Land Acquisition Procedure Settled By Supervisors
After hearing concerns from landowners of a differing method of obtaining land for construction right-of-way projects, Palo Alto County Supervisors decided on a procedure for future projects during their weekly board meeting on June 7. The discussion with County Engineer Joel Fantz brought the issue to a conclusion and allows for the engineering staff to resume negotiations for an upcoming road project in the southern part of the county.
At issue was a change to previous methods of obtaining right-of-way when the county reconstructs or builds new pavements. On three previous projects, the county had purchased a standard easement from the landowner for additional right-of-way. But, when right-of-way was purchased for the North and South bypass projects to develop truck routes to the proposed POET Project Liberty facility, a method known as Deed-title was utilized by the County Engineer’s staff, upon recommendation of the Iowa Department of Transportation.
“The DOT tells us that all they use in their acquisitions in the deed-title method,” Engineer Joel Fantz told the board previously in a discussion last month with two landowners. “Part of the reason we went with this method was due to the fact that we are using Tax Increment Financing dollars for this project, and the deed-title works better with the TIFF aspect of the project.”
But, after meeting with a pair of landowners in May, Fantz put a hold on any further right-of-way acquisition efforts by his staff until the supervisors reached a decision regarding the method to use. On Tuesday, the issue was decided.
Supervisor Ed Noonan opened the discussion by commenting he would be in favor of returning to the traditional easement method. Supervisor Ron Graettinger agreed, but noted that the deed-title method should be used to complete the acquisitions on the two bypass projects for the sake of continuity to work with the TIFF funding aspect.
“Remember, the county is not doing anything wrong or below board with this,” Fantz said. “We were just using best business practice, as recommended by the DOT.”
The board acknowledged the fact, but agreed the standard easement method seemed to be favored more by the public.
Graettinger moved to complete the acquisitions of right-of-way for the north and south bypass routes with the fee-title method, but from that point on, to go back to easements for future projects. Supervisor Jerry Hofstad quickly offered a second and the motion was approved on a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Leo Goeders absent and not voting.
“I’m glad this is settled,” Fantz noted. “This allows the staff to move forward with work on the B63 project east of Mallard.”
In an item related to the north bypass, Fantz proposed a change to the county’s rate of compensation for borrow pits for work on the north bypass project.
“We are going to move significant amounts of dirt for this project and after talking with both Ron and Ed, and based on current input and commodity costs, I’d recommend we raise the rate for a borrow on this project to $1,600,” Fantz said. “Currently, we pay $1,400 an acre.”
Graettinger offered a motion to make the change, which was seconded by Noonan and approved on a 4-0 vote.
“We’re doing this to be fair and equitable,” Fantz said. “I don’t feel there would have been a problem with our old rate, because people want to see this project done, but this is the fair thing to do out there.”
In other road-related business, Fantz reported that a bridge inspector had discovered several cracked stringers on a wooden bridge located on 455 Avenue, just west of Highway Four, off B53. Because of the cracked stringers, the bridge had been closed to all traffic.
“This bridge was rated at 16 tons,” Fantz told the board. “From the look of the stringers, the bridge was clearly damaged due to a significant overload. We’ve ordered replacement stringers and planks for the structure at a cost of $14,000, and we plan to do the repair work in-house.”
According to the engineer, county workers will replace the cracked stringers and double up with new 16″x6″ stringers, which will bring the bridge back to its legal load ratings.
In other business, the board approved a budget amendment for the Palo Alto County Sheriff, transferring $4,750 from the sheriff’s office budget and $3,752 from the jail budget, for a total of $8,502, which will be placed in the communications center budget. The amendment was approved.