2-1 vote, as one supervisor warns that the general fund is starting to run thin
A $200,000 purchase of a property by the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors from Buena Vista University was passed with only two members voting to approve it Tuesday. The purchase of a storage building next to the site for the new County Jail and down the block from the courthouse annex will go ahead.
Supervisor Jim Gustafson cast the sole 'nay' vote after a closed session to discuss purchasing the plot of land with a tall storage building on it. Supervisors Lorna Burnside and Richard Vail were absent during the vote.
Chairman Bill Lanphere said he knew due to a closed session in a previous meeting that Burnside and Vail supported the idea. He said if their feelings had not been known, the vote on the property would have been held off until they could attend.
"The vote was two to one," Lanphere said. "If we waited for the others, it would have been four to one. I would not have let the vote go through if I thought it would be more contested."
Gustafson cited concerns about the low balance of the general fund, which will cover the purchase.
"Our general fund balance is pretty low," Gustafson said. "We have a 13 percent projected carryover to next year. I think this purchase will pull us down to below 10 percent."
Lanphere says the general fund always has more money in it at the end of a fiscal year than projected. He thinks the fund can handle the additional expense.
In addition to the property, the county will also have to purchase a generator for the building which has not been budgeted for.
The offer to purchase the building was made about a month ago when Sheriff Chuck Eddy approached BVU in April to purchase a small section of the land to use for the county's radio tower near the new law enforcement center. The university responded they would not sell the small parcel, but would sell the entire property. BVU is trying to consolidate its buildings into one area and plans to rebuild the storage building closer to campus at about the same cost as the county is paying for the existing building.
The Buena Vista County Assessors Office reported the value of the property is $195,610. Because the property is tax exempt, the assessor's office doesn't regularly assess the property's value. The value was listed in 2004.
"We need so much storage space," said Lanphere. "This will solve a lot of storage problems."
He says many offices in the courthouse are overflowing with file boxes and other items that need to be put somewhere. While the existing jail space will provide some additional storage and office space, and the county has obtained annex buildings, it still will not be enough, Lanphere said. He also said much of the sheriff's department's equipment and the county voting machines need to be stored properly. An added bonus is while the county cannot move into the building until November, the land can be used any time. It can hold excavated dirt from the jail construction site that will have to be replaced later, saving the cost of hauling.
"It is a natural," he said
While he says the building probably will fill the county's needs, Gustafson remains concerned the building was bought so quickly.
"I hope we didn't get stampeded into buying something too fast," Gustafson said.
Also discussed at the meeting was whether the county should issue $4.8 million in bonds meant to finance the new jail before bids come in to collect more interest or play it safe and wait.
During Tuesday's meeting, with engineers predicting the bids are going to come in on budget but only just, the board questioned whether it is a good idea to issue bonds before seeing final bids for the new jail. Figures indicate the county can earn more interest on the bond money than the interest it has to pay for borrowing the money. If the bonds are put into an account soon, estimates show the county will earn about $30,000 in interest.
Lorna Burnside said if the county had issued the bonds in January, the county could have seen close to a $200,000 windfall. Lanphere agrees. "We should have issued the bonds in January," he said.
With the cost of issuing bonds limiting the county to issuing only once for the jail project, the board had wanted to make sure bids would not come in higher than anticipated, leaving the county short of funds to complete the jail.
An hour has been set aside during the May 30 meeting to discuss the issue. The board hopes to get input from several employees working on the project before making its decision.
In other business, the board:
- heard a proposal from two bicycle enthusiasts who need a sponsor of 25 percent of a $325,000 project to install bike trails along both sides of C65, the blacktop by the Storm Lake Airport. Lanphere called the projected figure "obscene." No action was taken.
- heard a request from U.S. BioDiesel to vacate a railroad crossing north of Albert City to aid in railroad service to the new biodiesel plant and agricultural businesses in the area.
- approved in concept a plan by the Buena Vista County Sheriff's Department to purchase cellular phones for deputies and deduct $10 from the deputies' paychecks each month to pay for the service, allowing the deputies to use the phones for personal reasons as well as business.