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Should county offices be located in Adel’s ‘historic downtown area’?

City leaders and officials are in agreement that additional space is needed for jail and administration offices; however, a decision to keep county offices in the historic downtown area is still up in the air.

City Administrator Brett Klein, who has been a proponent of keeping county offices downtown, asked the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to collaborate with the city to look at other viable options to keep administration offices in close proximity to the Adel Courthouse.

While both Supervisor Kim Chapman and Chairman Mark Hanson were in favor of speaking with the city, they said that talks of space needs have been going on for quite some time.

“It’s not any surprise that this board and the previous board have wrestled with county space needs and increasing county activity,” Hanson said. “Where I am at personally, is that 15, 20, 40 years from now I want to make sure we make the right decision moving forward. I know that we need to make some decision in the very near future-within this month-in going forward with the best possible plan for residents of Dallas County.”

Other residents, like Bob Ockerman, offered the board to “step back” and re-examine how site selection could affect the downtown community.

“We would request that you (the board) delay your site selection because we (Taxpayers for Responsible Spending Group) believe the board has not done due diligence on comparing the Ortonville (east of Adel) site and the downtown historical square area,” Ockerman said.

He also presented a 2005 analysis completed by the University of Wisconsin Extension on the importance of government facilities located in downtown areas.

“County seat towns with county offices downtown had 8.4 percent more businesses, 7.4 percent retail businesses, 25 percent more profession technical and scientific business and 26 percent more education, healthcare and social assistance related business than county seat towns with no county government offices located downtown,” Ockerman said.

However, Hanson countered Ockerman’s statement adding the study didn’t take into consideration how libraries, grocery stores and schools bring in traffic to the downtown area.

He also added if a new site is selected outside of the downtown area, the majority of the county offices would still be located in town.

“Right now 100 percent of the county is operating in the town of Adel, but if some offices move there will still be buildings downtown occupied by county activity and 100 percent of the courthouse will still be used,” Hanson said.

According to Jerry Purdy with Design Alliance, only 17 percent of employed county staff is expected to move to a new site including offices of the treasurer, auditor, human resources, operations administration, Board of Supervisors, veterans affairs, recorder, assessor and information technology.

Purdy and his design team also presented three design alternatives which could county offices downtown including buying 201 North 10th, 218 North 9th, 918 Court St. and 910 Court St. at a cost around $1,139,500. A demolition of those said sites as well as 902 Court St. and 201 Nile Kinnick were included in the proposed option amounting to $1,531,140 before construction.

The option could allow for a three-story, 168 stall parking garage, three-story administration and service building and a two-story law enforcement building.

Another option included buying and demolishing 218 North 9th, 918 Court St., 910 Court St., 120 Nile Kinnick, 118 Nile Kinnick and two county parking lots at a total cost of $1,301,408 before construction. The option would incorporate a two-story law enforcement building and a four-story administration and parking facility.

A final option presented was the purchase of 210 North 10th, 901 Rapids St., 218 North 9th, 918 Court St., 910 Court St., 902 Court St. and 201 Nile Kinnick with a total cost of $1,634,038 before construction. The option would allow for a two-story law enforcement building, two-story administration and service building and a three-story parking garage.

Although additional downtown spaces are possible options, Purdy stated the site best to address current and future growth, as per the board’s request, would be construction of a new administration and jail site located east of Adel.

After some discussion, Adel City Councilman Jon McAvoy echoed Klein’s and Ockerman’s plea for the board to take a step back.

“The employees of the county and services provided are really what make Adel a community,” McAvoy said. “Could we take a deep breath right now and be engaged with the supervisors in the process? It would be nice to feel like we are a part of the process.

“We are just asking you (the board) to take another look at all the options and if the logical place to put county offices is in Ortonville (east of Adel) then you would have our support.”

Due to ongoing space needs, Chapman said the board needs to act sooner rather than later.

“We can’t put the brakes on this project because the county doesn’t have space,” he said.

In order to address the needs of the county, the board could bring a special bond referendum to voters by as early as August.

However, some residents present said by waiting two months until November could allow for a higher voter turnout and a more balanced public input.

Chapman responded stating many of the offices, like the motor vehicle department, cannot afford to wait an extra two months.

The board made no decisions on where county offices or a jail could be located but did agree to sit down with the city to work through other viable options.

Other business:

Approved a child abuse prevention proclamation including a request to place pinwheels along the Adel Courthouse for April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month;

Accepted a resolution for the City of Des Moines to purchase .15 acres from the Dallas County Wetland Mitigation Bank;

Recommended and passed approval for Craig Walter, Lowell Smith and Gail Smith to serve on the Dallas County Planning and Zoning Commission with a term ending in 2016;

Appointed James Uthe of Adel to serve as the county weed commissioner for a six-month period;

Transferred $400,000 from the Mental Health Fund to the New Capital Fund for the interfund loan repayment;

Discussed the Dallas County ambulance service agreement with the Dallas County Hospital with no action taken;

Adopted the community service agreement for transition fund dollars of $590,120;

Moved adoption of the county’s 5-year construction plan which will include:

• An asphalt microseal on seven pavements including F51-east of Linden; 270th St.-west of R22; Hastie Ct.- west of Perry and R Ave.-south of Van Meter at a cost of $348,000 slated for mid-April;

• Asphalt overlay at the R22/F31 intersection at a cost of $80,000 to start in mid-summer;

• Culvert, drainage structure replacement at P48 and F59 from Dexter to Redfield at $60,000; and,

• Guardrail installation in eight bridges throughout the county using a $110,000 grant from the Iowa D.O.T.

• Construction plans for 2014 include a pavement reconstruction of P48 from Madison County to Dexter, P48 from Dexter to F59, and F59 from Guthrie County to Redfield. The project cost is estimated at $4 million beginning early summer.