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Calmer Tone for Lee County Consolidation Talks

Jason Parrott

For the first time in a long time, the Lee County Board of Supervisors discussed the idea of office consolidation and no one on the board or in the audience raised their voices or made disparaging remarks about someone or some group of people.

Instead, everyone at this week's meeting talked about working together and about the need to slow down the process.

Vice Chairman Matt Pflug said it's important people know there is no rush to consolidate county government.

"This thing has worked for over 150 years with these two buildings (so) why do we have to have it done in one month or two months?"

Pflug is referring to a recent attempt to name Fort Madison as Lee County's lone county seat.  The proposed ordinance was scheduled to be approved three times in one week, but it was never even called for an initial vote.

Pflug said when it comes to consolidation, he wants as much information as possible for himself and for the general public.  He said it is also important to tell people why Lee County is considering consolidation.

“Just to say that consolidation is good for Lee County, I want to know what that means," said Pflug.  "I not only want to know what that means, but dollar figure-wise, what that means as well.”

Former Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Woodruff raised that point during the meeting.  He said during the entire discussion about one county seat or two, he had never heard the county say exactly why it was looking to change.

Pflug and Supervisor Ron Fedler have agreed to look at consolidation, but at a tempered pace.  Fedler had proposed the Fort Madison/County Seat ordinance, but withdrew it after reaching an agreement to work with Pflug on the topic.

Pflug said their research needs to start with the condition of the buildings.  He said he hopes the county will bring in a structural engineer who is not in line to design a new building. He thinks that will provide an unbiased look at the matter. 

Pflug and Fedler said there would be no timeline for updating the board on their effort.

The county courthouses were also discussed this week for another reason: security.

Sheriff Jim Sholl would like to hire two part-time courthouse security officers.  They would cover 27 hours per week between the two courthouses.  He said hiring two instead of one would help with vacation time and sick leave.

Sholl said one retired sheriff's deputy has already contacted him about the potential positions.

The supervisors could vote on the positions in two weeks.

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