To the Editor:
We Dallas County residents have experienced firsthand the positive effects of living in one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation as new homes, businesses, opportunities and public infrastructure services seem to spring up every day.
Yet, the doubling of our population in just 15 years is also affecting us in ways that aren’t as obvious. Our county government provides a very long list of services that touches every resident. And, with this explosive growth, we’ve simply outgrow our existing facilities.
This outcome is hardly a surprise. A national planning firm retained by the county in 2005 predicted this may happen; projecting our population at 60,000 by and 72,046 by 2015. Based on those figures, the firm recommended that we move forward with a plan to modernize and expand county facilities. (It turns out that our population was already over 66,000 by 2010 and reached 71,967 last year.)
This was the direction we were on when a structural review of the courthouse determined its floors were in danger of collapsing. We resolved that crisis over several years and, in the process, made the building more efficient.
In 2011, a second firm reviewed and validated the findings in the 2006 study. As a result, we are moving forward with the question of constructing an administration and law enforcement center that will be put to a public vote on Aug. 6. The site is on Highway 6, two miles east of the Raccoon River on land owned by county taxpayers and supported by a fully functional lagoon.
Through this lengthy and thorough process, we’ve learned that a new building is the most efficient, effective approach for various reasons:
• The county is currently spending $205,000 a year — $4 million over the next 20 years — to lease office space
• State law mandates that the county must add another district courtroom and supporting facilities as soon as our population reaches 80,000. At our recent growth rates, we could reach that total in just a few years.
• Building on a downtown Adel site would limit future options.
In addition, the proposed building’s design would increase the productivity of county staff and those people receiving county services. Expanding the county jail will eliminate the expense of transporting inmates to Polk County.
The City of Adel recently annexed land to the east of town, including the county-owned site, with the goal of seeing development occur. We believe this building would help the city realize that goal, jumpstarting growth that would add to the business and residential tax bases of Adel, Waukee and Dallas Center.
It also would serve the greater need created by our county’s explosive population growth as West Des Moines, Urbandale, Clive and now Grimes have pushed across the Polk County line. Statistically speaking, the east Adel location is the center of the county.
When it comes to financing, two facts say it all. Dallas County has the fifth-lowest taxable rate, according to the Iowa Department of Management, and highest property value in tax increment financing districts of all 99 Iowa counties. Any debt incurred for the new facility will be repaid by a debt service levy on all property, including TIF districts.
In the end, it’s important that we move ahead with the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver services to the citizens of Dallas County. That’s why we voted unanimously to locate a new administration and law enforcement facility in east Adel. It will be up to voters to decide the next step.
Kim Chapman, Brad Golightly and Mark Hanson are members of the Dallas County Board of Supervisors.