Two current Dallas County Supervisors and former supervisor Bob Okerman of Adel agree that the county’s many departments and services are bursting at the seams and that more space is needed — they just do not see eye- to-eye on how to go about gaining more space with more efficiency.
"When I was on the board, we started looking at sites at that time, but the other two supervisors didn’t want to move forward from just looking," said Okerman, who serves as chairman for Taxpayers for Responsible Spending, an ad-hoc committee for people working to defeat a $16.85 million bond issue to build a new county administration and jail building two miles of downtown Adel and just up the hill. While the total estimated cost is $22.5 million, the supervisors already have the remaining cost in a fund they started for building purposes. Although the location of the Ortonville site seems quite rural, the 40-acre site is within the city limits.
"Residents already voted to let the supervisors spend $10 million on a bond issue for the court house when it needed to be renovated," Ockerman said. "It was our expectation that the supervisors would be keeping county government in downtown Adel."
Supervisor Brad Golightly of rural Perry said he has been on the board for 11 years and the need to expand and someday build a new building has been a top point of discussion for a long time. He knows how Perry residents feel about the distance it takes to get to Adel for many county services, and that the new building that would be paid for with the bond issue if it passes would be a couple miles further away. However, Golightly said also believes that residents of the greater Perry area who live in Dallas County understand the overwhelming need to build a new building.
"They want to have a decent place to come and do their county business," he stated. "This way, they could come and complete most of their county business in one building."
During the Monday night Perry City Council meeting, Council member Phil Stone urged Perry residents to read about and understand the county bond issue. After the meeting, Stone declined to give an opinion or advice on how people in the Perry area should vote on the issue.
Perry City Council members have expressed some frustration with the supervisors on some specific issues, such as providing the Perry Police Department dispatch with more monetary support. Perry provides backup communication when the county dispatch system goes down. That has happened at least two times in the last six months in one form or another.
That issue, however, is not related to the bond issue.
An informational meeting in Perry was poorly attended, with about as many county officials there as Perry residents.
Perry Mayor Jay Pattee said it is not the city council’s role to take a position on a county bond issue, adding that the city must continue to work closely with the supervisors on things that are needed for Perry and on such items as the bike trails.
Ockerman argues that keeping a presence in downtown Adel is important, and that services would still be centrally located. "It is not that we don’t need it…, but the supervisors have not done due diligence in looking at what is possible downtown. They haven’t sat down and looked at the actual costs. Much of what they do is on assumption," he said.
The taxpayer group he represents has done enough fundraising – about $800 – that they will be able to do some "vote no" advertising on the bond issue.
Supervisors say they have looked at the options, which included some land owned by the school, and a couple of other locations, but decided against them because of lack of parking, lack of ability to expand with the county population and in turn county services.
Dallas County is one of the fastest growing counties in Iowa and among the fastest growing in the nation.
In an editorial meeting with The Perry Chief on Monday, Supervisor Mark Hanson noted that the county’s population has grown from 40,000 according to the 2000 Census, to a population of about 72,000 residents. No one had expected or predicted that rate of growth.
One of the main looming issues directly tied to population is the requirement for the county to add space for an additional judge in the Fifth Judicial District Court when the population reaches 80,000. With the current rate of growth, that number will most likely be reached before the next Census, county officials said during the editorial meeting. Present at the meeting in addition to Hanson were Treasurer Darrell Baumen, Recorder Chad Airhart and project architect Jerry Purdy. Baumen noted that he handlers the driver’s license and motor vehicles offices. In the past year there were 23,000 driver’s license and ID cards issued through his office. "That puts us up there a month the top 10 busiest DOT stations in the state, and certainly No. 1 among counties in Iowa," he said. "The office operates with 700 square feet, while a DOT license station that size handles the same volume would be 3,000-3,500 square feet.
The plan if the bond passes is to move the administrative offices now housed in the Dallas County Courthouse in the middle of downtown Adel, and move those offices all to the new building. That would allow the Courthouse to be used almost entirely for the court system.
Bauman and Airhart pointed out the lack of space, causing and two departments, the auditor and the recorder to be split between two different buildings.
Currently, the county owns four downtown buildings in Adel – the Courthouse, the Jail, 902 Court Avenue and 121 N. Ninth St. In addition, the county rents four buildings
Hanson said supervisors will vacate the four buildings they now rent downtown, which will mean a savings of more than $205,000 a year in rent alone, Hanson said.
Golightly urged constituents to vote early by going into the auditor’s office ahead of the election, or requesting an absentee ballot.