSERVATION PROJECTS
Fundraising for the environmental education center has been an ongoing effort. So far, conservation has raised about $900,000 for the project, which Van Zante says could be divided into three phases: the center itself, a maintenance facility, and a special outdoor space for events. and educational opportunities.
Supervisors have reserved the park across from the old county care facility, which is near the sheriff’s office. Van Zante said there are approximately 40 acres to be developed for conservation. Trails, a bridge and two ponds have already been established here, as well as a restored shelter house.
Problems with the Chichaqua Valley trail became more apparent which required repairs. Van Zante continues to receive calls from people asking his department to repair damage to a specific area from 108th Street to the Indian Creek Bridge outside of Mingo. The trail at this point splits.
Although conservation laid new asphalt on the surface a few years ago, it has started to crack again. In the spring, the conservation hired a company to drill a hole in the railroad bed on which the trail is built to find out what is going on with the base. The repaired part must be concrete.
Mariposa Park has a primitive campground that has been around for years. But Van Zante said the conservation has a new campground project mostly funded by grants. The campgrounds would be called Bison Ridge and would include a shower, utilities, a dump station, and about 10 sites to start.
“That money would allow us to add more sites and potentially even a few cabins to this development area,” Van Zante said. “If we knew we were going to get some extra money to put more campsites and potentially a few cabins or yurts in there, I mean that’s something that’s been on the to-do list.”
REMAINING ARPA FUNDS LEAVE ROOM FOR ENGINEERING OFFICE
In the past, the Board of Supervisors has approved a total of $150,000 of its ARPA funds for storage media at the health department, emergency radios, and donations to American Legion Post 111, Des Monks Astronomical Society and the Jasper County Fair Board.
Subsequently, the Board of Supervisors agreed to set aside $2 million for additional coverage for Jasper County’s Advanced Resuscitation Services (ALS) program. The improvement does not take away EMS services from other communities, but is simply intended to improve emergency response times.
Supervisors recognized that more money might be needed to establish an improved ALS program. Coupled with the $1.25 million requested for conservation, the county would have $3.82 million left over for engineer’s office projects, provided that enhanced ALS services do not require more funds that are available to them. be consecrated.
Thad Nearmyer, who is also a citizen appointee to the ARPA committee, was unable to attend the meeting or vote, but he advocated for projects that would not increase the tax levy or create a levy. He also said that if there is a real need for projects in the engineer’s office, he would like every dollar to be applied to this office.
Talsma provided information to the ARPA Committee on the Engineer’s Office proposal for a new store building, noting that it would be quite a costly feat. Even if all ARPA funding were dedicated to the project, it would not cover all costs. Jasper County Engineer Michael Frietsch broke it down into three phases:
• Phase 1: Site works, preparations, utilities and other infrastructure for $2 million.
• Phase 2: The construction of the workshop and the refueling zone for more than 5.2 million dollars.
• Phase 3: Build offices on a new workshop building for over $1.6 million.
TALSMA CONCERNED WITH NATURE CENTER, ENGINEER SHOP
While it may seem simple – especially for farmers – to create a simple store building, it does get a little complicated. Talsma said that since it is a government entity, it must meet certain standards and be equipped with certain features. Which means it will inevitably cost more than a civilian store building.
It also means the county will have to find another way to pay for the project in full.
“We’re kind of in that middle ground where we were almost able to fund Phases 1 and 2, but we can’t quite fund Phases 1 and 2, which then means we’re going to have to have a referendum. on bonds, put it to a people’s vote and increase the debt service levy to complete the construction of phases 2 and 3,” Talsma said.
Although Talsma voted against the motion, he is not necessarily opposed to conservation projects. He, however, spoke out against the nature center, especially the maintenance costs. Herbold is unsure of the maintenance costs for the building, but some of the project costs relate to short-term maintenance.
“I’m sure it will be an ongoing fundraising thing,” Herbold said. “Our auctions and all that are making a lot of money, and that’s where we’ll probably have to nurture it… There’s a lot of experimental stuff like geothermal and solar that’s sort of integrated at this cost.”
Herbold said he views his motion as an opportunity to bring positive people and things to the county. The agricultural research that will be conducted at the nature center, he suggested, will be valuable. The $400,000 for the nature center will not complete the project, but will put it above a threshold for more grants.
At this point, the project could be fully funded.
THE MOTION IS PROGRESSING, THE ARPA COMMITTEE IS READY
Coupled with Van Zante’s skills as a grants writer, Herbold said the governor’s ARPA money could be enough to complete the environmental education center. In total, the conservation raised about $835,000 in private donations for the project, Herbold said. The project is estimated at $2 million.
“The governor has ARPA money where you can apply for a grant, but you have to have 60% of your money secured,” Herbold said. “That’s where the $400,000 came from. This will put us at 60% and it is very likely that we will be able to obtain the grant for the rest of the project. »
Van Zante hopes supervisors will support the recommendation. Getting a major financial boost would speed up a number of projects his staff have wanted to tackle for some time.
“I’m hoping with the ARPA committee — a board appointed by the supervisors — that the oversight board will follow their recommendations on how to use the funding,” Van Zante said. “And sooner than later.”
Before the ARPA committee ended its meeting, Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop introduced a motion to disassemble. The motion passed unanimously, ending the 11-person committee created by the oversight board to maintain transparency when delegating federal stimulus funds.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 560 or [email protected]