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Foundation work begins on law enforcement center project

Foundation work begins on law enforcement center project
These exterior views show the latest design concept for the new Floyd County law enforcement center, Sheriff’s Office and courthouse updates. Press graphic by Bob Steenson/Prochaska & Associates drawings.
By Bob Steenson,

Work picked up again this week on the Floyd County Law Enforcement Center project as the concrete footings for the project were poured closest to the courthouse.

Brian Shindelar, site manager for The Samuels Group, the construction management company for the county, said four piers were involved in the concrete pouring Monday as construction crews work on the foundation for the new county jail and sheriff’s offices project.

“Once they pour this they’ll cover it, maybe take a look at what they can do tomorrow, then probably start digging the elevator footings this week yet,” Shindelar said at the county Board of Supervisors meeting Monday morning.

“Forecast doesn’t look too good next week. It’ll be kind of a day-by-day, week-by-week thing to see where we’re going on everything,” he said.

Later in the meeting, during a budget discussion with county IT Director Bernie Solomon, the talk returned to the LEC project and potential costs.

The county has been considering renting space in the 500 N. Grand Ave. building — the former middle school — to temporarily relocate county offices once renovations begin on the courthouse.

Doing so could shave costs and time off that part of the project by giving construction crews unrestricted access to the courthouse to install new windows, a new heating and cooling system, fire sprinklers and do other work.

Solomon said it would cost $25,000 to $27,000 just to make telecommunications services available in the North Grand Building, with most of that the cost of installing a fiber optics line connecting the current county network to the former school building.

“It’s the best way to do it — a direct cable from here to there,” Solomon said. “You plug your phones in, boom, they come up, they work. It’s the best-case scenario. If you go with a different service, something slower, you run into the possibility of your network not being fast enough, your phones not working.”

Supervisor Linda Tjaden said the problem right now is the timing. The Board of Supervisors has not yet approved any plan to relocate county offices or for other contingencies, yet the board is currently working on the next fiscal year budget that begins July 1 and that will likely include any expenses for the courthouse part of the project. That budget needs to be completed by March.

“We need to start looking at pros and cons and what that cost might be,” Tjaden said.

“We’re at a point right now where we need to get with the school system, we need to figure out what we can and can’t do over there. And we also need to work with Shawn,” she said, referring to Shawn Foutch, the Johnston developer who has purchased part of the middle school to renovate into residential apartments.

The county needs to see if any of the work it would do at the North Grand Building to make it usable for temporary county offices would be valuable to Foutch’s project, and if he would be willing to share in the cost, she said.

Tjaden said she would schedule a meeting with representatives of the school district and others to try to find more information on options and costs.

County Auditor Gloria Carr said she would include Solomon’s estimate for relocation costs in the working budget for the supervisors to consider as they make final budget decisions in the coming weeks.

Supervisor Doug Kamm was not at the meeting Monday, as he had been stranded away from the city by weather.

Also at the workshop meeting Monday morning, the supervisors:

• Discussed ambulance service options for the county. Supervisor Roy Schwickerath, who represents the county on the Floyd County Ambulance Commission, said that at a recent meeting the group agreed to recommend that the city of Charles City and Floyd County both allocate $75,000 for the new fiscal year for ambulance services, either to support the existing service provided by AMR ambulance, to help start a new county ambulance service or for other options.

In the current year AMR has a contract with Charles City, although it continues to provide coverage to the rest of the county. The contract eliminates several fees AMR had been paying to the city for dispatch, ambulance storage and other services, and has a $50,000 subsidy from the city.

Schwickerath said AMR requested a total of $265,000 in subsidy for the next fiscal year.

Schwickerath said the commission talked with Keith Rippy, executive director of Area Ambulance Service, a not-for-profit entity that serves the Cedar Rapids area. Rippy said that service operates entirely on a user-fee basis without any tax dollar support, and suggested a similar service could be successful in Floyd County.

Tjaden said, “It shows AMR is not the only choice.”

• Heard an update from the county’s bond advisor, Jeff Heil, senior vice president of public finance for Northland Securities, via email that the bond market interest rates hadn’t changed much since the board last week discussed issuing the remaining $7.49 million in general obligation bonds needed to help finance the law enforcement center and courthouse update projects.

Heil said the issuance, likely to be approved at the board’s regular meeting today (Tuesday), would result in a $1.917 million premium to the county that would also be available to finance the project.