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Funding Request, GIS Program Discussed By County Supervisors

By Staff | Dec 4, 2008

A funding request for the upcoming fiscal year and the county’s plans for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology were among items discussed by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors in its Dec. 2 meeting. Supervisors also approved a weight reduction on a bridge and heard estimates for repairs to a pair of drainage ditches as well on Tuesday.

A funding request from the Palo Alto County Library Association was presented to the board, with the librarians of the five community libraries on hand to talk about their respective facilities.

Karla Ellis, Librarian in Graettinger, told the Supervisors that an expansion in children’s programs and the establishment of an adult book club have led to an increase of 22 percent in the check out of materials in the last year.

The story was much the same in West Bend, according to Jenny Gambell. “We’ve seen a circulation increase of 3,000 in the past year. We’re also doing more with our children’s programs and pre-school programs as well.

Mallard Librarian Anna McDevitt noted that since joining the library in August of this year, she is working on developing a story hour program, and that the Mallard Library will host an Open House on Saturday, Dec. 6.

Nathan R.E. Clark, Director of the Emmetsburg and Ruthven Public Libraries, acted as spokesman for the association, and requested an increase of five percent over last year, or $76,912.50, for the coming year. Additionally, the association asked for the county’s assistance in two grant applications to the Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation.

“Our first grant would be for participation in a Downloadable Audio Book Consortium in Northwest Iowa that would allow people to download audio books,” Clark explained. “There would be an annual fee of $300 per year, plus 10 cents per book downloaded that we would be responsible for. Our grant request is for $4,560, and we would need to have $1,140 in matching funds.

The second grant proposal is for the acquisition of multi-media projectors for each library in the county that could be checked out by organizations for presentations. Clark indicated the total grant request was for $7,500, with a $1,875 local match.

“It is our hope that you may be able to assist us down the road in these grant requests,” Clark told the board, who took the request under advisement for budget purposes.

Palo Alto County Assessor Lois Naig updated the board on the final decision of the county’s GIS committee to choose The Schneider Company of Indiana to provide the GIS information for the county.

“My biggest question about all this was the service after the sale,” Naig told the supervisors. “I checked with people in Clay and Kossuth Counties, who have their GIS information through the Sidwell Company, and Emmetsburg and Pocahontas Counties, who went with Schneider. It was there experience that it could take a long time for Sidwell to respond to a problem or a question, and Schneider responded right away.

According to Naig, the Emmet County Assessor, who used to work in Dickinson County, which had Sidwell for its GIS, was highly supportive of Schneider for its customer service, .

“They have nothing but good things to say about Schneider’s product, and their customer service,” Naig added.

As the county has been planning for the acquisition of a GIS system for several years, over $327,000 has been saved in a special GIS fund, according to Naig. “The contract price for what we’ve decided on is $248,673, so there will be some funding left for the yearly upkeep fees and other expenses.

The GIS system will be based on an aerial flyover of the county, which will be done in the Spring of 2009, when the snow has melted, prior to the trees leafing out. The flyover information will be taken by Schneider, and transformed into electronic maps that can display information such as property lines, utility easements and a wide variety of information useful by realtors, developers, attorneys and government officials.

“I would certainly make sure that the company can guarantee the accuracy of their information,” Supervisor Ed Noonan said.

“That’s right,” agreed Supervisor Keith Wirtz. “The investment isn’t worth it if the information isn’t accurate.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz informed the board that a bridge in Section 20 of Emmetsburg Township had been inspected and it had been determined that the load rating needed to be reduced from 19 tons down to 16 tons.

“This bridge is on a dead-end road, and the lowering really shouldn’t have much impact on the traveling public,” Fantz said. “With a third of our bridges inspected, our bridge program is in pretty good shape right now.

Fantz also reported that estimated repairs on Drainage Ditch 80, required due to heavy rains earlier this year, were pegged at $200,000, while estimates for similar repairs on DD 175 totalled $45,000. The repairs will be covered by disaster funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Keep in mind that a new Drainage Task Force has been established by FEMA here in Iowa to look after these projects,” Fantz said, “FEMA should cover most of the costs for these two repairs, but we’ll have to wait and see.”