Issues

Issues Causing Citizen Outrage in the Recent Eight Years

A ploy by too many Warren County Supervisors has been to prioritize special interest projects. This cronyism hides processes from citizen oversight and results in inefficient project planning, costs, and viability.

It also affects budgets for core public services. When county employees can’t function in their departments, when materials for roads and buildings are faulty and become unsafe, and when the public complains about the lack of transparency and misallocated funds, discord ensues.

Read the news stories below describing the mismanagement and flagrant decisions by our Supervisors. Let’s elect Skip Phillips to disrupt the negligence and return Warren County to a true partnership with the people.

Infrastructure News

 

 

Residents are fed up with road conditions around the county

WHO TV Posted 9:23 pm, February 19, 2016, by Michael DaSilva

Residents of Warren County say they are fed up with road conditions around the county. Even though roads are one of the primary functions of the county, money is not being spent to keep the rural roads safe and passable.

When contacted by Michael DaSilva, the county engineer blames the weather and a lack of money for the large potholes and muddiness.

http://whotv.com/2016/02/19/warren-co-residents-unhappy-with-deteriorating-road-conditions/

Warren County Residents Say Crumbling Infrastructure is a Safety Concern

Posted 5:14 pm, April 7, 2016, by Michael DaSilva

WARREN COUNTY, Iowa — Safety concerns over failing infrastructure are growing in Warren County. Homeowners are speaking out, saying it’s time for county leaders to act before someone gets hurt.

Akers and his neighbors said they’ve been trying to get county leaders to work on the infrastructure for a long time, but leaders don’t seem to care, or listen or do anything, they said. The homeowners have a message for the county board of supervisors.

“Fix the plaza the way it is supposed to be fixed. Fix the storm sewers … fix them so that they’re draining properly, and the roads,” said Akers.

“The unincorporated area is paying our taxes. Our taxes are paid on the appraised value of our homes just like anywhere else, and it’s time we get some of the services that we deserve,” said homeowner Ron Hendrix.

District 1 Supervisor Dean Yordi says when the Greenfield Plaza subdivision was built decades ago, the county only agreed to accept the maintenance of the streets and nothing more, and that there simply isn’t the money to do anything else.

http://whotv.com/2016/04/07/warren-county-residents-say-crumbling-infrastructure-is-a-safety-concern/

Warren County plans to replace aging emergency communication system

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Published 9:22 p.m. CT July 12, 2016

Warren County is exploring how it will update a decade old radio system that’s so out of date the Carlisle police chief says his radio won’t even work in his own back yard.

If a mass emergency would take place in Warren County, Carlisle Chief Eric Spring says the county’s emergency responders are not prepared. “We just don’t have the communications in place to handle an event like that,” Springer said.

Warren County Residents Say Crumbling Infrastructure is a Safety Concern

Courthouse and Jail Disrepair

 

Warren County Courthouse Employee: ‘We’re sick, we’re all sick’

Posted 5:16 pm, August 15, 2016, by Sonya Heitshusen, Updated at 05:17PM, August 15, 2016

WARREN COUNTY, Iowa — Kathy George has lost her voice — found it.

“We’re sick, we’re all sick,” George said. She says she’s sick and tired of battling chronic laryngitis and respiratory problems caused by what her doctor says is mold exposure at the Warren County Courthouse where she works as a legal assistant.

“I’m one of three that has been diagnosed with mold exposure, suffering from mold exposure in the county attorney’s office.” George started having problems when her work area flooded last year. She lost her voice for nine weeks last fall, then again in the spring.

“And then about three and a half weeks ago, we had flooding again and shortly after that I lost my voice again,” George said. “So, this is the third time in less than a year.” George says she also feels fatigued and it hurts to take deep breaths.

Crystal McIntyre, the newest member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, says the health of the employees at the courthouse is her biggest concern. She says the Board is trying to address the mold, electrical and plumbing problems at the courthouse, but it’s not an easy fix.

Her fellow Supervisor, Dean Yordi, feels differently. “I have no reason to believe there’s any problem right now,” Yordi said. “We’ve had air quality tests done and there was nothing found that was unhealthy.”

