Veterans were allowed to purchase new cabinets, the sheriff reported a significant increase in food vendor costs at the jail, and the county’s financial adviser was allowed to review district reinvestment plans at Legacy Plaza during the Jasper County Board of Supervisors meeting on May 31.
Alyssa Wilson, administrator of Jasper County Veterans Affairs, presented the council with a quote for new cabinets. Wilson said his department was required to provide headstones. Since the new veterans office in the administration building doesn’t have a storage room, Wilson said cabinets are needed to store the markers.
According to county documents, the estimate for the new cabinets is approximately $2,462. The board approved the offer in a 3-0 vote.
Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma asked Wilson to explain why Veterans Affairs is asking for funds from the county rather than the state, which allocates money to help with office purchases. Wilson said the county Veterans Affairs office was to provide county storage.
“If we had paid out of the stipend fund – if we had the funds, which we don’t – we would have in effect had to return the money to the state, thereby losing future stipend funds,” Wilson said. “Because that would supersede the county budget, not the county budget supplement.”
The state would have forced Veterans Affairs to return the money if it even had the funds to pay the firms, Wilson added. The Jasper County Veterans Commission, she said, is trying to use the state stipend to fund services and outreach for veterans.
Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty told supervisors that the prison food vendor, Summit Food Service, informed his office a few months ago that there may be price increases. Halferty said he dug his feet in a bit and the company has since issued an ultimatum.
“I respect the way they did it. I’m not saying they did it wrong. But basically if we can’t come to an agreement on that, they’re going to cancel within 60 days,” Halferty said. “I guess whatever supplier I find, if I find one, it will be the same amount or more.”
The cost of meals for the prison population under the new deal would be $190 per meal, then $1 for each inmate at Jasper County Jail. Halferty said if the county had 60 total inmates, it would cost $250 per meal, or about $750 a day or $270,000 a year. Halferty said it was almost double the budgeted cost.
Halferty said Summit had done a “fantastic job” of providing meals to inmates and was an improvement over the previous supplier. Even if the county offsets some of the costs from the revenue it makes from housing Polk County inmates, this is a “significant increase.” But the prison needs a food vendor.
“I still think it’s cheaper than hiring two or three part-time employees or a full-time kitchen manager and trying to deal with this situation,” Halferty said. “We are very satisfied with Summit. I understand the increase. I expected that. I didn’t expect that much.”
The board ultimately approved the new deal with Summit and the price increase in a 3-0 vote. The supervisors also agreed to give the president the authority to sign the new numbers so they don’t have to wait for the June 7 meeting to approve the updated contract.
Halferty said the pricing would be effective immediately and suggested it likely wouldn’t hurt the end of the fiscal year 2022 budget.
Jon Burmeister, General Manager of Public Financial Management and Jasper County Councilman, will review the Reinvestment District. Talsma confirmed to Newton News that Burmeister will look to see if this project is something the county can realistically be financially involved in.
In the past, Burmeister has worked with the county to refinance its debt and obligations for the $3.6 million renovation of the new administration building.
“It’s a bit more complicated than an urban renewal area or even just a bond, like the $3.6 million we bonded for the new building. It was relatively simple and easy. It doesn’t require a lot of work,” Talsma said. “…It’s not just based on the assessment.”
Although it’s something Talsma and County Auditor Dennis Parrott think Jasper County needs to consider as a “funding safeguard.” The main source of funding comes from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, which Talsma says is the state sales tax and hotel/motel tax.
“What will then be paid back to them and then they will pay the county to pay that debt service,” Talsma said. “So just because of that, it’s a lot more complicated and there’s a lot more factors to consider. (Parrott) and I both thought it was worth paying a professional to help us out. .
Talsma expects Burmeister to take six to eight weeks to deliver his findings to the county. Until then, the Supervisory Board will determine how to move forward.
“I have to look at the numbers to see if the numbers make sense,” Talsma said. “If the numbers don’t make sense, then that’s all there is to it.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org