By Jim Magdefrau
VINTON – The Benton County Board of Supervisors spent the day reviewing budgets for next year at the Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, meeting in the service center, Vinton.
Budgets reviewed were for relief, weed, maintenance, auditor/elections, mental health, conservation, and Benton Development Group (BDG). They also worked on the supervisors’ budget.
George Haefner met with the board for the weed department. He said has done consolidation on the weed commission and road clearing service areas. He is looking at an increase of 3 percent for salary. This includes integrated roadside management. They also talked about radio communications for the department.
Hayley Rippel explained the budget for auditor and elections. She also reviewed the budget for the supervisors. They also talked about new microphones for the conference room. She added that the election budget might need to be amended to include upcoming special elections. She also explained miscellaneous budgets.
The maintenance budget was reviewed. Discussion included electrical supplies, agriculture, horticulture, upgrading a lawn mower, spreader, thermostat locations and shed storage. They are looking at a salary increase of 9 percent.
The social services budget was explained, along with the access hub. Benton County Social Services is seeking an increase of 3 percent. There are no huge changes, though education and training did go up.
The conservation department outlined its budget. They explained engineering services, office equipment, dues and memberships, fuel cost increases, telecommunications (body cams and WiFi), equipment, buildings and grounds maintenance and building fund. They also talked about the impact of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds upon their budget.
Kate Robertson met with the board for Benton Development Group. Also at the meeting was Dave Fish, BDG president. He is also Belle Plaine Mayor. Robertson gave highlights of the year, including updating the logo, updated website, and campaign for “Life Made Well,” focusing on workforce, quality of life, communities, and schools. One goal was to get industry and business leaders involved with the campaign. This includes a survey on jobs. They’d like to put this information into a playbook for juniors and seniors to show there are careers in Benton County they might not be aware of. They had a site visit last February and put together information for that. They will put information together on other properties as well. BDG also helped Atkins with grants for opening of the TapHaus in Atkins. They also helped to open Shellsburg’s catalyst project. In partnerships she is emphasizing rural development. BDG hosted a city clerk luncheon and wants to work more with the clerks with training. There was a downtown walk-around with state officials in four communities: Atkins, Blairstown, Vinton and Newhall. The recommendations created a baseline for opportunities for a community to start. They’s like to do three or four more communities this year.
Robertson said the focus has shifted this year for BDG, emphasizing community development opportunities, while also working on big picture projects.
BDG is asking for a $10,000 increase for next year, from $90,000 to $100,000. She pointed out the budget has been at $90,000 for about five years.
Fish told of the benefits of working with the local clerks. As a rural county, Benton County needs someone who handles economic development. It’s difficult for Benton County to compete against Black Hawk and Linn County. Fish and Robertson also talked about their effort to work with Iowa County on economic development.
The board plans more meetings next Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 24 and Jan. 25, 2023).
A resolution was approved supporting “Sergeant Jim Smith Memorial Highway.” This is Iowa Highway 150 from West Union to Vinton. Smith was killed in the line of duty.
The board approved the employee status change of Katie DeBrower from part-time to full-time. She has been with the sheriff’s office since November 2021.
A farm exemption was approved for Michael Wheeler for land in Section 28 of Eldorado Township. He plans to build a house on the property.
The board approved the Wellness premium discount and budget. The discount is $15 a month.
The board approved a Class C alcohol license for Kacena Family Tree Farm.
The board went into closed session pursuant to Iowa Code 21.9.