Supervisors officially choose site for law enforcement center

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


Henry County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to build the new county law enforcement center/jail on current state-owned land northwest of the former Mt. Pleasant Mental Health Institute.

Supervisors learned late last month that the 6.2-acre plot of land may be available. Upon hearing that, the site quickly became the favored location of the board for the jail, largely because of obstacles, such as site preparation, presented by other possible locations. In a meeting Oct. 6 in Des Moines, the Iowa Board of Corrections unanimously voted to deed the land to Henry County.

One of the major reasons behind the state?s approval of the land sale is the possibility of the state and county sharing services between the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility and the county jail. Some of those services may include food service and maintenance of the grounds.

It still is not known if or what sum the county will have to pay for the land. The county has agreed to pay for the survey and update of the abstract.

Ballot language for the Aug. 1 election in which county voters overwhelmingly approved a $9.1 bond referendum for a law enforcement center and jail did not list a specific location for the facility.

In a corresponding matter, supervisors awarded a contract to Warner Engineering Associates of Mt. Pleasant for surveying, a topographic survey and civil engineering at the new law enforcement center site. Two proposals were received for the work. Warner?s cost was $10,300 while French-Reneker-Associates of Fairfield?s proposal included a cost of $22,800.

Construction manager John Hansen of Midwest Construction Consultants of Houghton said he thought Warner?s asking price was very reasonable. ?I asked Jim (Warner, owner of the firm) why his price was so reasonable and he said, ?It?s simple and a block away from my office.??

Hansen said he had no explanation in the wide discrepancy of proposal prices.

?So far, the plans are for a 25,000 square-foot facility, but we would like to cut about 5,000 square feet from it,? Hansen explained. ?Everything is going very well, and I would like to have the plans done by mid-February,? Hansen said.

He hopes to have the surveying completed in early November and most of the civil engineering work completed by Dec. 15.

Much of that work may be completed before the county officially has possession of the land. ?We may not have possession of the land until the second week of December,? remarked Supervisor Greg Moeller.

County Engineer Jake Hotchkiss, delivering his weekly report to supervisors, said the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) is applying epoxy to the asphalt overlay on the deck of the Oakland Mills bridge with work continuing for three or four days. During that time, traffic over the bridge will be limited to one lane with flaggers. Hotchkiss said the work couldn?t be done this summer when the abutments to the bridge were being repaired because the deck could not be worked on simultaneously.

?IDOT has been doing this for several years and it is fairly new technology,? Hotchkiss explained. ?Having the IDOT do it will save us money. It will keep the overlay from deteriorating and extend the life of the bridge.?

The engineer said secondary roads workers have been busy preparing county roads for winter. The shoulder pull project on Agency Road has been suspended in lieu of the winter preparation of county roads. ?We have about two miles left and will finish it this fall if we have time. If not, we will get it done in the spring.?

In an informational item, Henry County Auditor Shelly Barber told supervisors that all but two claims against the former City of Mt. Union have been paid by the Iowa City Development Board. One of the claims is the balance (approximately $20,000) of a loan to Iowa State Bank for the community building.

Barber said the other outstanding claim is a defamation of character lawsuit filed by Dan Johnson and Linda Johnson against the board (originally, it was filed against the City of Mt. Union). Dan Johnson is seeking $200,000, and Linda Johnson is asking for $50,000. Dan Johnson is a former mayor of Mt. Union and Linda Johnson served as city clerk.

Supervisors meet again in regular session tomorrow (Thurs.) at 9 a.m. in the courthouse.