County Board Chair John Meyers provided the following State of the County Address at the Iowa County Board meeting on August 21, 2018.
State of the County Address
Welcome to the Third Annual “State of the County Address”. Every year, I, as County Board Chair present to you the County of Iowa, our governmental state of Affairs in hopes to recap where we have been and what we hope to accomplish moving forward into 2019.
In April of this year, we seated a new Board for a 2 year term, which included 11 new members. This Board has proven to be energetic, inquisitive, thoughtful, and well prepared. For this I am thankful. The County is in good hands.
Prior to seating this new Board we were focused on improving infra structure- Roads and Bridges, Jail, and a senior care facility. We continue to work on these items. We also work on improving our tax base by encouraging sensible County wide growth and expansion in alternative energy.
Fiscally the County is in good shape. We have an Aa2 bond rating, and very low debt right now. Our borrowing capacity stands at $100 million +.
Vortex is online and operating in Barneveld. There is new and future development in the Dodgeville business park and in the Arena business park as well. We encourage other communities to do the same. The economic development has increased our ability to levy through net new construction additions as well as proving jobs for the residents. The proposed Badger Hollow Solar Farm would have the potential to add almost $1 million in shared revenues to the County income. Shared revenues are paid to the townships too.
Last year the County became a leader in the development of Broadband by signing on as a Broadband Forward County. We have received 2 out of the 3 grants that we jointly applied for with providers. We will continue to make applications. Meanwhile Bug Tussel has been active in the state as well as our county. They develop towers to provide service to rural areas. It is a process that will take a while. Progress is being made.
We will continue to look for sources of income and cost share funds for roads and bridges. We would like to continue updating our fleet of trucks, equipment, and service vehicles. Airport is about to embark on a runway update that is badly needed. They will use mostly grants and a little county money. This should have no effect on tax levy. Land Conservation continues the good work of the County promoting good farming and land practices
HHS and Health Dept.
Besides keeping up with the health, welfare, and funding needs of our county residents, and also vaccinations, inspections, and health issues, a fairly new coalition of community health leaders has been working hard to learn and form an alliance. I think this will become a useful tool moving forward. That is a partnership between Substance Abuse Coalition and the Mental Health Coalition. This group will be key in helping to heal our community from the effects of substance abuse and mental health. If we ever win the class action lawsuit over the abuse of opiates, we can put money towards healing our residents from this devastating problem.
Law Enforcement and Judicial
The County Courthouse remodel has proved to work well and recent scanner install is almost complete. We continue to work on the Jail improvements. Many decisions have been put forth by the Jail Committee. This committee is very diversely talented and they have considered many options. They will continue to bring in expert advice as needed. We recently transitioned to a stipend compensation plan for the Bailiff’s and this should provide greater stability and safety. The Bailiff’s were also placed under the Sheriff’s budget in 2018. We also had an additional graduate of the substance abuse program earlier this month.
Iowa County continues to support Bloomfield, but have our eye on senior care into the future as it evolves. We are working with UHH to develop and plan that will meet those needs well into the future. This would include a new nonprofit which would operate the facility utilizing county bed licenses. This business would provide a much broader spectrum of care. It will keep jobs local and provide local services for residents and their loved ones. The Senior Living 2020 Committee will begin looking at legal agreements and what the Nursing Home merger process will look like.
Our many departments/employees exhibit a great work ethic and have the knowledge to innovate and secure funds through grants. If you look on the economic development page of the new County website, introduced in 2018, you will find a historical record on the amount of grants Iowa County receives. It is a testament to our senior staff and our employees to be working on grant support for so many of our services.
It is always busy here with new hires and retirements, but we are solid in this department. We need to review our health plan annually and stay current on wage scale. The present economy will encourage inflation in wages. It is a shrinking workforce out there and competition for employees is fierce. We must stay committed to fully fund our wage study. This year we implemented partial self-insured Workman’s compensation. This is going well right now, but we need to maintain a safe work environment. Tonight we look at the revised, and updated Policy Books 100 to 600, and introduce 700 to 1300. Many staff hours and committee hours went into this.
New Department Heads:
Tonight we appointed a new Bloomfield Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center Administrator. I know that Rochelle will be a great fit on our management team!
I am not going to pretend our budget is in dire straits; we aren’t.
Iowa County has a fully funded General Fund balance and is increasingly investing funds into our capital projects and infrastructure. We have also been seeing higher fee revenue, sales tax revenue, and the County’s Net New Construction has occurred at a stable 1.56% growth. 2018 levy was $11,511,675. As a county, things are good.
But we have deficiencies and challenges ahead. We must have the courage to do what is best for the long term health of the County for services, infrastructure, and fiscal strength.