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Palo Alto Supervisors Discuss Lake Dredging

By Staff | May 5, 2016

Discussions heated up at the regular meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, May 3, as the topic of dredging at Five Island Lake became the main topic.
“When we learned that the dredge was not going to run this summer, Ed’s worked on this and I’ve worked on this, to try and figure out a way to keep the dredge running this summer,” Supervisor Craig Merrill began.
“How this all started was, Keith and I went to see John Bird, Emmetsburg City Administrator, to see for sure that it wasn’t running and if we could put something together as a group if they would run it. He assured us they would.”
Merrill continued saying that Ed, Mary Barrick and himself, along with John Bird, went to meet with the Palo Alto County Gaming Board, just to run it past them and let the Gaming Board know that the county and city would like to try and make a proposal to work together.
“Our proposal to the Gaming Board, the Supervisors at this time, give the Lake Board $10,000. We would add $90,000 to that to make it $100,000 total and we would write a grant to them for matching funds to give a total of $200,000. John had told us that it would take $250,000 to $275,000 to run the dredge for one summer and I believe that the Lake Board has some money left in their fund,” Merrill said.
The economic development that has been done around the lake is obvious and it has been a real benefit to the county. According to Merrill, the general consensus is that dredging could potentially be completed by next summer if things progress as is hoped.
“You keep progress moving forward by keeping the dredge running and get the project finished. This is why this has come about, so if anyone wants to say anything, this is what has been discussed,” Merrill said.
“I am not in favor of this. You have roads that are bad. This has not been put in our budget. I heard a little about this the last time we gave $10,000 from my area and I am not in favor of this at all, “Supervisor Ron Graettinger remarked.
“I agree with what Craig said. He pretty much said it all,” Supervisor Ed Noonan said.
“Number one for me, I’m in favor that the dredging should be finished. I believe it is a good thing and I can see the economic development that is there. That being said, we have a budget and there is no place to take this money from for this year except for our Fund Balance, which we already have two buildings that need help,” Supervisor Keith Wirtz said.
‘So, I’m not in favor of doing it right now. I think we need to budget for it. I’m for supporting it and I’m glad everyone is working together. What Craig and Ed have done is good getting people started and I like the fact that everybody is going to work together and finish this project, but for the county, I think we need to go with the rules and budget for it.”
“The engineer’s office is pretty important and we need to decide what we are going to do there. Something has to be done with that heating system this fall, “Graettinger said.
“That’s true, but we have other jobs too. We have drainage issues. You can’t always say ‘Well we gotta do something’ or delay something because of other projects. There’s always other projects, we don’t have a shortage of them,” Merrill responded.
“Well, I could call for a vote and not say anything, but I am going to give you my opinion first. I ran for Supervisor to represent all the people in Palo Alto County and I would like to represent 51 percent of them, how they feel. It was not on my agenda when I got on this board to cut taxes, but I want to be fair to all the people in the county,” Supervisor Chairman Linus Solberg began. “Three years ago, I did a survey of the people in my district and it was two to one opposed. They did not want to spend any money to improve someone else’s property.
“In other states, they have lake associations and they go around and get a vote of people on that lake and if they vote to do it, they assess the people on that lake. And this reminds me of our city administrator, they used to use they city taxes to fix streets, but since he came to town, they bill everybody on that street, and I am one of them.
“The State of Iowa has a lake fund, and I think we need to continue applying for those funds and more federal funds. I voted against giving $10,000 to the lake three years ago because they had no sundown, no end in sight. They have been dredging this lake for 23 years and it cannot go on forever.
“And I’m not sure that there’s not an underlying motive to this, an ulterior motive behind this; I’m not sure about that, maybe to clean all the lakes in the county, but if that’s true then I think we need to put that question to the people in Palo Alto County and put it on a ballot and let the people vote, not just five Supervisors.
“The Supervisors only control 30 percent of the property taxes in our budget and we hear from many people that our taxes are too high and I think that our school boards, our college boards, our hospital boards and the courthouse need to sit down and lower our property taxes and levies. Half of the Emmetsburg teachers hired this for the year 2015 live outside the county and the main reasons is because of too high of property taxes.
“I am voting against this because I believe that 51 percent of the people in our county and landlords would vote no,” Solberg said.
At this time Merrill made a motion for the Palo Alto County Supervisors to apply $90,000 to a matching fund to Palo Alto County Gaming Board for an out of cycle matching funds grant with Noonan seconding the motion. A roll call vote was called for with Merrill and Noonan voting aye and Graettinger, Wirtz and Solberg voting nay. The motion failed.
“On behalf of the Lake Board, we want you to know that we appreciate you looking at funding. We appreciate the $10,000. We have some money that we are holding in our budget and a lot of it will be wrapped up in a study on water quality and things in the lake. We are waiting for kind of a blue print from the DNR, which they’re very slow and hard to work with it seems, but we have retained a company out of Omaha to work on it. I thank you for looking into it,” Five Island Lake Restoration Board Chairman, Jeff Stillman said.
“I think we need to keep communication open and keep working together to see if there isn’t something we can put together,” Wirtz said.
Some further discussion was made regarding gaming grants, with Palo Alto County Conservation Director Mary Barrick willing to help write a grant. Barrick told the Board that $200,000 is a 50 percent grant and that they could apply for a $149,500, which would be a 25 percent grant. This would mean the county would have to come up with $37.375 less the $10,000 that was already paid.
“I have had 17 people talk to me about this and they have all said no,” Solberg said. “I was elected to represent the people and that is what I am trying to do, represent 51 percent of the people.”
A motion was then made to come up with $27,375, if the Gaming Board approves the grant giving us $112,150 toward an out of cycle matching grant. A roll call vote was made with Merrill, Noonan, and Wirtz voting aye and Graettinger and Solberg voting nay to pass the motion.
“One thing about it, if we decide to do something about this the next time, I think we should have discussed it as a group before going to the gaming board in the first place,” Graettinger said. “If you want to do this on your own fine but if we are doing it as a board, then the whole board needs to make that decision.”