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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Liveblog redux

I posted the link to this liveblog earlier, but thought people might enjoy scrolling through here. It’s a liveblog of the supervisors’ 10 a.m. Wednesday meeting, their weekly formal session. (It’s pretty long, but now it’s searchable.)

10:01 Meeting is beginning now. Rogers, Barron and Langston are here. Oleson joining by phone. Houser absent.

10:03 Please ask questions and leave comments. I may not be able to answer them all, but will do my best. Follow Linn County government every day at http://www.belzinthecounty.wordpress.com

10:05 Public comment, one taker. Marjorie Clemens of Cedar Rapids asked if there is a response from Westdale on today’s agenda. Barron said yes, it’s coming up later.

10:07 Les Beck, head of planning and development, is asking the board to approve the local match for FEMA’s buyout program for properties in rural Linn County.

10:08 There are 17 properties to be bought out. 75 percent paid for by feds, 10 percent paid for by state, and 15 percent paid for by the county. That’s $330,000, about.

10:08 [Comment From Guest]
So Westdale HAS responded to their latest request?

10:09 Westdale had not responded as of yesterday. But no response is the same as a response, since the county asked for a response by Monday. Now they will “discuss and provide direction to staff on relocation of county services and offices.” I’m guessing if there was a response yesterday afternoon or this morning, it was not a satisfactory one for the supervisors.

10:09 [Comment From Guest]
Do you know if Linn County got a response from westdale? I know they hadn’t by the deadline EOB Monday..

10:10 The board approves the local match for buyouts, and the application for funding from FEMA.

10:10 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Well, this should be interesting…

10:10 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Any description of where these rural properties were?

10:11 No, not really. As far as I know, they’re spread out through the county.

10:11 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
I don’t understand how the BOS can expect an answer in 6 days when they didn’t correspond with the Westdale owners in 45 days.

10:12 Concerned Citizen, that opinion is shared by many others.

10:13 Now board is talking about suspension of property taxes for a handful of disabled folks. “I’m wondering if you can work with Gary (Jarvis) or whoever would be appropriate… putting together some kind of policy” on tax suspensions, Langston said.

10:14 Board approves continuing to suspend taxes for an undetermined number of people with disabilities and other problems.

10:14 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
In my opinion, it is just another ploy to sabotage the process.

10:14 What’s the ploy, Slacking?

10:14 Board is now discussing appropriations to rural libraries, with Mike Goldberg.

10:15 Breezing through this agenda. Next will be Westdale.

10:15 [Comment From Guest]
what is another ploy to sabatoge the proces?

10:16 Total appropriation for rural libraries is $429,000. “It’s below what the libraries would like,” Goldberg said, but it’s more than the state requires.

10:16 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
giving them 6 days to respond

10:16 Copy. Understood.

10:16 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
the Hazard mititgation was discussed yesterday- there are 17 properties they are mitigating for

10:17 Where were the properties, Ruth? Did they say?

10:17 [Comment From County Employee]
Concerned – It’s all about time. If we are to move all the Westdale offices by end of April then we need time for construction, wiring, getting T1 connections reestablished etc. I don’t necessarily agree witht ehprocess but 3 months time isn’t a lot to move several offices.

10:17 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
How long is Goldberg going to be a part of the BOS? I thought he took a new position elsewhere.

10:18 Goldberg was hoping to switch over to Emergency Management Feb. 1. It might be delayed a little, but not by much.

10:18 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
they were not specific but a copy of the hazard mitigation application is open to the public

10:18 Where is it?

10:18 [Comment From County Employee]
Goldberg starts new position on Feb 2

10:18 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
County Employee – I completely agree with the concerns you brought up, but don’t you thing the BOS should have thought about that before they ignored the communications with the Mall Owners?

10:19 Westdale received the letter — that’s confirmed — but still no response from Westdale, Goldberg said. “We’re working under the presumption, pretty firm at this point, that the leases will not be extended,” Goldberg said.

10:20 Either we reoccupy the AOB, or find new rental space, Goldberg says.

10:20 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
The inaction by the 3 incumbents torpedoed the whole thing from the get go..

10:20 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
why would Westdale dignify the letter with a response? They have made their terms clear.

10:21 Rogers: “Given that they have receipt of the letter, can we move from presumption to something concrete?”

Can you (Goldberg) or Jarvis call them? (Rogers asks.)

10:21 Jarvis says basically no need.

10:22 Langston: “I appreciate the letter piece, but I agree with Ben.”

10:22 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
Houser mentioned at a meeting last week before they sent the letter to Westdale that they already had potentially found new space

10:22 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Cant wait for Joel’s blog response

10:22 [Comment From Oounty Employee]
I couldn’t agree with you more but that is in the past they burndt their own bridge. Now we need to look forward and make this the smootest tranistion for the people of Linn County. we can’t afford to be closed for another week while we get thigs ready.

