The Warren County budget, courthouse and jail, roads and county cleanup are among the priorities for Warren County Supervisor chair Aaron DeKock.
The board met on Jan. 4 in an organizational session and then turned to county business on Jan. 5.
“It’s a new year, we have a new board,” said DeKock during his supervisor’s report, noting the addition of Supervisor Darren Heater of Indianola to the board. Heater, a Republican, replaces Supervisor Doug Shull who retired after 42 years of public service.
DeKock said his first priority is the county budget.
“Budget is a tough thing because everything costs money,” he said. “There is constantly a grind of trying to a balance so taxes don’t become prohibitive.”
DeKock encouraged residents to attend the ongoing series of budget workshops that started Jan. 12.
“This is your chance to have meaningful impact on whatever priorities you care about,” he said. “It does very little good to come to a meeting after the budget is set and scream at the supervisors because something you care about isn’t there.
“Budget workshop sessions are not glamorous” he continued. “But that is where the sausage is made. It’s a time for you to be involved as a citizen.”
Completing the new Warren County Justice Center on time and under budget is a second priority, he continued. Secondary roads are the third.
“I’ll admit that I was very naïve,” DeKock said. During candidate forums, he said, it was easy to say you’d like to pave every road in the county. As a supervisor, it’s harder to find the money to do so.
“We don’t have the $2 billion to do so,” he said. “So you start learning quickly. But what I learned is that there are some additional funds that could be going to the secondary roads department. I want to try to build some more efficiencies, and one of my priorities to make sure our engineer has what he needs to make the best.”
That includes moving ahead with plans for a new county yard south of Indianola that has been on the drawing board for years.
“I think we have to take a serious look at how we can work on phase one or phase two of the new shop site,” he said, adding that he plans to set up a special meeting on the move.
Finally, DeKock said he wants to continue work on to “clean up the county.”
The county passed an ordinance adding teeth to rules against dumping, but DeKock said he would like to add money to the budget for cameras and other enforcement. He said he also would like to focus on economic development.
In other busines, the supervisors agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the Teamsters, which represents the Warren County Sheriff’s deputies.
“What that would allow us to do is give the sheriff a little more discretion on bringing in a previously certified or more qualified than-entry level employee in, at a little higher wages, within reason,” said Carico. “That would hopefully open up our recruiting pool.”
The board agreed to extend an extra 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave for employees who get sick with COVID-19 through March 31. The leave was implemented by federal law last year but expired at the end of 2020. Megan Andrew, board assistant, noted that many local governments, including the city of Indianola, are extending the option. They also agreed to keep a monitor on the main door to the building checking temperatures and offering masks through March 1.
But the board will hold off on allowing outside groups to use county facilities, at least a little longer. Supervisor Crystal McIntyre said two people had contacted her about resuming meeting in the county board room.
DeKock said he was concerned about trying to monitor those meetings for adherence to Governor Kim Reynolds’ emergency proclamations requiring social distancing and other rules for indoor gatherings.
“I just am a no vote through March 1 and maybe March 31,” he said. “Come back to this on March 15 or March 22.”
The board also appointed 16 people to various boards and commissions, including reappointing Ace Hendricks to the Warren County Conservation Board. Hendricks had served previously and requested reappointment. Two other people had applied as well. The other appointments were unopposed or had no applicants at all.
That left 20 open positions, with the bulk of them on the condemnation compensation committee, which requires seven people in each of four categories.
“What is the best way historically the county has filled those seats?” asked DeKock. “Is it supervisors picking up the phone and asking people they think they would be good at it?”
“That’s been part of it,” said Andrew, who said the application also is available on the county web site.