I attended a board meeting last Tuesday Night of Upper Des Moines Opportunity, Inc., as the board members discussed a possible relocation of the organization’s headquarters facility from Graettinger. As I waited for the discussion to begin on the building issue, my mind wandered back in time to a very similar meeting back in 1987 in Spencer. That meeting was also being held by the Upper Des Moines Board of Directors, and the topic, amazingly enough, was the relocation of the UDMO headquarters.
At that time, interested communities submitted proposals, and the community of Graettinger was chosen as the location for a new headquarters. UDMO’s Administrative Offices moved into a new building in 1988, and have been located there ever since.
But over the past few months, the UDMO Board’s Building Committee, prompted by complaints and allegations of employees that the building was structurally unsound and unsafe, commissioned a study to look at relocation of the administrative offices.
A few years earlier, settling of the foundation slab occurred on one corner of the building in Graettinger. At that time, mud-jacking, the process of injecting grout underneath the settling concrete was employed, stabilizing the concrete. However, downspouts on the building had extensions removed over time, and rainwater now runs directly alongside the foundation, and has again caused some settling.
A certified engineer inspected the building late this summer and acknowledged there was an area where the concrete slab has pulled away from the foundation wall, but recommended no action other than to monitor the situation. In his inspection of the building, the engineer went on record to state the building is structurally sound is safe for use by the organization.
A concern of the consultants was some crowding in the building, and a lack of natural light for offices in the middle of the building.
With a report in hand, the building committee looked at two suggestions of the consultants, buildings in Graettinger and Spencer and the suggestion of moving the UDMO operation to new facilities.
For many members of the UDMO Board who listened to the discussion on the idea of a move on Nov. 23, the concern was cost and real need for such a move. Noting that UDMO has a cash reserve of $420,000, Executive Director Ron Ludwig pointed out that a recently completed audit recommended UDMO maintain a 15 percent cash reserve in case of funding reimbursement delays.
Anyone who works with organizations that receive government funding of any type knows that there are delays in receiving that funding, and there’s nothing the local organization can do about it, other than wait and hope.
Some board members pointed out that with tight budgets all the way around, a move by UDMO might send a negative message to clients and partners a valid concern.
Other board members felt simple steps, like reorganizing office arrangements, would help alleviate some of the concerns in the office and other were insistent that a move was the best answer, even without having solid numbers and facts in hand on which to make an informed decision.
A recommendation to place earnest money on two buildings was rejected on a roll call vote with 10 members voting no, six voting yes and one abstention, by the UDMO Board.
The offshoot of the meeting was that for now, UDMO’s central office would stay in Graettinger. The UDMO Board members were cognizant of the difficult economic times in the region and the challenges being faced by taxpayers and the governmental entities in their service area. Like city councils, county supervisors and school boards, governing bodies are trying their hardest to be good stewards of public funds in an increasingly difficult time.
Now, if we can only impress local efforts and successes onto our state and federal counterparts, perhaps they too could learn how to truly serve those who elect them.