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County flood damage estimated at nearly $1.7 million

Union County Engineer Zach Gunsolley presented a report of damage within Union County from flooding earlier this year to the Union County Supervisors during their regular meeting Monday at the Union County Courthouse.

Gunsolley estimates the total cost to repair the damage is $1,698,471.22, which includes 27.2 miles of roadway repairs, 38 culvert sites and six bridges.

He is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive reimbursement for these costs.

Gunsolley reported approximately two-thirds of the FEMA repairs on rock roads have been completed and one culvert has been replaced. Work has not begun on the bridges. Gunsolley said the order of work has been determined by a combination of the severity of the damage and whether the site has dried out.

“We have a several locations in the county where the roads are closed because the damage is so bad. We made those a priority,” Gunsolley said. “The rain didn’t stop until mid- to late-June. It takes time for the ditch or river to get below the water level (needed to repair culverts). Culverts are the last thing to dry out.”

Gunsolley commented that the culvert replacement took longer than estimated due to difficulties with placing the bands to connect the metal culvert sections and that much of the time spent on the replacement is in the dirt work required to properly install the culverts.

Gunsolley asked the board to allow the land owner to contract the fence repair work needed after replacing the culvert. Although this expense would not be reimbursable by FEMA, Gunsolley said it is a small part of the overall costs and would speed up the process by allowing the secondary roads crew and equipment to move on to the next site.

CARE

Jana Daily and Kendalyn Huff gave the quarterly report for Community Area Residential Environment, reporting the state has decreased their facility rate and and the rate for county funded residents is increasing by $50.

Daily said the center needs a wheelchair lift van and said they are considering trading in two vans — a 2007 minivan and an older 16 passenger van — toward this purchase.

Daily spoke of the difficulty CARE is having in hiring and retaining employees. Of six new hires in the past quarter, three remain on staff.

Daily said the facility had one official complaint in July about the temperature in a residence. This complaint was investigated by the Iowa Department of Health and found to be unsubstantiated.

Grants

The board discussed opportunities for grants with Jennifer Mitchell, who is experienced in writing grants through her capacity as supervisor for Clarke County Public Health’s Parents as Teachers program. Mitchell would operate as an independent contractor, not a county employee, to look for grants that are available to help with the costs of projects needed across the county.

Mitchell explained that she did not find any available grants to help offset the cost of the emergency communications system the county is currently implementing, stating that most grants do not reimburse funds that have already been spent.

Board members suggested areas for Mitchell to investigate grant opportunities. CARE is currently considering trading in its two vans to purchase a van with a wheelchair lift. Arispe is planning to build a tornado safe room.

The board members discussed sharing this grant writing resource with smaller cities in Union County as they might not have the resources to hire a grant writer on their own. Mitchell will attend city council meetings across the county with supervisor Rick Friday to explore the needs of the cities and to determine if they are willing and able to participate in a cost sharing agreement.

Tax credits

Union County Assessor Mindy Schaefer asked the board to approve the disabled veterans homestead, military, homestead and business property tax credit allowances and disallowances for fiscal 2019. This is a yearly process where residents can receive credits against their property taxes in qualifying situations.

The state of Iowa reimburses the county for a percentage of these tax credits — except the business tax credit — each year. Fiscal 2019’s reimbursement rate is 100%.

The board approved all of Schaefer’s recommendations unanimously.

Schaefer also spoke of her office’s plan to ask the board to approve these allowances monthly instead of yearly to avoid confusion resulting from the delay in sending letters to those property owners whose credits have been disallowed.

“Some of these letters are going out to property owners who sold their properties even as much as 18 months ago,” Schaefer said. “So when they get the letter, it causes some confusion as to are they talking about my current property ... why would they be giving me a letter now.”

She said having the board approve these allowances and disallowances monthly would alleviate some of the potential for confusion by shortening the time period between ownership changes and the disallowance letter.

A recent upgrade to the software used by the assessor’s office allows this change.

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