Local Leaders Discuss Option Sales Tax And County Engineer Hiring Process Print
User Rating: / 4
Saturday, 08 March 2014 07:39

Local leaders discussed the local option sales tax and the county engineer hiring process on Saturday morning at 'Eggs & Issues.'

Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock, Mahaska County Supervisor Mike Vander Molen, Mahaska Health Partnership CEO Jay Christensen, and Blue Zones Project Community Program Manager Natalie Spray spoke at the forum that lasted an hour.

Councilman Tom Walling commented on the importance of the local option sales tax, which is a special purpose tax levied at the city or county level used for specific projects. That prompted a discussion.

"The council’s committed to making sure there are results," Schrock said. "The local option tax has been a significant revenue for us."

Schrock said the local option sales tax generates about a million dollars per year for the city, and has helped fund improvements on South 7th Street and 3rd Avenue East.

Oskaloosa resident Bob Morris asked how the city is approaching road repairs, and asked about the status of the northwest bypass on U.S. Highway 63.

Schrock said the council has authorized additional money for road repairs, and added that roads are evaluated by the city's engineers each year.

In regards to the bypass on U.S. Highway 63, Schrock said the project is still being evaluated by the Iowa Department of Transportation, but expects it to continue moving forward.

University Park Mayor George Toubekis asked how the county engineer hiring process is coming along. 

"We've received a couple of resumes," Vander Molen said. "We'll do an evaluation process."

Current County Engineer Jerry Nusbaum submitted his letter of resignation to the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors this past week. Nusbaum originally requested a six-month extension on a Jan. 20 supervisors meeting. However, the board did not address his request and Nusbaum decided to submit his resignation. 

Nusbaum has held the county engineer position for 12 years. He's currently on a one-year contract that expires on June 30. Nusbaum proposed his one-year contract extension on a July 16, 2012 board of supervisors meeting. At the time, Nusbaum had completed 10 out of 12 chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer. Now, Nusbaum is cancer-free.

Vander Molen asked the moderator, Oskaloosa Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt, if there was anything he wanted to see happen throughout the evaluation process. 

"I’ve had some conversations, from time to time, with (Supervisor) Mark Doland. I wanted to see that search go nationwide," Krutzfeldt said.

Vander Molen said the county engineer has to have an Iowa engineer license, which is why opening it up to a nationwide search is difficult. Vander Molen added that the county is accepting applications until March 14.

In his opening statement, Vander Molen mentioned a recent meeting with Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debbie Durham. Oskaloosa resident Pam Blomgren asked Vander Molen if he could expand on that conversation.

Vander Molen said taking care of local businesses should be a priority.

"I need to be looking more internally at what we have," Vander Molen said.

Krutzfeldt also asked Christensen if there was a "watershed" moment from this past year in regards to MHP's overall performance.

Christensen said that picking one moment is difficult because many of the hospital's projects were ongoing. However, Christensen highlighted coming to an agreement with Family Medical Center.

"We were able to consolidate those efforts, and between that, and a new building, we were able to recruit providers," Christensen said. "Our vision’s to be the best rural healthcare in Iowa and I think we’re there."

Spray talked about the Blue Zones Project. The project is a community-led initiative aimed at suggesting ways for everyone to lead a healthy life. She says the project's kick-off event is slated for April 14 at the Oskaloosa High School gym. The event is free and will feature activities, food, a cooking demonstration, and a prominent speaker. 

The next Eggs & Issues, which will be the last forum of the year, is scheduled for March 22 at 8:30 a.m.