County departments face weather-related challenges

Henry County FY20 budget hearing Feb. 26

Icy, snow-covered roads are causing inconveniences not only for residents, but for county departments.

During a Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, Feb. 7, directors updated supervisors on what is going on in their departments.

Jake Hotchkiss, Henry County engineer, said that gravel roads are getting “really bad.” If people do have to be out, Hotchkiss urged them not to drive on gravel roads if at all possible.

“All of southeast Iowa got nailed again last night. That’s two days in a row of (ice),” Hotchkiss said.

The Roads Department is working 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. to get ice and “grab whatever we can” to get roads drivable, Hotchkiss said.

Hotchkiss said the staff at the Roads Department is doing an excellent job and is “very selfless.” They were out running equipment for 23 straight days, and while yes, they get overtime pay for that work, they miss being with their families, Hotchkiss said.

“They deserve a lot of respect,” Hotchkiss said.

Weather is also “wreaking havoc” on drive test schedules, said Henry County treasurer Ana Lair.

Lair said they have rescheduled drive tests because while the highways might be cleared, drive tests entail driving on side streets too.

“It’s been interesting,” Lair said.

Lair also said the Treasurer’s Office has mailed out Iowa Property Tax Credit forms and Iowa Mobile Manufactured Modular Homeowner forms. These are emailed to residents who have previously filed for or requested a form during the year.

“There are surely folks out there who would qualify who we’re not touching,” Lair said.

To be eligible for property tax credit or reduced mobile home tax rate, Lair said a person’s income had to be less than $23,316 in 2018. Anyone interested in the program can contact the Henry County Treasurer’s Office or find forms online at the Iowa Department of Revenue.

“There is assistance out there for folks who have a reduced income. It’s just getting them into the proper hands,” Lair said.

Walt Jackson, director of Henry County Emergency Management, said weather is a high priority right now.

Jackson has been receiving multiple National Weather Service updates daily, which he shares with the Henry County Roads Department, law enforcement and fire departments. Jackson also sends the notifications to churches, so they can make decisions such as whether or not to have youth group, he said.

In other news, a budget hearing is set for Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 10 a.m. in the courthouse.

Supervisor Marc Lindeen said they received more requests than ever during budget presentations this year.

“Taking that crystal ball and looking at next year, it doesn’t look good for us without drastic, drastic tax increases,” Lindeen said. “I think we’ve done an excellent job this year with what was given us and what we returned to the county.”