Board approves motor grader, talks mental health funding

The Jefferson County Supervisors met Monday to speak with county engineer Scott Cline about recent activity of the secondary road department, discuss dust control permits and to consider the purchase of new equipment.

Also discussed and considered were issues surrounding funding for mental health mandates rolled out by the state.


Road work

Cline reported that the county?s work included blading of gravel roads, fresh cutting and tree removal along right of ways, some rock hauling and a crossroad culvert was replaced near 230th Street. The road department also did some plowing on Saturday in northern areas of the county where snowfall approached 3 inches.

The board approved the purchase of a Caterpillar 12M3 Motor Grader for Fiscal Year 2019. The cost to the county is $241,502 and reflects a $32,000 trade-in value for an older piece of equipment. Graders are used in the construction and maintenance of unpaved roads and can be used to finish-grade a paved road before the pavement is applied.

Dust control

The board revisited last week?s discussion of dust control with Cline highlighting the importance of the permitting process in avoiding conflicts between county road work and private dust control activities.

?The reason to have the permit is that we go out ahead of time and we take care of that section of the road to make sure it?s serviceable. Then from the time they apply dust control in the beginning of the summer until about Oct. 15 when we need to get the roads ready for winter ... we try not to do anything to the road,? said Cline.

The application includes useful information including the relevant dates for the scheduling private dust control work and contact information for two private contractors which the county knows are serving Jefferson County this year.

The permit is free and the application is available on the county engineer?s web page, Applications are being accepted by the county engineer?s office from the start of April through May 1.


Mental health

Supervisor Lee Dimmitt led the board in a discussion about potential new state requirements for mental health services and a confluence of issues that would make funding them problematic. The requirements originate with Iowa legislation aiming to overhaul the state?s mental health core services. File 2456 passed the Iowa House and is pending in the Senate.

The legislation broadly addresses deficiencies in Iowa?s mental health services, but is unfunded by the state. The concern is that the state?s 14 mental health regions and their component counties will be expected to fund the new mandates.

Dimmitt laid out a bevy of concerns about funding the mandates including the state?s elimination of backfill funding of $125,000, state reductions of and changes to methodology for calculating property assessments, the pending $1 billion state income tax cut which makes it impossible for the state to fund the new services, state caps on levies and reimbursement issues with managed care organizations.



Dimmitt also cited what he believes is a mistaken population estimate for Jefferson County showing an increase of 2,579 since the 2010 census which creates a large additional expense when per capita funding requirements under the law are calculated.

Dimmitt explained that this estimate seems to ignore the departure of 1,000 pundits from Maharishi Vedic City who are counted in the 2010 census. It also ignores significantly lower enrollment in local schools both public and private and the fact that there has not been any commensurate building of new housing.

He also highlighted Iowa Code 25B.2, which clearly disallows unfunded mandates. This points to a potential legal challenge of the legislation which Dimmitt believes provides a foundation for the county to challenge the state to lawfully fund the new mandates.

?At what point do we as a county and we as a region step up and say we can?t do this? The money is just not there,? said Dimmitt.

Supervisors Dick Reed and Dee Sandquist were more circumspect on noncompliance and suggested building consensus with other Iowa counties that are similarly affected rather than going it alone.

?Local supervisors can start the noise on this, but it?s going to have to be the state legislators that get the wheels turning on it,? said Reed.

The legislation is currently pending action in the Iowa Senate.