The Fremont County Board of Supervisors heard from Carol and Dean Doty of Bartlett during its Sept. 2 meeting about the need for flood recovery assistance in Bartlett.
Carol told the supervisors there were several issues they had questions about, including tax relief, the demolition program, 14-foot-tall weeds, abandoned properties, rough roads and spoiled grain in exploded bins.
Carol noted they had talked to the Fremont County Treasurer’s Department about property tax relief. She said their house in Bartlett was washed off its foundation during the flooding, and they had questioned why they had to pay the normal taxes and were told that was because taxes run a year behind.
She said if things had gone better for the county, they would have had their house torn down a year ago, especially with the expected demolition program. She added that Dean had worked on tearing down the house on his own and was nearly there, and asked if the supervisors could cut them any kind of break on taxes.
Supervisor Dustin Sheldon agreed the property tax they were paying now was retroactive to Jan. 1, of 2019, so a pre-flood tax. He told them next year taxes should show a difference in property value, so should be lower.
Sheldon explained the reason the county had to wait so long on the demolition program was because they had had trouble getting reimbursements from FEMA, particularly for debris removal. Sheldon told them FEMA was now saying they wouldn’t pay for that contract, and with that much trouble getting reimbursement for that, the county couldn’t afford to participate in the demolition program, and then get stuck with that total bill, too.
When Dean told the supervisors it would have been nice to know 18 months ago that the county wasn’t going to participate in the demolition program, Sheldon explained the supervisors didn’t know themselves, and until about 30 days ago thought everything was a go.
“Now debris removal was one bad investment,” Sheldon said. “We can’t afford to make another bad investment in demolition.”
Supervisor Randy Hickey noted the supervisors had also been advised by the Deputy County Attorney that FEMA might not pay for demolition anyway, as the structures were still standing a year later.
Supervisor Terry Graham said they had just learned that several properties on the buyout list had been listed as having historical value, and now FEMA said the county would have to pay for historical reports on these properties or they wouldn’t pay for the buyout.
Carol told the supervisors she didn’t know if they had been to Bartlett recently, but where they had 14 feet of water, they now had 14 feet of weeds. She indicated most of that was on abandoned properties, and said those who had decided to stay in Bartlett after the flood had been doing their best to clean the town up, but they didn’t know what to do with the properties owned by other people and hoped the county could do something with them.
Sheldon told the Dotys the county could not legally go in on private properties to do anything about the weeds. He said the county would have to do a nuisance action, which would take at least 60 days.
The Dotys said there was a party who had indicated he might be willing to spray the weeds for the town. Sheldon told them if they had someone lined up who was willing to spray the weeds on his own liability risk, they were better off going with that. Graham suggested they get signed permission from any property owners before they did anything on someone else’s property.
The Dotys indicated there were also issues with the streets, particularly Western Avenue, being extremely rough yet, or even having exposed wires. Sheldon noted he had driven on roads in Bartlett and agreed they were rough, especially the railroad crossing. He told them, though, that the railroad crossing was completely out of the county’s hands, and that had been the big holdup on getting Waubonsie Avenue open in the first place. He suggested it might be spring before the railroad finished their work and the DOT was satisfied.
Carol mentioned there was a grain bin that was evidently full when the flood happened and blew it open, and said now the whole town stinks like sour corn. She was concerned there was a mold and health hazard, and was certain it was an eyesore. The supervisors told them if it was on private property, that was also the owner’s responsibility and cleanup was out of the county’s hands. They suggested it might be something they could send a letter to the owner about, though, as a nuisance and health hazard.
Doug Friedli, Hometown Pride coach, also spoke to the supervisors about the town’s issues, saying any help the people could get they would take, whether it was cleaning up the road, getting weeds cut down in ditches, providing dumpsters, volunteers coming in for weekend cleanups or donating time with a maintainer or heavy equipment to push in houses; anything would help.
Graham told Friedli and the Dotys he understood the hardship Bartlett was going through, and Sheldon thanked them for taking pride in and wanting to take care of the place they lived.
Dan Davis, Fremont county engineer, talked to the supervisors about discussions underway with FEMA regarding road repairs and his hope that at least some of them should get reimbursed. Davis told the supervisors property taxes coming in should be enough to keep the roads department in good shape going into winter. He added that road taxes should go back up a little soon, too.
Fremont County Auditor Dee Owen asked for and received supervisor approval of a resolution requesting reimbursement from the Iowa COVID-19 Government Relief Fund for COVID-related expenses. Owen said this resolution would cover the period of March 1 through July 31 and was for the amount of $14,427.40, and another resolution would have to be passed for reimbursement for subsequent months.
Along the same lines was a HAVA CARES grant agreement Owen asked the supervisors to approve. She explained this was extra funding available for election expenses that wouldn’t normally occur but were an issue this year due to COVID-19. Owen said they received this in June for the primary election. She said postage was way over the normal amount for that election due to the pandemic, and she expected it would be for this election, too.
Owen said she wanted to purchase a high speed vote tabulator for absentee votes because she expected a huge turnout for this election. She added that funds could also be used for cleaning election supplies and polling places. Owen added that $13,600 was pre-approved and that she fully expected the county would go over that amount in unusual expenses and have to cover the rest. The supervisors approved application for the HAVA CARES funding.
In other business, the supervisors approved:
•Signing a work in right-of-way permit for Tom Lorimor to clean out the ditch on 320th Ave North of 182nd St.
•Signing two work in right-of-way applications for Windstream Iowa Communications, LLC for underground construction at 2107 290th Ave., .85 miles southeast of Sidney and from 2075 to 2087 292nd Ave., 1.5 miles east of Sidney.
•Accepting the bid of $313,736.50 by Cunningham Reis LLC of VanMeter for the 260th Street bridge repair project
•Accepting the bid of Iowa Plains Signing Inc. for $131,771.95 to do all of the 2021 road striping in the county.
•Withdrawal of Nishnabotna Watershed CDBG grant funds in the amount of $19,805.
•Signing an Official National Voter Registration Month Proclamation declaring September to be national voter registration month.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!