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Floyd County takes next steps for new voting precincts, eventual supervisor districts

By Bob Steenson,

The Floyd County Board of Supervisors took the next steps toward setting new voting precincts in the county by approving the first reading and setting a public hearing on a precinct ordinance at the board’s regular meeting this week.

Setting the precincts is something that’s done every 10 years after a national census, but it will have more impact than usual this year in Floyd County because it is a necessary step toward dividing the county into three supervisor districts, changing the current at-large method of county representation.

The supervisors moved quickly through the agenda at their regular meeting Tuesday afternoon, with much of the more in-depth discussion on various items having taken place the day before, at Monday morning’s work session.

A public hearing held Tuesday afternoon on the precinct boundaries drew no comments, submitted or at the meeting.

Under the plan, Rock Grove and Rockford townships, in the northwest corner of the county, will each be its own precinct, instead of each being part of larger precincts with townships to the east.

Rudd township, which used to be part of a precinct with Rock Grove Township, will now be part of the Floyd-Cedar-Niles precinct.

Ulster Township, which used to be part of a precinct with Rockford Township, will now be part of the St. Charles-Riverton precinct.

The county precincts required at least some changes because the county is now split between two Iowa House districts and two Iowa Senate districts, and county voting precincts can’t cross legislative district lines.

The legal descriptions of the five rural precincts are:

  • Rock Grove Township, including city of Nora Springs, population 1,684.
  • Rockford Township, including city of Rockford, population 1,174.
  • Scott Township, Union Township, Pleasant Grove Township, including city of Marble Rock, population 1,008.
  • Rudd Township, Floyd Township, Cedar Township, Niles Township, including city of Rudd, city of Floyd, city of Colwell, population 2,368
  • Ulster Township, St. Charles Township, Riverton Township, including city of Nashua, population 1,997.

A public hearing on the county ordinance officially setting the boundaries is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28, in the supervisors board room on the second floor of the courthouse.

If there are no negative comments at that public hearing, the board is likely to pass the precinct ordinance on second reading and waive the final reading.

Once approved, the precincts will be sent to the Iowa Secretary of State for final approval, then will be used by the state Legislative Services Agency to draw the new supervisor districts.

County voters approved making Floyd County a “Plan 3” county during a special election in August, meaning the county will be divided into three approximately equal population supervisor districts, candidates will have to be residents of the district they are running for, and only members of each district can vote for the supervisor that will represent them.

Because of the change, all three county supervisor seats will be open in the November 2022 general election.

The city of Charles City contains three voting precincts and a minor change among the three is going through the approval process by the Charles City Council. Those three precincts will also be included in the supervisor districts that the state agency sets up.

Also at the supervisors meetings Monday and Tuesday, the board:

• Heard an update on the Law Enforcement Center and courthouse update project. Project Supervisor Brian Shindelar of The Samuels Group said that a number of minor items are still not complete, but the state jail inspector is expected to visit the facility next week.

Delbert Longley, the chief jail inspector with the Department of Corrections, is expected to be here Tuesday, he said.

“They may be able to get their inspection without those few items and start doing more training and move in,” Sindelar said, referring to the Sheriff’s Office, jailers and detainees currently located on the top floor of the courthouse.

Supervisor Linda Tjaden said the subcontractors have been given one more week, until next Monday, to come up with a “plan of attack” for the courthouse updates, which will include asbestos removal, new windows, some new electrical work, fire sprinklers, and new heating and cooling tied to the system in the LEC.

Tjaden said department heads have been made aware that they will need to clear furniture at least four to five feet from around the windows for asbestos abatement and window replacement.

She also said she is working with Randy Tilton, assistant Floyd County attorney, regarding sending a letter to Sweeper Metal Fabricators Corp. regarding the delays that have been caused by that company not getting required materials to the job site.

• Discussed the search for a new county engineer. ​​Doug Kamm, who has been leading the search, said they have one applicant who looks like a good candidate. He has an engineering degree, but he doesn’t yet have the length of experience required to get a PE license.

Kamm said the Iowa Department of Transportation said it would be OK to hire the person as county engineer if a neighboring county engineer agrees to act as a mentor while the new person accumulates the experience required for the PE license.

The board discussed whether it should do more advertising for the position, but Kamm said word of the opening spread pretty widely among civic engineering organizations, and if supervisors are not satisfied with the current applicant they should consider hiring a “headhunter” firm as the next step.

Tjaden said she wasn’t discounting the current applicant, but “my only concern is we don’t have anyone to compare against.”

Kamm said he will continue investigating with the assistant county attorney the legality of appointing a county engineer who doesn’t have a PE license, and working to see if a neighboring county engineer would be willing to act as a mentor.

• Acknowledged notice that Deputy Treasurer Janelle Larson is retiring at the end of this year after 49 years of service to the county.

County Treasurer Frank Rottinghaus said Larson did not want a public gathering, but “I do believe it would be in order for the Board to note her retirement at a meeting along with a statement of appreciation and best wishes.”

• Acknowledged the resignation by Secondary Roads employee Garrett VanderWerf. His last day of work was Tuesday.

• Agreed to contract with Omni-Tel for 500 MB speed broadband services for the LEC, courthouse and other county locations, at an additional cost to the county of $4,200 per year.

The current, slower, broadband access through WIN would continue as a backup service.

County Information Technology Director Bernie Solomon said Omni-Tel had agreed to not bill the county until next July, because the expense is not included in the current 2021-22 fiscal year budget that will end June 30, 2022.

• Approved a resolution entering into a $26 billion national settlement agreement with opioid manufacturer Johnson and Johnson and several pharmaceutical distributors regarding their involvement in opioid addiction.

A letter from the Iowa Association of Counties said, “While your county was not one of the 66 litigating Iowa counties, your participation in approving the national settlement agreements has a benefit to the State of Iowa and all Iowa counties. And all Iowa counties that approve the settlement agreements will be compensated by the settlement, whether you were a litigating county or not.”

• Set a public hearing for 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28, in the courthouse boardroom, to receive comments regarding an amendment to the 2021-22 Floyd County budget. Such amendments a few times each fiscal year are fairly routine as expected revenues and expenses change.

This amendment concerns additional revenue received from the American Rescue Plan Act and expenditures with that money; bond proceeds and interest on the bonds sold to help finance the LEC and courthouse update project that wasn’t spent last year, but that is being spent this year; and a transfer of capital improvement funds from the Communication Fund from Charles City to the county, since the communications department became a county entity this year.

• Approved a 28E agreement with Elderbridge Agency on Aging, but did not set the county’s payment to the agency at this time.

• Signed a letter of support for the Shell Rock Watershed Coalition, of which Floyd County is a part, applying for an Iowa Department of Natural Resources comprehensive water quality management planning grant.

• Set the 2022 county employee time off and office closing schedule. Holidays in 2022 will be Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving day and the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The board again discussed whether county employees should get Presidents Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day off, and again went with Presidents Day because they said a majority of county employees indicated they would prefer a holiday in February rather than in January, so soon after Christmas and New Year.

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