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Reverse-referendum an option for courthouse project

Reverse-referendum an option for courthouse project

County Board meets with community facilities study author

Strong enough support exists for a remodeling and construction project at the Floyd County Courthouse that county leaders might want to consider a reverse referendum, a consultant who led the recent studies of public facilities in Charles City said Tuesday.

A reverse referendum means that to deny financing of a project, opponents would need to present the county with a petition signed by the equivalent 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent general election.

Kevin Eipperle of FEH Design explained that option as well as a traditional referendum at Tuesday’s meeting of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors, which was also attended by Charles City Mayor Jim Erb and city engineer John Fallis. Eipperle also talked about the services his firm offers in going forward with projects like a possible joint city and county facility at an expanded courthouse campus, which includes finding alternative funding options such as state and federal grants.

At the end of the presentation, County Board Chairman Doug Kamm said he would meet with Charles City Administrator Steve Diers about the next step.

Financing, the project’s scope, ownership and sharing operational costs, not to mention the actual design, are among the decisions facing the city and county. FEH Design would help work through all of that, according to Eipperle.

There is an assortment of ownership models for a joint facility, Eipperle said, noting that an example in Floyd County is The Cedar Valley Transportation Center on the south side of town. The state, county and city each own a section of the facility.

The Transportation Center was supposed to be a model of collaboration for the state, but to this day is still the only one of its kind in the state, Supervisor Mark Kuhn said.

Other options include ownership by one entity that rents to the other or shared ownership, Eipperle said.

Eipperle outlined the process his firm would take, beginning with defining the scope and the joint entity relationship structure. The Dubuque-based firm would then develop schematic designs that would be used in a referendum campaign and estimating budgets and operating costs. Then FEH Design would determine funding sources, facilitate a referendum campaign, make the final designs used in the bidding process and construction, and construction administration.

Of the referendums FEH Design has done campaigns for, 78 percent have been approved by the public, Eipperle said.

Finding alternative funding from grants, such as the Iowa DNR and Iowa Economic Development are important to getting the public to approve a referendum, he said.

Erb said the city has a more complicated picture ahead than the county, to which Eipperle said it is possible for the county to build a facility that could be expanded to bring the city in on a later timeline.

By Chris Baldus

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