Jewel Avenue Full of Hazards: A "Fast Track" Tale
Below is a statement read to the County Supervisors during regular meeting, Jan 22 that expressses my concern about a project included in the 2013-2014 secondary roads budget to seal coat Jewel Avenue. This is a project born of a request brought to the county engineer and the Board of Supervisors by a local citizen on behalf of a "neighborhood " group.
From this beginning the Jewel Avenue project has now officially morphed into the "Jewel Avenue Test Improvement Project". This suggests that primary responsibility has shifted from private citizens to County taxpayers.
I believe this change represents the County taking "ownership" of a project imagined by private citizens that could not reasonably be justified as serving a public purpose in its original form. I also believe there is no sufficient public purpose in the project that is presently in the 2013-2014 secondary roads budget.
This is a project that serves the needs and desires of a few citizens but is indefensible with respect to any substantial good flowing to the taxpaying public.
This project is not how tax revenue should be spent.
The slight of hand by the Supervisors that is evident in this matter is lamentable.
Any doubts that may arise about statements made in my presentation to the Supervisors can be addressed by reference to audio/visual clips taken from recordings of meetings which have been placed in the hands of Supervisor Moeller at meeting. These clips should be available to citizens on request as a public record. The county website also provides access to meeting minutes and agendas.
I stand ready to provide materials that may be helpful to you. Additional background is available by reference to reports in the Mt. Pleasnt News or by visiting with the principals involved in the project.
To: Henry County Supervisors
Date: January 22,2013
I have asked to be placed on the agenda today to voice continuing concern about the proposed Jewel Avenue seal coat project. This concern has been of longstanding but has increased following the recent County Engineer budget presentation to the Supervisors.
It was a surprise to discover that this project has found a place in the 2013-2014 secondary road budget while not yet having been approved by the Supervisors. While the project has been deemed viable by virtue of I.D.O.T approving , on request of the Supervisors, a revision to the County 5 year road plan, there has been no vote of the Supervisors to proceed with the project.. (Verification of the preceding can be found in the August 21 minutes of meeting).
In his capacity as a supervisor I have made audio/visual clips from regular meetings of the Supervisors available to Mr. Moeller. Attention to the discussion of the Jewel Avenue project on these clips reveals a host of difficulties with a seal coat project including: maintainence cost responsibilities: a debunking of any parallel or precedent between the present proposed seal coat project and the 'airport road " paving done many years ago; revelation by engineer Belzer that maintainence of the proposed seal coat project would cost $5,000 to $7,000 per year on average, and Mr. Belzer's statement that snow removal over seal coat will be "very difficult" and perhaps damaging to the surface in the first year of the project and possibly longer.
In addition , Mr. Belzer states that if the project is done there will be an influx of people requesting it for themselves. Mr. White then asks: 'Is this going to cause the secondary roads any problem?' Mr. Belzer's reply: ".it certainly could ".
Also by reference to the video clips one sees a strange morphing of the Jewel project from a simple asking by a private citizen/citizens/ into an "experimental test project" of the county.
Other apparent difficulties include: no clear definition of financial responsibility between the private party(s) and the County for maintainence costs; no clear goals to be accomplished by the test/'experiment' ; no definition of what takes place at the conclusion of the 'experiment; no consideration of how maintainence fees, if initiated, would flow in the event property is sold.; no discussion of the concept of persons of means influencing administration of the county road system for personal ends.
Based on the preceding it seems that the Jewel Avenue seal coat project presents a minefield of difficulties for the county, the county road department and most of all the taxpayers. It is clear that there will be costs to the county over and above payments by those asking for the project to be accomplished.
I ask that the Supervisors reject the Jewel Avenue project and request the county engineer to remove it from his budget voluntarily or failing that that you unilaterally strike it when finalizing the county budget.
I also take this opportunity to express my concern that the Jewel Avenue project was discussed at least twice (August7 & Aug 14) during regular meetings of the Board without such discussions and deliberations appearing as items on meeting agendas. I continue to believe that this was done in violation of Iowa Code and that the recurring agenda item Bill Belzer Secondary Roads Update is meaningless as an agenda item sinceit provides no clarity with respect to what will take place.
Our governor has been taking pains and traveling the state recently to stress the importance of transparency in government. I think he would be pleased if the county would give it the same weight.
I recently received documents and materials I earlier requested from you. The request was for all documents and materials in the county's possession or control that have a bearing on the Jewel Avenue project. After reviewing those materials I believe that my request has not been fulfilled . Specifically, I believe from reviewing audio/visual recordings of meetings that a letter exists in regard to the Jewel Avenue project and, that there are documents to and from the state highway department with regard to the project which have not been provided to me.
I request that if any of the documents and materials I have mentioned above do, as I believe, exist that I be provided them based on the asking in my original open records request.
Lastly, I would like you to take note that the minutes of the August 14, 2012 regular meeting, where the a great deal of discussion and deliberation about Jewel Avenue took place are missing from the County website archives. I believe these minutes are important records and request they be transcribed into the archive.