10:22 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
I don’t think their phones work. As brought up by Joel Miller, they haven’t ever called them.

10:23 Goldberg says he’ll pursue it.

10:23 Goldberg’s recommendation is to look for “alternative lease space.”

10:24 “I’d rather see us lease space at this time” than go back to the old AOB, Barron said. Langston agrees.

10:25 Rogers: “Is this secondary move going to be reimbursed by FEMA at all?”

Goldberg: We will find out.

10:26 Rogers: “Is the AOB even ready to be occupied again?”

Goldberg: “It would take about the 90 days we have to get it ready.”

10:26 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Jarvis says basically no need… My Lord.. I would say there is a pretty big need.

10:26 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Any word from Oleson from the phone?

10:26 Oleson’s call dropped.

10:26 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
I agree the emphasis needs to be on moving forward- but at some point we need to educate people so they can make informed decisions about the elected official. I don’t think we should throw the bums out but we need to hold them accountable

10:26 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
I wonder how much a move will cost the taxpayers

10:26 [Comment From County Employee]
From what I’ve heard is the county is looking at 3 possible new locations. No one will disclose where those spots are, that is what I was hoping ot find out.

10:26 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
adam- I assume Westdale is not amenable to the 24 month lease suggewsted by BOS

10:27 It’s not clear yet. But Goldberg and Jarvis would like us all to assume that they’re not amenable.

10:27 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
They promised to check on FEMA coverage two weeks ago at that Friday meeting when all the options were presented

10:27 Thanks for that good point, Ruth.

10:27 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
In the last meeting, Jarvis mentioned that he refused to authorize signing the confidentiatlity agreement, which torpedoed this whole process. Of course he doesn’t want to call. That would mean moving the process forward. That would be proactive, not in the BOS MO.

10:28 For those who don’t know, Gary Jarvis is the assistant county attorney, and legal adviser to the board.

10:28 Langston moves to direct staff to look for new space to lease and “concurrently definitively resolve” question of whether Westdale will extend county’s leases.

10:29 Motion seconded and passed with three ayes.

10:29 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Oh it just keeps getting better! How have they NOT checked with move coverage by FEMA?

10:29 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
Joel is in Des Moines with Brent – if they don’t have an answer from FEMA I can only assume they didn’t ask

10:30 Langston is lauding county employees for their hard work under uncertain circumstances.

10:30 [Comment From Guest]
ok what does that even mean? “concurrently definitively resolve”??

10:31 It means, while they’re looking for space, they need to make sure they get a clear answer from Westdale’s owners, preferably over the phone.

10:31 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
shouldn’t adjusters international have looked into that before they presented the design boards? It would be a questions the BOS would be sure to ask.

10:31 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
I have spoken with FEMA as a concerned citizen. They indicated to me that the cost would not be covered. Unless they make an exception I am not sure how it would be.

10:31 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
While looking for space, a the same time to get a definitive response from Westdale.

10:31 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
I applaud the county workers as well. I just don’t include the original 3 BOS (ie Langston) as bein a “worker”

10:32 What are the key questions right now, folks?

I can think of at least one: Will moving to new office space be covered by a FEMA reimbursement? How much will it cost the county?

10:32 Discussion moves on to local option sales tax.

10:32 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
the issue is that we need to get more ordinary citizens involved in governance on a regular basis- not just when an issue directly involves them

10:33 Langston saying county has a $3 million shortfall (thanks to jail being closed, not producing revenue), she doesn’t want to raise property taxes, and “we have some very immediate needs” and we need to balance the budget.

10:33 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
It should be how much will the lack of decision by the BOS will cost the CITIZENS of Linn County.

10:34 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
Key Questions- set a time frame for contacting FEMa and getting an answer- by next Wed for example. Give direction to Gary to send a certified letter to Cushman Wakefield stating that they are requesting a written answer or matter of 24 month lease so that the people can see it

10:35 They’re calling Oleson again, ’cause he wants to get in on the local option sales tax discussion.

10:36 “I’m very disappointed in the Senate Republicans 32-18 vote yesterday.” He’s glad it passed, disappointed in Republicans for opposing it.

10:36 (Oleson’s on the way to Des Moines, like someone said earlier.)

10:38 Langston wants to address revenue shortfalls first.

10:38 As well as other unforeseen flood recovery costs, and roads and bridges.

10:39 Curt Zingula and Bernita Rozinek asked for roads and bridges to be l.o.s.t. priority.

10:39 (that was last week)

10:39 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
I am going on record that I am supporting REpublican requests

10:39 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
The dems are asking for a blank check- not reasonable – there is no sunset in the legislation and there is nothing that indicates it must be spent on flood related projects

10:40 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
if you listened to the amendments put forward the R’s were not opposing the bill. They were asking for accountability( don’t believe I am siding with Republicans but they got it right this time

10:40 Rogers wants to discuss property tax valuations.

