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Palo Alto County Supervisors Discuss Conservation Plan

By Staff | Sep 20, 2011

Palo Alto County Supervisors met with the newly-hired executive director of the Palo Alto County Conservation Board to learn about a plan to acquire land on Silver Lake during the Sept. 13 Supervisor’s meeting. Long-time Conservation Board employee Art Hampe was chosen to succeed retiring director Steve Pitt by the Conservation Board recently, and will officially take over the position of director on Oct. 1. But in the interim, Hampe has continued to work on a plan to acquire land on the northeast corner of the lake west of Ayrshire.

“As you may remember, we came before you about two years ago to discuss the idea of acquiring some property on the northeast corner of Silver Lake,” Hampe explained to the board. “We have refined the plan to 14 and a half acres of land, with right at a half-mile of shoreline.”

The overall plan for the property includes the development of modern campsites with public access to the lake, with the possibility of construction of some cabins for camping included in the long-range plans.

“Since we started on this, we’ve applied twice for funding to purchase the property through the REAP (Resource Enhancement And Protection) program in the state, and we’ve just missed out both times,” Hampe reported. “After this most recent application, we only missed by a couple of points, but in looking at what REAP funded, I see where they are headed and it’s not the same way that we are.”

With that thought in mind, Hampe presented the supervisors with a joint proposal to consider to develop funding sources for the purchase of the property.

“The cost of the 14 and a half acres of land is $213,000, but it is also tied into Conservation Resource Protection (CRP) contracts through 2020,” Hampe explained, “One of the ways we’d propose to raise some funds is by directing the receipts from our currant campground at Lost Island into our Conservation Trust Fund, which we can use for land acquisition. The other part of the funding proposal would be to use a portion of the funds the county receives from the gaming revenues.”

According to Hampe, the yearly camping receipts have averaged $13,500 per year over the last three years, with those funds being deposited into the county’s General Fund.

“We’ve talked with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and they would purchase the property, and then allow us five years to purchase the property from them,” Hampe explained. “We have $70,000 in the Conservation Trust Fund now, so if we could direct the campground receipts into the trust fund, over five years would give us about half of what we’d need. If we could go halves, that would amount to about $21,300 per year for each of the five years to pay for it.”

It was noted that it would require the Supervisors to adopt a resolution to direct that camping revenues from the General Fund to the Conservation Trust Fund.

“I guess what I’m looking for from you is some kind of an answer on the land by the end of the year that I can take back to my board,” Hampe said to conclude his presentation. “I think this is a very worthwhile project and we are very confident that once this property were developed, it would be very well utilized by the public.”

In other business, the supervisors approved a pair of underground construction permits for Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative in sections 19 and 30 of Emmetsburg Township and sections nine and 10 of Freedom Township.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz also reported to the board after being notified of the impending retirements of road foremen Vinnie Lammers in Emmetsburg and Galen Dykstra in West Bend, it was his recommendation that the Secondary Road Department continue to operate four districts, rather than try to restructure.

“There’s a lot of dedication and service to the people of Palo Alto County that will be walking out the door when those two leave,” Fantz said. “Galen leaves at the end of September after 38 years and Vinnie is leaving at the end of November after 31 years.”

In making his recommendation, Fantz used the logic of Supervisor Ed Noonan. “Like Ed said the other day, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’. I visited with the other foremen, and they feel that with a foreman in each district, that person can really go out and grab a hold of the district and take care of the problems to give it a more personal touch. That makes for better responsiveness to the needs of the people in the district, and I agree with that.”

“I go along with that,” noted Supervisor Ron Graettinger. “Our guys want to work and they’ll continue to do a good job for the people.”

“I think they guys have been doing a good job, too,” agreed Board Chair Keith Wirtz.

Fantz noted that the advertising for the positions would begin immediately in-house, with the hopes of beginning interviews within the next couple of weeks.

“We’ll certainly wish them both well as they leave,” Fantz said, “but we’ll miss them both terribly this winter.”