Chief Judge orders temporary vacation of Warren County Courthouse

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com 3:10 p.m. CDT June 16, 2016

Arthur Gamble, Chief Judge of the Fifth Judicial District of Iowa, which includes Warren County, sent a notice to the Warren County Board of Supervisors Thursday stating he has ordered his staff to temporarily vacate the Warren County Courthouse in the coming weeks.

“Over the next few weeks the court will be planning to move our clerk’s office, resident district associate judges, district judges and support staff to other locations outside of Warren County,” Gamble wrote. “Unfortunately, it is likely these alternate places of holding court will not be convenient for the citizens of Warren County. However, the board has not provided an alternative.”

Shull said he has a couple of alternatives to moving the courts outside the county that he might present on Monday. “I was kind of hoping the courthouse would last at least a couple more years,” Shull said.

Meanwhile, a public committee formed by the supervisors spent Wednesday and Thursday touring neighboring county’s courthouses. The Record-Herald caught up with the group, which includes Sandy Opstad of Indianola, Skip Phillips of Norwalk, Marilyn Halterman of Carlisle and Shirley Clark of Indianola, in Dallas County Thursday morning.

 

 

New Plans underway for the Courthouse

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com May 25, 2016

Crystal McIntyre criticized the supervisors, saying they rule the county on luck.

McIntyre said the county is lucky there hasn’t been a bad accident on a gravel road since it isn’t spending money on secondary roads and is lucky there are no emergencies because the Warren County Sheriff doesn’t have enough staff to handle one.

Apparently, Crystal McIntyre was right because in the Record Herald article Chief Judge orders temporary vacation of Warren County Courthouse by Paige Godden on June 16, 2016, when is came to taking care of the issues in the Warren County Courthouse, Supervisor Shull said, “I was kind of hoping the courthouse would last at least a couple more years.”

Chief Judge orders Courts out of Courthouse in Warren County

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com June 17, 2016

INDIANOLA, Ia – Arthur Gamble, chief judge of the 5th Judicial District of Iowa told the Warren County Board of Supervisors on Thursday that he has ordered his staff to temporarily vacate the county courthouse.

A public committee formed by the supervisors spent Wednesday and Thursday touring courthouses in neighboring counties. Before Gamble’s letter was sent on Thursday, the group visited Adel and ran into District Judge Gregory Hulse who said, “We have to move out of that courthouse. It’s my opinion we ought to be moving out today, but there are all kinds of arrangements that have to be made. You can’t just walk out.”

Hulse likened an assignment in Warren County to being slapped, and added that the courthouse’s problems are horrendous. “If you walked into the chambers behind the courtroom, the first thing that hits you is a sewage smell as soon as you walk in,” Hulse said.

“And it’s mold. You’ve got three people – at least three instances that I know of – who are having medical problems and are going to the doctor. There will be claims. I guarantee it.”

He said he doesn’t understand why the county is allowing staff to continue to work in a building while knowing that there is an environmental problem because, “They’re just going to be sitting ducks for these claims.”

Courts Leaving County

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com June 29, 2016

According to an order issued Friday by Arthur Gamble, chief judge of Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District, the court will temporarily close at 4:30 p.m. on Monday and reopen at the Madison and Marion county courthouses and the Warren County Juvenile Services offices at 8 a.m. Thursday, June 30.

“The court services will continue outside of Warren County until an alternative location is identified or the courthouse is habitable for occupancy and suitable for use by the district court,” Steve Davis, communications director for the Iowa Judicial Branch, wrote in an email.

Gamble had previously notified the Warren County Board of Supervisors that the courthouse was not fit for employees and told them that operations would be moved out of the county in early to mid-July.

“The reason for our action is this: The air is foul, several employees of ours suffer from respiratory ailments, the water quality is poor, our employees don’t drink it,” he told supervisors during a meeting June 20. “There’s no hot water in the courthouse part of the building. The restrooms are filthy. The courthouse is poorly maintained. We have periodic leaks of contaminated sewer water in our courtrooms and our employees are concerned about the germs. They don’t trust that the asbestos remediation will be done safely. For the health and safety of our employees we have decided to take this action.”

According to Gamble’s order, an asbestos remediation contractor is scheduled to begin work at 4:30 p.m. on Monday. While the work is slated to be finished before 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, a plumbing contractor is slated to turn off the water in the courthouse on Thursday, June 30, at 4:30 p.m.

