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Lee County Supervisor Wants Building Upkeep Plan

Jason Parrott
Lee County Supervisor Don Hunold said there is plenty of maintenance work needed at the North Lee County Courthouse in Fort Madison.

Lee County Supervisor Don Hunold's presentation Tuesday morning to the rest of the board was short and sweet. He gave each member two pieces of paper and then spoke for just a few minutes on a topic that has garnered hours upon hours of discussion in recent years.
His report focused on the condition of three county buildings: the North and South Lee County Courthouses and the County Attorney's office in Fort Madison. It's the result of spending hours touring buildings throughout the county during his first months on the job.

Hunold joined the board in January after defeating then Chairman Ernie Schiller in the June 2014 primary election. He arrived as budget talks were getting underway for the current fiscal year and quickly realized maintenance requests were being made for buildings with which he was not familiar.

"Personally, I kind of have to see things for myself to understand it," said Hunold. "It gives me a better idea of what they are asking for and why they are asking. So that's kind of the reason I went out and looked it."

Hunold took notes on the condition of each building. Tuesday's report focused on the courthouses and the attorney's office because they are most in need of upkeep and repair. The courthouses, for example, have crumbling foundations, get water in their basements during heavy rainfalls, and the heating and cooling systems need work.

Hunold said the foundation is crumbling and the heating and cooling systems need work at the South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk.

Hunold presented his report as sort of a kick-off to an effort to create a five-year building maintenance plan.

"I think that puts the county in a better position not to, all of the sudden, have to amend the budget for $200,000 or some crazy number," said Hunold. "We can plan for it instead of reacting to it."

Hunold said he was surprised there was not a plan already in place.

The report included some cost estimates, but nothing considered solid. That's where a structural engineering firm fits into Hunold's plan.

"[The firm would] actually walk those buildings and give us estimates, which will cost us, but we really need to know those figures so I think that would be the next thing," said Hunold. "We're going to have to get into them now and really start digging and find out where we are really at."

That same request has been made of the Board of Supervisors by the citizens' committee that explored the idea of moving to a centralized county building prior to Hunold joining the Board. The board did not act on the committee's request, which Hunold chalks up to talk of security improvements and a lawsuit filed against current and former supervisors.

Hunold wants money for hiring an engineering firm to be included in the county budget that begins July 1, 2016.  

Reaction to Hunold's report appeared to be mixed. Chairman Ron Fedler thanked Hunold for putting in the time and presenting the information to the board. Supervisor Gary Folluo quickly brought up the fact that even if a new facility is built to house county government, the courthouses will still need to be maintained.

Hunold said he does not want to restart the county seat debate that divided the county in 2014. Instead, he said it's about having facts and figures available so that future decisions regarding taxpayer dollars are not based on emotion.

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