March 07, 2021

Budget process begins for Union County

With 2021 underway, the Union County Board of Supervisors is beginning to look at budgets for fiscal year 2021-2022. The county’s fiscal year begins July 1. Southern Iowa Trolley, the Union County Historical Society, the Union County Fair Board and Gibson Memorial Library presented their budget requests during the supervisor’s weekly meeting Jan. 18 at the Union County Courthouse.

SIT

Leesa Lester, transit director for Southern Iowa Trolley, asked the board for $17,158 in funding for FY 2021-22. This is $1,043 less than FY 2020-21.

Lester said ridership has decreased due to COVID-19. SIT was able to avoid layoffs by allowing drivers who wished to take voluntary unemployment to do so. The trolley was able to stay open through the year but stopped making long distance — i.e. to Des Moines or Omaha — medical trips. These trips will resume eventually, Lester said.

“They (the drivers) just aren’t comfortable taking somebody they don’t know ... so we keep turning those back,” Lester said.

SIT received CARES Act grant money that was used for masks, gloves, sprays and other sanitizing items.

Two new SIT vehicles have built in sneeze guards. These vehicles are smaller than the typical 20 passenger buses and do not require a CDL to drive.

Historical Society

Dick Anderson brought a request from the Union County Historical Society for $5,000 towards its budget. This is the same request as FY 2020-21.

Anderson said the historical village has remained closed this year due to COVID-19 but work on the facility has continued. Floors have been repainted and donations have been sorted and catalogued. The progress on residing the caboose was stalled after Steve Francis’ accident.

Donations from the United Church of Christ — upon its closing, the Sesquicentennial Committee and CWC have allowed the society to plan for rewiring on the buildings in order to install light displays for Christmas and to begin a sidewalk project to make the village more accessible. The group has also written a $5,000 grant for the sidewalk.

“The buildings will not all be handicap accessible, but you’ll be able to get up close to them without walking on grass,” Anderson said.

Library

Aric Bishop, director of the Gibson Memorial Library, introduced himself to the board and asked for $33,000 towards the library’s budget – the same amount received for FY 2020-21.

Bishop said he asked the city for a contribution toward the library’s facility needs such as recarpeting, patio improvement and a sign for the sculpture outside the building. Other needs include continuing to change the light fixtures to energy saving LED bulbs, updating and increasing technology offerings and increasing internet speed.

The capital campaign to expand the library building is continuing.

Although closed to the public for part of the year due to COVID-19, the library has continued to offer services with curbside pick-up, electronic and audio books, virtual book clubs, test prep and programs for language learning as well as virtual experiences such as escape rooms and socially distant activities such as a scavenger hunt.

The Friends of the Library was unable to hold its annual book sale. That fundraiser generally provides for the summer reading program materials. Without the sale, Bishop sought out grants to cover the program.

“Our average spending for the summer reading program is $4,600. That’s for everything: presenters, ... crafts, ... prizes, incentives and things of that nature.” Bishop said.

Bishop said one of his first acts as library director was to review the library’s ordinance. He found that the board needed to be seven members instead of the five it was currently operating with. Three new members, Mike Williams, Vidette Dixon-Borgmann and Bethany Beyyette have come on board, but the board is still short two members. Bishop said the library board is required to be gender balanced so the two new members must be male.

Fair Board

Ben Adamson of the Union County Fair Board asked the board for $25,000 in funding for FY 2021-22, the same amount as FY 2020-21.

Adamson said events in April and May were canceled due to COVID-19, but the Union County Fair was able to be held. Some changes were made to encourage social distancing and keep the public safe.

The board allowed food trucks during the fair. Adamson said those were popular and may become a staple to remove some of the burden of operating the cookshack through volunteers and to provide more variety for fair goers.

Use of the fairgrounds for outside events continues to grow. The All Iowa Showdown was held there in August 2020. Adamson said organizers of the showdown are looking at creating a three-year rotation of sites with the Union County fairgrounds as one of the locations.

“Our fairgrounds is getting a lot of attention,” Adamson said. “We’re getting a lot of requests. ... That All Iowa Showdown brought beef producers, swine producers, sheep and goat producers from all four corners of the state of Iowa. ... Our youth have this state of the art facility to use but it’s also bringing people to Union County.”

The lighted Christmas drive-thru by East Union and Creston FFA students was a success, Adamson said. The FFA members approached the fair board to ask to rent the site for their fundraiser, however, the board did not rent it to them, they simply allowed them to use the grounds. The FFA donated $13,500 to the board.

The FFA intends to make this a yearly event and asked the board for storage space for the displays. The fair board is planning to buy a storage container for that use.

“Anything youth related, we’re going to work with that organization to let them use the fairgrounds for either free or very minimal costs,” Adamson said.

The fairgrounds have also been used for meetings and weddings. Due to the need for extensive cleaning after livestock shows, the board added a power washing fee for weddings during the livestock season.

REGINA SMITH

Reporter, columnist, teacher, children's book author, book store owner - Regina Smith has a wide range of experience in writing and education. She combines those interests and experiences to cover city and county government and human interest stories as well as writing a biweekly column in her home town of Creston, Iowa.