Warren County Sheriff Brian Voss said Friday that he planned to remove the 18 to 20 prisoners in the jail on Monday, while dispatchers would be relocated to the Indianola Police Department. Prisoners are slated to return in the week.

Vos said the relocation will cost the county $40 per day, per prisoner. As of Friday, there were 20 prisoners at the Warren County Jail, while another 10 already were being housed in neighboring counties.

John Criswell, county attorney said the county attorney’s office will remain in the courthouse, although prosecutors frequently will be in other counties for court proceedings.

We’ll be open over here at this point until the board decides to relocate us” said Criswell.

“On these types of things I probably would error in the side of caution.” he added. “We’re really dependent on the supervisors. I’ve got no place to move up to at this point. I have nothing in my budget to do this with. Until they approve it and pay for it, we’re stuck. We’re here”.

Courts Leaving County Tuesday

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com September 7, 2016

The Warren County Board of Supervisors voted Aug. 30 to remove all of its employees from the Warren County Courthouse in Indianola except the Sheriff’s office the jail and E911 services.

The decision prompted dispatcher Steve Garrett to walk out. I’m done” he said to the three supervisors as he walked out. “I can’t sit here and listen to this.” Supervisor Crystal McIntire and Dean Yordi tried to convince him to stay and talk but he refused. McIntire was the only supervisor to vote against keeping the three services operating in the courthouse.

The supervisors plan to have the county attorney’s office move to the former Fusion Fitness building on Iowa Highway 92 in two to three months as long as they can work out a contract with the building’s owner.

Yordi explained it was important to him to get the county attorney’s staff out of the basement of the courthouse because they were all breathing stale air. Most of the staff has already temporarily been moved to the county’s administration building.

“One of the things that bothers me about where the attorneys were is there was absolutely no fresh air down there, including the air that was pumped into the cool units,” Yordi said. “They pumped recycled air into cold water and then recirculated it. There was no fresh air.”

Yordi showed a crowd of about 20 people during the meeting a report from Iowa Environmental Services, which explains there doesn’t appear to be a problem with mold in the courthouse.

According to the report, tests conducted on Aug. 11 and again on Aug. 23 show acceptable levels of spore counts, excluding the basement mechanical room, which is prone to flooding. According to the tests, there was some penicillium/aspergillus found in the mechanical room.

The report states the mold could “pose a health risk to those individuals with compromised respiratory systems. Cleaning and dehumidification of the space should be completed.”

Warren County Sheriff Brian Vos asked, “as employees continue going to the doctor, do we just keep sending that to workman’s comp?” Yordi said he talked to workman’s comp and told them what the county did to get rid of the mold, and they said the county is doing everything right.

“I’m no expert,” Yordi said about the air quality issues. “I’m scraping the field for people who I think should be able to tell me the right answer.”

Yordi received multiple questions from the audience about whether it’s acceptable to leave people inside the courthouse. He said he’s doing everything he can to keep the courthouse in good condition and added the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t provide much guidance on air quality standards.

(The supervisors are working on a contract with the Fusion Building owner for a temporary courthouse. THERE IS NO MENTION OF WHO THAT OWNER IS)

New Test finds mold at Warren County Courthouse

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com September 14, 2016

County Employee Lawsuit

Michael Galloway, an attorney for Ahlers & Cooney, asked the board of supervisors to consider giving $125,000 to ICAP, the county’s insurance provider, to settle the outstanding lawsuits relating to the reorganization of county government in 2014.

“I am recommending you pay this claim,” Galloway said. “ICAP has the authority as your insurance carrier to settle the claim. If you choose not to do that, then you’re on your own. So that doesn’t make a lot of sense when we’re talking about tax payers dollars.”

Supervisor Crystal McIntyre asked County Attorney John Criswell whether he was the person who advised the county during the reorganization. “My office had – we didn’t even know about it ahead of time” Criswell said. Galloway said it was his recommendation to go forward with the reorganization.

*This story has been corrected from a previous version

New Test finds mold at Warren County Courthouse

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com September 14, 2016

A new mold report commissioned by a Warren County Supervisor found there’s high toxic black mold inside the courthouse.

