By Jim Magdefrau
VINTON – The Benton County Board of Supervisors heard of an opportunity to expand the Wildcat Bluff area at their meeting Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the service center conference room in Vinton.
The Benton County Conservation Board met with the supervisors regarding land acquisition with the Iowa Heritage Foundation. Shelby Williams, conservation director, said the land is about nine miles south of Urbana. Wendling Quarry is interested in selling the land to the conservation department. The heritage foundation helped them with negotiations. This allows conservation to more than double the size of the Wildcat Bluff Recreation Area there, almost putting it at the level of a state park. The total size of the park would be 300 acres when combined with the new land. She wanted to share the “exciting” news with the supervisors.
Conservation board members saw it as a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it is a turnkey portion next to the property that already exists. They believe it can be funded through grants. They hope to get out and find people who want to donate to the project.
It is an 184-acre tract that is being offered. They are seeking $1.2 million. They already have a $125,000 commitment. They will apply for the REAP grant this fall, which is up to $900,000. They have to own the property to apply for the grant.
Plans include developing trails and removing interior fences. Eventually, other recreation will be added. Williams stressed it has a lot of potential.
Supervisor Richard Primmer observed that $1.2 million is a “chunk of change.”
They have two years to purchase the property. The heritage foundation already has a recent purchase agreement with Wendling.
Primmer said he didn’t have a problem if it’s grants and donations. He has a problem committing $1.2 million of tax money. Randy Scheel of the conservation board said they confidence they have to pay that in two years is extremely high.
No action was taken. Scheel stressed they wanted to make sure they were keeping the supervisors up to date on what they are doing. He added they will not need additional staffing. Coe College and organizations for turkeys and pheasant are interested in the project. There are also Indian mounds on the property.
Supervisor Gary Bierschenk said it is quite an undertaking.
Bridge embargos were approved for secondary roads bridges for dump trucks and semi trucks. One is in Cedar Township on 16th Ave. Another was approved near the railroad in Leroy Township. Embargoes were also approved for 17th Ave. in Big Grove, and Third Ave. in Fremont Township.
A building permit was approved for USA Communication in Iowa Township.
A temporary road closure was approved for a twin box culvert construction project on 75th Street in Florence Township.
The board accepted the resignation of Mindy Fisher from the board of health. Kaitlyn Emrich was appointed to replace her.
A Class C Liquor License was approved for Tara Hills Country Club.
County Attorney Ray Lough and Deputy Sheriff John Lindaman met with the board regarding Victim Witness Abuse/Sexual Awareness Shared Employee. There are privacy and confidentiality concerns. They plan a meeting with Riverview Center.
The maximum levy hearing was held for the 2024 budget year.
Mae Hingtgen, Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region, and Mona Onken, human resources, discussed a memorandum of understanding regarding reimbursement from MH/DS of the East Central Region for County Employees. This is for fiscal year 2024. There are clarifications of relationships for the region, reimbursement for employees and consistency throughout the region for duties of advocates. Hingtgen stressed she wants to have a “cohesive” region among the member counties.
They discussed changes for supervisory responsibilities for Bethany Wheaton, Judicial Mental Health Advocate. They also discussed CSM (Crisis Support Management). It was pointed out the advocate is supposed to be neutral. They debated having the sheriff, county attorney or supervisors’ chair as the supervisor.
The supervisors approved a portion of the memorandum, excluding the part on supervising the mental health advocate. They then approved having the sheriff be the supervisor. It was approved, 3-0.