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Conservation Board Visits With County Supervisors

By Staff | Nov 2, 2010

The Palo Alto County Conservation Board presented some plans and ideas for projects at Silver Lake to the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors during the Oct. 26 Supervisor’s meeting. Conservation Board Executive Director Steve Pitt opened the presentation by discussing an area on the southeast side of the lake, which lies west of Ayrshire.

“There is an old county road that was abandoned in the 1960’s when the new road was paved along the south side,” Pitt explained. “There are two areas, which lie between the pavement and the old road and there has never been a transfer of control of those areas.”

The conservation board proposed taking the two areas, cleaning them up and possibly constructing a small, one-table shelter in each one, and then maintaining the areas.

“Where would the money for this come from?” asked Supervisor Keith Wirtz.

“We are going to try for some casino grants,” Pitt answered.

“I’d like to see a plan first before I decide anything,” Supervisor Ed Noonan said.

“We figure there would just be space for a little, one-table shelter like we’ve built at Basswood Park,” noted Conservation Board officer Art Hampe.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz, who listened in on the presentation, had no objections to transferring control of the area to the Conservation Board from Secondary Roads.

“I think we’d need to do a little further research on this,” Wirtz offered.

“I’m not opposed to the idea, but I’d just like to see a developed plan, not just an idea,” Noonan explained.

Conservation Board member Darin Adams explained that their board saw the idea as a good opportunity to create additional areas for the public.

“This is a beautiful piece of lakeshore property down there and people want to use it,” offered Don Hagen, a member of the Conservation Board.

Pitt also discussed a plan to re-surface the north half-mile of the road running through Huston Park at Lost Island Lake. A three-inch asphalt lift and overlay of the existing road was estimated at $200,000.

“Is that something that could come from a casino grant?” Noonan asked.

“They don’t like to fund infrastructure,” Fantz answered.

“We just really have no options for funds for this,” Pitt admitted. “We’re really between a rock and a hard place on this one.”

“A three-inch lift ought to last a long, long time,” Fantz told the board. “But the road out there is at the end of its useful life now.”

Pitt then explained a third proposal to the supervisors, for the acquisition of a parcel of property on the northeast corner of Silver Lake that involved a half-mile of lakeshore. The property, owned by Monty Leu, has been appraised at $253,000, but Leu is offering the tract to the Conservation Board for $213,000.

“We have been thinking about more camping sites in the county, and this tract would be able to provide us with 40 camping sites, and room to construct two or three small rental cabins,” Pitt said. “We estimate we could see $20,000 in revenue a year from such a facility.”

According to Pitt, the tract is currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program through 2019. Conservation had applied for a REAP grant from the state, but did not receive the grant.

“We could look for applying for a fish habitat grant, but those funds can only be used for fishing access,” Pitt explained. “What we’re asking the county is if you would be willing to help us fund this. What we could do is have the Natural Heritage Foundation purchase it for us, and then we have five years to buy it back from them. We’re looking at $40,000 a year for five years.”

“Monty Leu is giving us one hell of an value on this property,” Hagen spoke up. “Your investment would be $40,000 a year for five years for the county. I don’t think you’re going to catch too much flak on this. We’ve heard from your board that you want more public use property. This is an investment that will double or triple in a couple of years.”

After some discussion, Pitt brought the issue to close by asking the Supervisors to give the ideas some thought and get back to the Conservation Board in a couple of weeks with some ideas.

In other business, the board issued a response to the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Deputies’ Association for their wage proposal. The board issued a counter-proposal to maintain the current agreement as-is, with no changes in salary or other language of the current agreement. With the response, the two sides may now enter the collective bargaining process in accordance with the Code of Iowa.