Dave Grimm, who’s run aMoldDetective out of Grimes for 12 years, conducted the test last Thursday for Supervisor Crystal McIntyre.

It was discussed during a board of supervisors meeting Tuesday.

Supervisor Dean Yordi has been overseeing mold tests at the courthouse throughout the last year and despite several staff complaining mold is making them sick, he continue to say he doesn’t believe there’s a mold issue at the courthouse.

“I don’t know exactly what’s going on in the courthouse, but if people are getting sick I want to have a report of my own” McIntyre said.

Grimm said he found mold contamination on all three levels of the building. “There were elevated levels of aspergillus/penicillium mold spores on level three only,” Grimm said. That was in the areas tested in the jail cell and the dispatch room. Every other level had high toxic stachybotrys mold spores.

“Stachybotrys is the black mold. It’s the one everyone seems to care about because it is a mutation,” Grimm continued. “It only appears indoors on construction materials. You never find it outdoors in the normal atmosphere.” While Grimm repeated the words highly toxic mold several times, he ultimately said it wouldn’t affect a healthy person.

“People with preexisting respiratory conditions are going to be hypertensive to contamination to some degree,” Grimm said. “For the most part, people are not going to react to this contamination whatsoever.” He told the supervisors to avoid mold remediation entirely because there are things that need to be accomplished prior to remediation.

Instead Grimm recommended  the county take care of its roof, its foundation and its piping. Grim said he doesn’t think there is drainage tile on the north side of the building because there’s been flooding into the basement from the north end. “Additional fans could help,” Grimm said. “The air doesn’t seem to be moving like it should.”

He said the district courtroom needs some help in particular, and said the two residential dehumidifiers running in there now probably aren’t cutting it. Grimm recommended the county install a commercial dehumidification instead. Yordi said he’s aware the foundation is leaking and said part of the problem is the ground outside is sloping toward the building rather than away from it.

He said with the new courthouse vote and everything coming up, it’s something the board needs to look at. “I think that’s a separate issue,” McIntyre said. “If we’re going to have people in that building, we really need to look at addressing these issues today.”

Yordi said he hadn’t been to the courthouse for three days, but the last time he was there everything was dry. McIntyre said, “But you guys want to keep people in that building.”

Yordi said he has another mold test coming in soon and he wants to compare the two. After more discussion, Chairman Doug Shull moved the meeting along before the supervisors came to a consensus about what to do.

Officers called to incident at the Warren County Jail

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Published 2:53 p.m. CTT July 19, 2017

A Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy and two Indianola police officers had to help jailers late Tuesday night after an inmate tied a towel around her neck while in cell 4 at the Warren County Jail.

A study completed this month by Shive-Hattery and the DCI Group warns that parts of the Warren County Jail do not meet anti-suicide standards. Another inmate committed suicide by hanging himself in the Warren County Jail in October 2016.

County works on bringing courts back to Indianola

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Feb 22, 2017

The supervisors decided to fund several additional construction items as it prepares to use the former Fusion Fitness building on Iowa Highway 92 to host court. The building, at 2205 W. Second Ave. in Indianola is across from the Indianola Parks and Recreation Center.

The lease will cost the county about $100,000 annually and the supervisors will have an option to buy the building. Warren County judges have been working out of Madison and Marion counties for almost a year, after Chief Judge Arthur Gamble declared the Warren County Courthouse unfit for use.

At a meeting last week, the supervisors agreed to pay for several small items at its new building, including up to $7,100 for new lighting. New LED lighting is needed, and will cost about $7,100 to replace, but the building’s owner will pay $1,500 of that. Supervisors also agreed to pay $800 to move televisions from the courtrooms at the old courthouse to the new building. The County Attorney’s Office will ultimately be picking up that bill.

New cameras will cost the county about $17,800. Yordi explained four cameras will be placed outside of the building at each of its corners and six more cameras will be placed strategically inside and will be pointed at hallways and near the clerk’s windows.

There’s also a $2,100 annual software charge for the cameras’ operating system. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office will be able to monitor the cameras. Finally, the supervisors hesitantly agreed to pay an estimated $10,770 for magnetic door locks and panic buttons.

