by Dan Voigt
Palo Alto County Supervisors reviewed eight claims for damages in a completion hearing on Drainage District 15 North during their weekly meeting on July 2. Drainage Attorney Jim Hudson and Engineer Kent Rode of I&S Group were on hand with 14 landowners in the district to discuss the claims and act on the requests.
"We are holding this hearing as the original contract is done," Rode explained. "There is some work that is uncompleted due to the Cease and Desist order filed last year on the open ditch, due to a whistleblower. That work will be addressed in a supplemental contract with the contractor. We are closing out the primary portion of the project in order to receive our 50 percent cost-share from IDALS (the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship)."
Rode continued, "Overall, this was a very good project, designed to improve water quality coming out of tiles."
While work had been halted for a time due to a cease and desist order issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late last year, negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency regarding concerns were progressing, according to Rode.
"I'm very encouraged by their comments in the last couple of days," Rode said. "I'm hopeful this can be resolved in a very few days."
While the original project bids back in 2012 came in a $2,453,594.80, Rode noted that with the various change orders added to the project, the total for completed work by contractor C.J. Moyna and Sons was $2,563,247,05. The supplemental contract to compete the remaining items is estimated at $40,051.00 and will be finished once the cease and desist order is lifted by the Corps of Engineers.
"All told, with land acquisition costs, engineering, legal fees, damages and contingencies along with construction, the total project costs will be $4,300,000," Rode added. "But, this district also has excess wetland mitigation acres in it, approximately 14.02 extra acres, which can be sold for mitigation purposes in other districts at a cost of $10,000 an acre as a source of revenue for the district."
Requests for various damages were received by Richard Tindall, filed for the Ruth Weiershaeuser lands, along with Lloyd Petersen, Charles Thiel II, Brown Farms, Florence Garrelts by Sandy and Roger Akridge, Gerald and Beverly Twait, Wikert Farms by Rick Dodd of Hertz Farm Management and Dale Opheim.
Damages to crops and croplands had been estimated by Rode and the I&S Group staff, with the Board of Supervisors previously setting the rates for crop damages at $6.50 per bushel for corn, based on a 177 bushel per acre yield, and $14.30 per bushel for soybeans, based on a 49.4 bushel per acre yield. Additionally, the Supervisors set a rate of $235.50 for seeding of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in the project area.
Allowances were also made by the engineer for soil compaction and disturbance over buried tile improvements for one year's crop, using the average corn and soybean yields and pricing adopted by the board.
As the various damage requests were presented, the board voted to overrule most of the requests. The Supervisors approved a claim for $4,130 from Richard Tindall, on the Weiershaeuser lands for opening the ends of crushed pipes going into the open ditch. Additionally, the requests by Charles Thiel II, Wikert Farms and Dale Opheim were determined to be in need of further review by Rode to better determine affected acres. In light of the need to review those portions of the three parcels, the board voted to continue the hearing until Wednesday, July 3, at 1 p.m. before taking final action on hearing.
In other items of business at Tuesday's meeting, the board was advised by County Mental Health Coordinator Maureen Sandberg that Governor Branstad had applied a line-item veto to a $13 million funding appropriation last week. According to Sandberg, the $13 million was intended by the Legislature to act as a "risk pool" for counties who will see financial difficulty in meeting service requirements for residents under the state's Mental Health Redesign, which is to take effect January 1 of 2014.
"This year, our mental health levy raised $688,000 for us," Sandberg said, "but with the $47.28 levy limit set by the Redesign, we will only raise $445,000 next year. We're going to run short, because now we operate off residency, rather than legal settlement of clients. It's a good thing we had a little reserve in our budgetit could get interesting."
The Supervisors also set 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, as the time for a completion hearing on Drainage District 29.