Proposed closing of license station is explained

VINTON – For 17 years, the Benton County Treasurer’s office has had a satellite office open one day a week in Belle Plaine. Belle Plaine officials were told in a letter several weeks ago that the office was closing.

Concerns about the closing of the station in Belle Plaine were conveyed to the Benton County Board of Supervisors, at the supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7, in Vinton.

Stephen Beck, city administrator for Belle Plaine, presented the letter the city received from the Benton County Treasurer, notifying them of the plan to closed the station. It is now at the community center in Belle Plaine and is open once a week. The county plans to close the station on Jan. 29.

Beck stressed the city and surrounding region had appreciated having the station for decades, and took issue with the assertion the state had forced the county’s hand by issuing only on computer.

A letter from the city was read by Beck, seeking clarifications on the numbers used on the cost and people served. He felt the city should have had a voice in this decision. He asked the board to reconsider this decision.

Benton County Attorney David Thompson asked if this was decision made by the new treasurer, Michele Sauer, or by the supervisors. He felt the appeal should be to the treasurer. He said, “It’s her decision. It’s why she’s getting the big bucks.”

Sauer stressed this wasn’t a decision that was made lightly. She recalled that when the state decided to cut back and Benton County was going to lose license stations altogether, former treasurer Kelly Geater stepped up was willing to run it. This was 17 years ago. She stressed they were not cutting driver’s licenses in Benton County, just the issuing of licenses in Belle Plaine. Treasurer officials stressed it was a hard decision and they enjoyed the people from Belle Plaine, but there was not enough traffic to have to officials there.

The computer used in Belle Plaine is not a laptop or portable, and is kept at center. It will be moved to Vinton, giving the officials three computers to issue licenses. Sauer also stressed they do not favor Linn County over Benton County customers, which was alleged by the mayor. They do have a lot of people from Linn County who use the license station in Vinton, but they are not catering to them. They have a lot of people who come up to Vinton from Norway, and even from Belle Plaine on days when the station is open in Belle Plaine.

Beck said he’d take the information back to the city. He asked if there was any possibility for compromise on this. Officials explained staffing needs.

Supervisor Chairman Richard Primmer said he appreciated the input and the council’s concerns. Supervisor Gary Bierschenk said it boils down to people willing to pay for extra people. Beck said he’d enjoy looking into partnering with the county on this. Primmer observed paying for extra people does not increase traffic at the station.

No action was taken.

Variance

A variance was granted to the subdivision ordinance to approve the Burkhart Final Plat for a parcel in 11-85-20. It is a small tract of land or a new acreage, according Kyle Helland, engineer, who presented the request. Land Use Administrator Marc Greenlee explained someone has asked to purchase a part of her property for an acreage. This is the third split for her property, which under the ordinance would otherwise require a preliminary plat. The land has not been in production for several years.

Recycling

Landfill commission members said they are considering taking over rural recycling. Member Loras Schulte said they don’t plan to make money at this was explained by Schulte. This is now done by the county. Equipment and staff they would need to do this, while also running the landfill and hauling leachate. The commission would like to use the county’s rolloff containers, which are located throughout the county. It now has a budget of $72,800, according to Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek, to pay for haulers and recycling facilities. Commission member Jennifer Zahradnik said they also help with education, while saving money for the county by bringing recycling it all in house. Primmer said it made sense, but he didn’t want to services to rural residents cut back. He hoped for more locations to do recycling. He also didn’t want to see it as justification to buy another piece of equipment. There was talk about buying another truck and hiring another individual to run the truck.

Schulte said the commission thinks it can make it work. It could be one less thing the supervisors have to worry about and be a win/win for everybody. They hope to be ready to take this over on July 1, which is the start of the new fiscal year. Parizek also felt it could be cost savings for Benton County.

The supervisors were in consensus on this, though no formal action was taken. They will act on this after the commission takes on on this.

Other business

Vacation carryover was approved for Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek. The board also approved removal of an embargo on a bridge at 51st Street Drive in Cedar Township. The board also discussed the lines painted on certain county roads.

The board approved an amendment to the Community Partners Protecting Children (CPPC) contract for $4,000.

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