Yordi was hesitant on paying for the locks because they are so expensive. Supervisor Crystal McIntyre said she thought safety for court workers is paramount and said the locks and buttons were a necessity. The supervisors briefly debated whether the money for the expenses should come out of this year’s budget or next, but ultimately decided to pay for all of the items out of this year’s budget.

Personnel and Public Hearings

 

Dismissals came ‘out of the blue’ workers say

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Mar 2, 2014

“It is shameful that Warren County government has surprised its hardworking employees with this outsourcing and layoff plan,” AFSCME said Friday. “The development of this plan was kept under wraps and not revealed until the last minute.”

Warren County plans for job cuts

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Mar 2, 2014

Ten Warren County Employees were placed on paid administrative leave last week.

County Administrator Jean Furler said, “There would be many reasons for the potential job cuts, but the budget has always been a number one reason for things like this.” She said the cuts could save the county about $450,000 in year two. The chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors Doug Shull, echoed her remarks saying, “There would be many reasons for the cuts. The obvious one is budget constraints.”

However a copy of the severance letter that one employee placed on leave provided to the Record-Herald stated that the county believes the changes will create a more efficient and streamlined county government. Treasurer Julie Daugherty, Recorder Polly Glascock and Recorder Traci Vander Linden all said that there were no significant cuts to their 2015 budgets, which were due to the state March 15.

In February, Steve Wilson told the Record-Herald that the county was in good financial shape after he announced he wouldn’t be running again for his District 2 seat. “We continue to operate the county responsibility. We are not broke,” Wilson said. “We’re in great shape. We continue to be the largest county in Iowa with no debt and I’m very proud of that. Yet we continue to provide services for people.”

County Employees File Injunction

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Mar 23, 2014

The county has been working on a reorganization and restructuring process that resulted in at least 10 people being asked to resign from their jobs almost a month ago.

What’s now being called a “reduction-in-force” led six of the Warren County employees to file an injunction against the county. The injunction alleges the county broke open meetings law during the reorganization process. …

Neither the county employees nor any elected officials at the county claimed to know that the job cuts were coming. The supervisors never discussed the matter in an open meeting and no closed sessions have been held to discuss personnel issues since January.

Two Warren County supervisors shared their plans last week to have the county’s secondary road crew volunteer to redo a road at the Warren County Fairgrounds

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Published 5:50 p.m. ET March 27, 2017

Supervisor Crystal McIntyre put the idea on the agenda at the board’s regular meeting on March 21 after she heard about the plan outside of a meeting.

Supervisors Dean Yordi and Doug Shull apparently collaborated on a plan to relocate an existing road at the fairgrounds near the animal pens. “There’s a penning area where they bring animals out of the pen and wash them and play with them and do whatever,” Yordi said. “So they want to move a road down along the far side of the pen so the kids bringing animals out don’t have to worry about traffic.”

To move the road, Yordi said, Vanderpool has volunteered to bring down some free dirt from the pile near Loffredo in Norwalk to fill in the space where the new road will run. Then, Shull said, he’s talked to Cory Brown, secondary roads foreman, about taking some of his time on a weekend to bring in gravel to surface the road.

Yordi said it’ll take about $10,000 worth of rock to move the road, which would come out of the county’s economic development budget, rather than the engineer’s budget. During the meeting, engineer David Carroll said he never approved the work the supervisors were suggesting, and said the county sold its bulldozers and other equipment needed to build a road about three years ago.

“I don’t believe that it’s that intense of work that needs to be done,” Yordi said, implying that the heavy machinery wouldn’t be needed. “It needs to be done right, if we do it,” Carroll replied.

Carroll later said he wasn’t sure if he could consider what his crew is asked to do is volunteering. “If your boss’s boss’s boss asks you to volunteer, is it really volunteering?” Carroll wondered. He stopped short of calling the request illegal, but he did say the state code prohibits the county’s machines from operating outside of the county’s right-of-way. The fairgrounds are not inside the right-of-way.

Both Carroll and members of the audience at the supervisors meeting questioned when the plans for the fairgrounds were decided since it didn’t happen in a meeting. Shull said he had already reached out to the secondary roads crew’s union representative to see if they can do the work.

