Help is sought for fairground grandstand improvement

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – The Benton County Supervisors heard a request for help in updating the grandstand at the Benton County Fairgrounds at a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the service center in Vinton.

Benton County Service Center

Members of the Benton County Fair Board met with the board regarding repairs for the grandstand. A few years ago they improved handicapped access and are trying to do a little bit at a time. They are replacing rows in the grandstand VIP area with aluminum bleachers. This will require leveling the framework. It would be for 10 to 20 rows of bleachers. The fair board  is now taking bids for the work. 

An update was also given on racing events. The capacity of the grandstand is 1,500. They came to the supervisors for funding help, hopefully through Local Option Sales and Services Taxes (LOSST). 

It was also pointed out that the fairgrounds are owned by the local non-profit fair board and not Benton County.

The supervisors also suggested looking at money from local sponsors. 

The entire project is estimated at $140,000.

Benton County Attorney David Thompson said they have received a lot of money over the years for the fair, and that the fair board was not very representative in terms of women members. He also said the county does not get a good financial picture of what is on the books. Thompson stressed there are a lot of good non-profits in the county that can use money. Normally those seeking money have explored what their options are with the private sector, Thompson said. He also suggested fund-raising assistance.

Supervisor Richard Primmer suggested doing some homework to see what’s out there for money, such as a loan or sponsors, rather just writing a check. 

No action was taken. They plan to come back in a few weeks.

Other business

A subdivision variance was approved for Richard Morio for land in Section 27, Harrison Township. He plans a development in the area. A preliminary final plat will be presented at a later date.

The second tier of the canvass of the city and school election was approved. This is for voters in the election from other counties, including Iowa County, Tama County, Poweshiek County, Buchanan County, Black Hawk County, Linn County, and Buchanan County. The post-election audit was also approved.

The law enforcement contract with Van Horne was approved. 

Vacation carryover was approved for Ben Turnis, information technology.

A wage increase was approved for Dean Vrba of Benton County Transportation, effective Nov. 8.

The board discussed holiday hours. They plan to follow the state by being closed the 23rd and 24th of December. They already have a half-day holiday for Dec. 24 through the handbook. This matches the state holiday plan. They will also be closed New Year’s Eve. Thanksgiving Friday is also closed, according to the handbook.

A wage increase was discussed for Justin Birker, who is with maintenance. Kirsten Nelson of human resources said the county needs to have policies on this, especially with mid-year raises for non-union employees. Primmer pointed out there are other employees who have approached him about mid-year raises. Thompson suggested tabling this and then have an exempt session with human resources to deal with this, as well with how to determine salaries for next year, “without everyone watching sausage get made.”

An exempt session is planned this week. It might be placed on the agenda for the Nov. 23 meeting.

Primmer said he was at a security meeting on the need for a policy on releasing security-related information. They compared Benton County’s policy to another county’s policy. Thompson presented the new proposed policy which added new guidelines. After reviewing it the board approved the updated policy.

E-911 meeting

The board met later with emergency officials on upgrading the E-911 and radio system. They are seeking an extension on the radio prices quoted last summer. Prices have since increased. They are looking for the best tower locations to cover the county. Officials said this will require a lot of up-front engineering. The locations have to be vetted and locked down. They will design equipment based on the engineering. 

They also discussed how regulations affect tower placement, especially towers near cemeteries and airports. Benton County has three existing towers, in Belle Plaine, Van Horne and Garrison. They are also looking at sites east of Vinton and near Norway. The total cost is estimated to be $7.53 million. The extension deadline is Nov. 30, after which its is expected the price tag could go up 10 percent. Officials also discussed the maintenance agreement on this.

The contract with Raycom was approved. 

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