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New Building for Lee County Conservation Department

Lee County will borrow about $500,000 to pay for a new building for the Conservation Department.

The building will replace the department's current headquarters, which was severely damaged by a lightning strike in late April.

The county considered repairing the building's electrical and heating systems, but instead decided to pursue a new facility.

Conservation Director Tom Buckley said this is a long-time coming.

"(It) certainly paves the way for the future we have been hoping for for a long time," Buckley said.  "It has been... 20 years that we have been trying to accomplish something like this.”

The county said residents will pay just a couple dollars more each year in property taxes to pay for the new building.  For example, the owner of a roughly $130,000 home in the city would pay about $4 more each year.

Buckley said work on a detailed design for the roughly 4,000 square foot building will get underway soon.

He hopes to put the project out for bid this winter, hold a groundbreaking in the spring, and be working out of it in one year.

Buckley said the new building will feature a nature center and additional display space, which could become a destination point for travelers.

It will be built near the current facility, though it will be closer to the Mississippi River.

Buckley said his staff will continue to work out of a temporary trailer until the new building is finished.

He said the department's foundation has contributed $100,000 with more donations coming in, which could result in the county borrowing less money.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.