Supreme Court redefines open meetings in Warren County Suit

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Mar 23, 2016

The Warren County Board of Supervisors may have broken the state’s open meetings laws when the board’s three members used the former county administrator to pass notes among themselves, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled.

In the ruling released Friday, the court redefined — although it won’t be written into Iowa code — what constitutes an open meeting in Iowa. Iowa’s law defines a meeting as “a gathering in person or by electronic means, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the governmental body’s policy-making duties.”

This case stems from March 25 and 26, 2014, when the Warren County Board of Supervisors handed out severance packages to more than a dozen employees. The severance packages were designed so each employee who signed the severance agreement also resigned his or her employment in exchange for the severance pay and continued insurance coverage.

When The Record-Herald started investigating the sudden layoffs, it became clear no one other than now former Warren County administrator Jean Furler and the three supervisors at the time, Doug Shull, Steve Wilson and Dean Yordi, along with a private contractor, knew the county was planning the layoffs or a county-wide restructuring.

The supervisors had held budget workshops before the severance packages were handed out, however there was no mention of the county reorganizing its workforce, employee layoffs or the potential outsourcing of county jobs. The 2015 budget also reflected raises for many of the dozen employees who were let go. After the severance packages were handed out, the county gave workers 21 days to sign.

The supervisors met on April 18, 2014, a month after distributing the severance packages, to approve the six signed packages and to simultaneously approve a report made by a private contractor to reorganize the county. In July of 2014, the case went to district court after six of the former county employees refused to sign their severance packages.

During that trial, Furler said to plan the restructuring she met with each of the three elected county supervisors separately to talk about eliminating jobs before the severance packages were handed out — knowing that if she talked to two or more at one time it would be considered a public meeting.

Furler said each of the board members had been presented with a “sample” of the packages before they were distributed and individually approved them, but did not vote on or discuss the packages during a public meeting.

Attorneys close to the case said if the supervisors had emailed the severance packages back and forth it would have been an open meetings violation so they wondered why it wouldn’t be if a person, rather than a machine, performed the functions.

Warren County settles 2-year employment lawsuit

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Oct 5, 2017

An employment lawsuit against the Warren County Board of Supervisors that began after the county reorganized its workforce more than two years ago is finally settled.

At the advice of Michael Galloway, an attorney for Ahlers & Cooney, the board gave $125,000 to its insurance provider, ICAP, to settle the outstanding lawsuit. ICAP offered a $575,000 settlement to the six plaintiffs.

The supervisors met April 18, 2014, nearly a month after the layoffs, to approve the signed severance packages and to simultaneously approve a proposal from a private contractor to reorganize the county. The case went to district court in July of 2014, where Judge Mary Pat Gunderson ruled there wasn’t sufficient proof the board broke open meetings laws.

Gunderson wrote that the supervisors knew they were taking controversial actions by eliminating jobs, but they wanted to avoid the conflict and discomfort involved in discussing the actions in a public forum. The ruling stated that the supervisors did not violate open-meetings laws because they did not “gather” under the definition of a meeting in Iowa Code Section 21.2.

Supervisor Doug Shull has claimed the reorganization has saved the county about $400,000 annually. However, that claim has been countered by Skip Phillips, a concerned citizen who has run for a position on the board of supervisors before. Phillips said the savings don’t include things like light bulb replacement, plumbing and the cost of the maintenance people who performed those chores. It also doesn’t include payroll functions.

The total salaries of the people fired was $525,054 per year, less than the $575,000 settlement.

 

Economic Development / Budget

Should Warren County give cash for economic development in the cities? Does Norwalk or rural areas want to pay for economic development in other cities?

Fareway Grocery Store Coming to Carlisle

By Andy Lent  Nov 12, 2013 Carlisle News

During the Council Meeting on November 11, 2013, the Carlisle City Council took several actions to begin the process of bringing a Fareway Grocery Store to the city. The grocery store will be built on land west of Subway and north of the Carlisle Middle School. Several more steps need to take place before construction can actually take place, but Monday night’s actions were the first big hurdle to overcome.

A majority of the steps were related to urban renewal or tax-increment financing. The development agreement that was approved will rebate 85 percent of taxes back to Fareway over 20 years to help pay for the construction of the store. The agreement also pays back a $145,000 loan from Warren County that assisted in purchasing the land for the store. Warren County gave an additional $300,000 grant to Fareway for the land purchase.