10:41 Rogers: What’s the deadlines for property valuations to be ready?

10:41 Guy from auditor’s office: ASAP, but not sure.

10:42 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
I believe- Kay already mentioned that the LOST tax would go to something having to do with property tazes which I did not understand- help me out Adam

10:43 I’m not sure what that means.

10:43 Perhaps a LOST brings property tax relief?

10:44 Cities haven’t gotten the valuations from the county auditor’s office yet. Auditor’s office explains that flood caused IT problems/challenges.

10:45 Rogers: “This is a history, and the cities almost expect them to be late.” (By law, auditor’s office must have reports done by Jan.1, Rogers said.)

10:45 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
The budget short fall is probably because the Freeway Lounge was flooded. I am sure the County was counting on the bar income…since they are the landlords there.

10:45 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
‘Other unforseen flood related costs’ = the cost of moving from Westdale to another likely temporary location, that we will have to move from again, costing more money.

10:45 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
topic for a differnt time- don’t wna tto distract you

10:47 Auditor’s Office Guy: “I think we do a heck of a job, with the software that we have, with the TIF districts that we have,” he said. (I’ll try to get his name.) He disagrees that they’re customarily late. His name is Gordon Thompson.

10:48 Shoop: Wants to know what Rogers wants from Joel Miller that he can’t get from Thompson.

10:48 Rogers: When will the valuations be done? When did Joel know that the valuations would be late?

10:49 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Rogers seems to be gunning for the Auditors office on that point… its not the first time its been mentioned.

10:49 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
My guess… Ben is the incumbent-3 lackey to fight back at Joel. Dont underestimate the pettiness of politics

10:49 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
I really enjoy this live blog. I just wish that some of the BOS would read the transcripts from this. We are citizens with an opinion that have to be at work during these meetings.

10:49 [Comment From Guest]
I see a battle brewing between Joel and BOS- that is my unofficial observation

10:50 Brewing? My unofficial observation is that it’s done been brewed.

10:50 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
The battle is because Joel has an intelligent opinion and isn’t afraid to voice it.

10:50 [Comment From billybob]
whatcha ya’ll talk’in bout?

10:51 The Board of Supervisors. County government.

10:51 [Comment From Guest]
there were statements made to the effect by some that indicated that if Joel was going to try to embarass them that there would be more of the same from them-

10:52 Discussion about property tax valuations is ongoing. A lot of sympathy going out to the IT and Auditor’s Office. Still not clear what the root problem is. Glad Rogers brought this up in a public meeting.

10:52 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
Wamn’

10:53 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
I think that is the Blagojevic defense.

10:53 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
Sorry all…the Wamn’ was a typo oops

10:53 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
Guest.. exactly. There will be more of this sniping from Ben toward the Auditor’s office.. Its all behind the scenes ridiculousness

10:53 [Comment From x]
xx

10:53 [Comment From Guest]
For valuations- do they rely on FEMA’s info as to when a home was deemed susbstantially damaged

10:54 No, they’re talking about property valuations to set property taxes for the small towns in Linn — Hiawatha, Fairfax, etc.

10:54 [Comment From Guest]
my fear is that they will highball the valuations for tax purposes but then reevaluate in time for the city to buy out the properties.

10:57 Now the board is talking about long-term goals. Oops. Nope, Goldberg asks the board to delay the discussion until another meeting, because they don’t have enough time.

10:57 [Comment From Guest]
thanks for the clarification

10:57 [Comment From Ruth Hart]
sorry I forgot to sign my posts

10:58 [Comment From Concerned Citizen]
They never have enough time to discuss important issues…like Goldberg calling FEMA.

10:58 They also want Oleson and Houser to be here when they adopt long-term goals.

10:59 [Comment From Positive Citizens]
That does make sense? Is this Goldberg’s last meeting?

10:59 [Comment From SlackingAtWork]
heaven for bid they have a meeting that runs late

11:00 Yes, it was Goldberg’s last meeting. I’ve got to jump into the fray. Meeting over. Thanks all for participating. Have a good day.

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Filed under: County Government, ,

2 Responses

  1. […] was packed with people. I don’t want you to think I blew off a BOS meeting on a whim.   Click here to see a live blog of that […]

  2. DemGoddess says:

    I for one am proud of the BOS’s thinking behind declining to buy Westdale. Think about this…purchase price 18.5 mill.. renovations (long overdue) 20 mill… major tenants left: Younkers and JC Penny’s (both trying to get out of their leases before end of 2nd or 3rd quarter)… since the county and city offices have been there only 2 new stores (small shops-seasonal) have opened while others have left (Bishops and 2-3 more)…. doesnt sound promising to me…how bout you?? IS that how you want your money spent in this down economy, renovating a mall that has been listed on a national site of “Dead” malls for the last 3 years….

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