Supervisors, architect want decision on jail option soon
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Monday night’s jail committee meeting carried over into Tuesday morning’s Henry County Board of Supervisors meeting when the supervisors met with Prochaska & Associates representative for continued discussion on the feasibility study of jail needs in the county.
In particular, the supervisors thought a decision should be made as soon as possible on which of the four options the committee prefers. Two of the four options are either renovations of the current law enforcement center and the addition of a 44-bed jail, or building a new law enforcement center with a 44-bed jail. The third option is building a new law enforcement center and 44-bed jail on county-owned land (called the Greenfield site) between the United States Department of Agriculture office and Young House on the east side of Mt. Pleasant. The fourth option is renovating the existing law enforcement center and transforming the jail into a holding and transporting center.
Projected costs of the options vary from $8.9 million to $15.7 million and the first three options include room for the addition of 30-36 beds.
“We need to make a decision on which plan we want to pursue,” noted Supervisor Greg Moeller. The supervisors and Prochaska representatives said comments made last night during the committee’s meeting reflected considerable support for the Greenfield site option.
“I have a feeling that (committee) people generally were leaning to the Greenfield site,” James Classe of Prochaska said. Moeller agreed, saying, “Probably the majority of people were favoring the Greenfield site. That was my feeling.”
The push for a decision soon is because a number of hurdles have to be cleared if the committee recommends any of the options except transforming the jail into a holding and transporting center.
A special use permit, which is issued by the Mt. Pleasant Board of Adjustment, would be needed if any of the first three options are used. Construction and renovation at the current site would be problematic because of congestion and lack of parking. Also, it would be tricky to balance construction while still maintaining a sheriff’s office and jail at the site.
Meanwhile, a zoning change would be needed at the Greenfield site and use of the land for a law enforcement center/jail does not fit into the recently-adopted city comprehensive plan.
The supervisors suggested that either Mike Hampton, jail committee chairman, or Henry County Sheriff Rich McNamee poll the committee members, asking for a non-binding location preference.
Once a preferred site is known, the committee can begin working with the city on clearing the hurdles, Classe said.
Supervisors also said they did not think there was enough time to carry out a successful campaign for a May bond election. The next available date for such an election would be in August.
In other business, supervisors approved a three-year contract with the union representing all sheriff’s office personnel with the exception of the sheriff and the chief deputy.
The communications supervisor, jail supervisor, office manager, investigator and day/night sergeant will all receive 6.5 percent salary increases in fiscal 2018. All other personnel will be given 4.5 percent wage hikes. In the final two years of the contract, all personnel will receive a 3-percent raise each year.
Currently, sheriff’s office employees with a family health insurance plan pay 15 percent of the premium difference between single and family coverage. The new contract will reduce that payment to 13 percent. The county pays the full premium for the single plan.
Also, employees now have to work nine years before receiving three weeks of vacation. The new contract reduces that length of service to five years.
County Engineer Jake Hotchkiss told supervisors that the condition of rural gravel roads was improving. “Gravel road conditions have improved with lower temperatures and the wind drying road tops, but we are still working on blading roads and spotting rock in weak spots. The gravel roads are improving. I am crossing my fingers that we don’t have thawing and moisture simultaneously.”
Other work by the secondary roads crew last week included replacing some road signs that had been pilfered and continuing the stripping operation at the county quarry.
Moeller reported on the last meeting of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission (SEIRPC) Board of Directors. Board members were told that SEIBUS ridership during the last fiscal year was 97,788. County dues for SEIRPC membership will increase to 76 cents per capita from 74 cents for fiscal 2018. There also will be a 2.5 percent dues increase for SEIBUS participation.
The house constructed in Mt. Pleasant by the Great River Housing Authority sold for $141,000, Moeller said. He also noted that 18 of the 19 available apartment units at the Brazelton in Mt. Pleasant had been rented.
Final tidbit of news from the SEIRPC meeting was that the organization was looking for owner-occupied houses in New London that would qualify for a housing rehabilitation program.
Supervisors meet again in regular session tomorrow (Thurs.) at 9 a.m., in the Henry County Courthouse.