Should Warren County buy land for road graders when they are looking at building a new court house, building a new jail and building a new county yard?  Is it incompetence to buy property for a satellite property that was totally unacceptable for a remote site and then sell it for a couple thousand dollar loss?

Warren County finalizes annual budget

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Published 1:32 p.m. CT Feb. 28, 2017

Warren County is cutting its road budget by more than $100,000 for the 2017-18 budget year, which will begin in July, while it spends about $200,000 buying land for four new satellite locations using funds from the 2016-17 budget that ends at the end of June.

The satellite locations will save the county time and money eventually, and will be set up like five dots on a dice, said county officials. Eventually, the sites will house graders, which are currently stored outside next to some fuel tanks, and snow plows so they won’t all have to drive from Indianola each day. For now, the county only has enough money to buy the land for the satellite locations, but doesn’t have money to put buildings on the land, so the graders and plows won’t be moved yet.

During a recent county meeting, Supervisor Dean Yordi said the county owned one satellite location a few years ago, but “there wasn’t enough research done on where they bought it. “The floor wasn’t thick enough and the door wasn’t wide enough,” Yordi said about the building the county had purchased. “In the selling process we lost a couple thousand dollars.”

County supervisors debate budget numbers minutes before approval

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Published 4:44 p.m. CT March 20, 2017

The Warren County Board of Supervisors couldn’t finalize its budget without some last minute confusion and yelling. As the board moved into a public hearing for its budget March 13, supervisor Crystal McIntyre declared that she found out the board closed 2016 with 65.25 percent of its annual budget in reserves. That’s more than $24.3 million.

McIntyre stated she did some independent investigating into the county’s budget and determined the number herself. “I was told at the beginning of this budget we had a $1.5 million shortfall and that the engineer and the sheriff they had to fit into a budget,” McIntyre said. “And yet, we’re sitting at 65.25 percent at the end of last year. So my question for you, [supervisor] Doug Shull, is what is your goal for our fund balance?”

“What are we going to reach until we can start spending it,” McIntyre continued. “You’re not raising taxes. That’s a great thing. But what are you saving for?” Shull and budget director Megan Andrew crunched the numbers themselves and said the following day the county only has about 36 percent of its budget, a little more than $5 million, in its reserves. Shull said the county ended 2016 with about 44 percent in its reserves. “I think that we could hang our hat on our numbers,” Shull, a CPA, said. He said much of the money McIntyre was talking about was restricted, or earmarked, for specific purposes.

For example, he said the supervisors before his time restricted about $650,000 for jail purposes. While he doesn’t know what their specific intentions for that money were, it’s money the county can’t spend anywhere. Shull said the county is saving for a few things, such as building a maintenance facility on the land the county bought south of Indianola for the roads crew. He said the county will attempt to pay for the building without borrowing money.

The county did dip into its reserves to fund its 2017-18 budget because it has about a $420,000 deficit going into the new year. Back at the March 13 budget meeting, McIntyre unsuccessfully tried to negotiate more money for the sheriff’s and engineer’s budgets.

The county initially took a million dollars out of the engineer’s budget, but put $300,000 back in before the final budget was due. That money will be used to provide two 80 percent-20 percent matches on bridge repairs. The federal government will pay the 80 percent, Warren County will pay the 20 percent. “There is only one local bridge that is going to get repaired next year,” McIntyre said. “There is going to come a time our local bridges will have to be shut down because only one bridge a year is not going to cut it.”

The supervisors also only have $100,000 in its paving budget next year, compared to $400,000 this fiscal year. “It doesn’t go very far when pavement blowups occur, which they have occurred every year since I’ve been here,” McIntyre said.

The land for the county yard was never given a public hearing and now the Warren County Supervisors are letting people know there is a maintenance building planned with no public hearing.

Legality of Warren County renovation project hazy

Paige Godden, pgodden@registermedia.com Published 10:55 a.m. CT July 15, 2015 | Updated 11:13 a.m. CT July 15, 2015

The Warren County Board of Supervisors is now so divided even legal opinions are coming back seemingly skewed to please opposing camps. Two opinions were released last week about the legality of the supervisors allowing Downing Construction to start a $185,000 renovation project on the old Masonic Temple building on Buxton Street before taking bids for the project or approving a contract with the company.

