Real estate issues dominated the Washington County Supervisors meeting Tuesday with unanimous approvals to sell a county-owned lot at 321 Main St., demolish the former county jail at 221 W 2nd …
Real estate issues dominated the Washington County Supervisors meeting Tuesday with unanimous approvals to sell a county-owned lot at 321 Main St., demolish the former county jail at 221 W 2nd Street, renew an office lease for the site, and set four architect interviews for the Orchard Hill remodeling project.
During public comment, county resident Wilfred Vittetoe suggested leaving the Main Street lot as a “green space” near the courthouse, asking that the administrative offices remain in the city’s downtown.
Washington Mayor Jaron Rosien also asked supervisors to consider the impact and cost of the move, noting moving to Orchard Hill would impact local business traffic resulting from courthouse business and courthouse employees. He asked them to consider the possible safety issues with increased traffic at the intersection of Lexington Blvd. and Highway 92. The site has seen a number of accidents, including a fatal one, he said. He also noted in the public hearing that the city may have an interest in the land for either housing or a parking lot.
During the hearing, it was noted the country purchased the property for $50,000 and paid $10,000 for asbestos removal and about $15,000 for demolition of the building on it. The board agreed to see bids with the highest one selected; however, they noted that at the bid opening, there would be an “auction” when the lower bidders could raise their bids, if so desired. Bid opening likely will be December 12, with official approval to come at next week’s meeting. It also was noted that the board reserves the right to reject all bids.
Following Monday’s board work session to review proposals from eight architects, there were “four well qualified” finalists selected, said Supervisor Marcus Fedler, adding all had wider experience in remodeling work. Interviews with the four were set for December 12 in the supervisors’ office, starting at 9:20 a.m. and concluding by 5 p.m.
Following another Public Hearing to demolish the former jail at 221 W. 2nd Street, the board okayed the razing that will include removing the radio tower on the site. It was noted that the building has been cleared of removable and salvageable items. A resolution approving the move and detailing when and how it will take place will be presented at next week’s meeting.
After learning that the lease with the Iowa Eighth Judicial District of the Department of Correctional Services for office space at 2175 Lexington Building 3 (Orchard Hill complex) had expired two months ago, but that the department continued making the monthly payments, the board renewed the lease to December 31, 2023. As noted by County Attorney John Gish, it is nearly identical to the previous one.
He also explained that if the Orchard Hill project progresses, the courthouse office will be for judicial services, including probation services now at Building 3. He added that the department “is on board” with the proposed change.
In other business, the board:
•Accepted the low bid of $64,433.30 from Iowa Plains Signage, Inc. for the Riverside Road Safety Milled Rumble Strip Project, for which the county received an $88,000 grant through the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. The strips will be installed on Riverside Road from G36 south to the Riverside city limits. Estimated cost was $98,000, and the unspent portion of the grit “will go back into the pot for other projects, which could be for our county or some other,” said County Engineer Jacob Thorius. It is part of the county’s five-year plan to conclude October 23, 2023. This project is entirely paid by federal funds. Other bids were $68,921.79 and $67,290.53.
•Approved purchase of a $235,988 road widener, for shoulders on paved roads, which will involve 28E agreements among six counties (Washington, Keokuk, Henry, Mahaska, Lee and Clinton). As a result, cost for each county will be approximately $60,000. Washington will make the purchase and it will be used by the other five counties. Schedules for the various counties’ use will be arranged and each will be responsible for picking up and returning the unit.
•Learned that as long a “progress continues” the Brighton Volunteer Fire Department will continue services at the current level, reported Gish. He and the township trustees served by Brighton met November 22 to discuss issues between the townships and the department, noting another meeting was set for 6 p. m. Tuesday at the Washington courthouse.
•A meeting between the local Public Health director, the county attorney and the supervisors’ chairman with the director of the state Department of Human Services (which now includes the former separate state Department of Health) will be Friday, 2 p.m., in the courthouse to discuss children’s services and related matters since the mandated merger.