Board members voted Tuesday to allow the House of Mercy to renovate the building with a $200,000 grant it received from Central Iowa Community Services, though construction has been in progress for more than a month. The Warren County Attorney’s Office issued an opinion stating the county should have taken bids on the project. But, the board received a differing opinion from former assistant county attorney Karla Fultz.

Fultz argued the county didn’t need to take bids since the money in question belongs to House of Mercy, not Warren County. Assistant county attorney Alex Crabb, on the other hand, argued it could be the county’s money funding the project because Warren County was budgeted to pay CICS more than $1 million during 2015 .

Crabb’s opinion states a government entity can’t evade bidding requirements by transferring money to 28E entities for use on a public improvement project, or by accepting a private donation or by fragmenting a project into separate parts. His decision included a postscript, which says in the lease agreement between House of Mercy and Warren County “the county’s obligations therein are numerous and burdensome, while the benefit to the county is minimal.”

Fultz was initially hired to help renegotiate terms of an annexation agreement among Warren County, Indianola and Des Moines because she handled a previous annexation agreement 10 years ago. Since January, the board has approved $3,783 in bills from Fultz for various projects. She recently billed the county $450 for her one-page opinion on the bids for the Temple project.

During last week’s meeting supervisor Crystal McIntyre voted against the lease agreement that will let House of Mercy use the first floor of the Temple for free for 10 years in exchange for paying the renovation costs. McIntyre said she felt railroaded by how the other two supervisors have handled the entire project.

“I’m a little hot right now simply because Karla asked me before this meeting in my office how I would vote on the Temple,” McIntyre said during the board meeting. “And I have a feeling she told you and Dean.” She wondered out loud if that meant Fultz broke attorney-client privilege, like Shull had apparently earlier accused her of doing. “I’m so frustrated right now I can’t even see straight,” McIntyre said.

She asked Shull how Downing got permission and the keys to get into the Masonic Temple building to draw up a construction plan and start work. To the questions, Shull replied “Sure.”

“You say sure. Sure what?” McIntyre questioned him. “What happened with that?”

Shull said he wasn’t entirely sure so McIntyre asked, “So they just got the keys from House of Mercy?” Shull replied he’d have to look into that.

McIntyre later told the Record-Herald she believes Downing Construction actually made the plans several years ago when Simpson College was looking at using the building. The Masonic Temple renovation isn’t the only divisive issue in Warren County.

County recorder Polly Glascock told Shull during a public meeting last week she’d like to hear him give weekly reports. Shull is a member of several boards outside the supervisors but does not share a report during a designated portion of the meeting.

The supervisors also have been at odds with county sheriff Brian Vos for months regarding the number of deputies he’s allowed to staff and having too few patrol cars. Several District 5 judges jumped into a fight with the supervisors when two prisoners escaped from the Warren County Jail, which they’ve said is a safety concern.

McIntyre said she was asked by Yordi and Shull why she wasn’t the chair of a newly formed committee for building a new jail. She told the Record-Herald she decided not to be when she realized she was probably being set up to fail, since she doubts county residents will approve a bond referendum to pay for the new facility.

The judges and sheriff also have been trying to get the supervisors to move forward with a security plan at the courthouse, which would keep all doors locked except one and provide metal detectors and an armed deputy at the entrance. In addition, the county is still in litigation with former employees whose jobs were eliminated last year. The employees are accusing the county of breaking open meetings laws when deciding to eliminate the positions.

During the first round of court hearings for the case, it was brought up that county administrator Jean Furler may be performing duties she shouldn’t be since the county has never voted for an alternative form of government to hire her as outlined in Iowa Code Chapter 331.

When asked, McIntyre said she’d be open to Warren County trying to move toward a five-member board of supervisors as long as some kind of distracting is maintained. “It would at least allow us to talk to each other,” McIntyre said.

The Iowa Open Meetings law defines a meeting as a gathering of a majority of the members of a governmental body where a matter is deliberated or acted upon, which means two supervisors are not supposed to talk to each other about an issue outside of public meetings that have been posted at least 24 hours ahead of time.