Commission updated on eco-devo committee plans

This pile of musk thistle was illegally dumped north of 240th by a railroad tressel near the county line. Bud Druse, noxious weed director, said it took more than two hours to remove the weeds.<p>
This pile of musk thistle was illegally dumped north of 240th by a railroad tressel near the county line. Bud Druse, noxious weed director, said it took more than two hours to remove the weeds.<p>
Marion County commissioner learned Monday about the resignation of Chris Hernandez as chairman of the new economic development group.

Russell Groves of Hills­boro agreed to fill the position.

Marion County Com­munity Economic Develop­ment Corp. has received a lot of calls, Groves said, asking why jobs haven’t been created yet.

“All I would say to that is we are a startup corporation, and it doesn’t start at full speed,” he said. “What Marion County is getting to witness close up is what it’s like to start a new business, warts and all.”

Groves said the MCCEDC owes the commission, as its partners, to discuss where everything stands.

“Every person on our board is a volunteer and have to make our living somewhere else,” he said. “(Hernandez) is a one-man show with Edward D. Jones, and could not continue as chairman, and we are grateful for all he has done.”

Peabody joins group

As of right now, Groves said, all positions are filled on the “interim” board with three representing the county and two representing the city of Marion and Peabody.

Hillsboro is an ongoing conversation, Groves said, but he is confident the city will form a partnership with the county group.

Under by-laws, the corporation can create additional board positions for Hillsboro when it gets “nailed down.”

MCCEDC is already in conversation with the small towns in the county and they will be adjunct to the represented board, he said.

“We want everybody’s voice to be heard, and our charter is to represent the entire county.”

As a way to make that happen is by visiting with the city councils of the small towns in Marion County, he said.

“They don’t have money for representation, but what they do have, which is as valuable as anything, is information,” Groves said.

Major emphasis

The MCCEDC committee believes ot needs a better way to get continuity with working trades to keep youth in the county.

“Talking with private industry, but also with school districts, about bringing trades education back to Marion County I think would resolve a lot of the critical issues the county faces.”

Not every student who graduates needs or should go to college, he said.

“We have trades that are occupied by people about ready to retire, and nobody is here to take over for them,” he said.

Groves said he and the committee believe they need to create a way for students to learn building, electrical, nursing and “the whole plethora” of service trades.

New director

Groves said the committee is looking for a person who knows how to attract jobs, investment capital, new companies and cultivate local people who want to start or expand a business.

Groves said a human resource firm can search for a highly skilled director who knows the economic development climate and be paid a competitive salary for that knowledge.

He said using a human resource firm will help navigate the group and keep search fair.

“We are beginning to address this, and when the director is in place, we will be ready to start by the time we seat the permanent board in October,” he said.

The committee also has had conversations with private industry to bring investment capital into this county, Groves said.

“Commitment from the county is considered seed money, but it has to be a private partnership as well,” he said. “We will generate wins that will attract private capital to Marion County to take part in MCCEDC, and help us grow local employment and the local economy.”

Commissioner Kent Becker asked how often MCCEDC meets.

“We have no formal meetings,” Grove said. “We meet as constraints allow us to do so.”

Now that the board seats are filled, Groves said the committee is looking at conducting regular public meetings every other week.

“We will be under open meetings law,” he said.

Randy Collett, the economic development director for the city of Marion, and Anthony Roy, the new director in Hillsboro, are both being invited to participate on the board to “create that synergy.”

Commission chair Dallke said he understands how the committee is building the county’s base for the future.

Groves said: “I think we have school superintendents here who recognize the trade education is a very important growth phase for them, and we will get them to the table as well.”

Website problems

Holter asked about the MCCEDC website.

At the last board meeting, Collett and Roy agreed in the interim to respond to inquiries from the existing site as the committee works with county vendors to develop the website and server.

“This group has a lot more volunteers than the other group, and that is something that is outstanding because not too many people step up,” Dallke said. “We have this in our teeth and are dragging it to the next starting line and we will make you proud,” Groves said.

Other business

In other business, the county:

• accepted a bid by H Excavating LLC, Belle Plaine, for the demolition of Florence High School for a fee of $79,500 and $2,500 if they need to remove existing sanitation sewer and site restoration.

Dallke said he believed H Excavating, which did not bid previously, slid in under two local county companies with the low bids.

Novak and Becker said they favored the low bidder even though Dallke made a motion to accept Middle Creek’s bid of $84,000.

• Dale Ehlers and Lisa Suderman spoke with commissioners about a WRAPS joint road project.

After learning that the right shoulder of the road at 30th and Mustang was silting shut, the commissioners unanimously voted to go ahead. County Clerk Tina Spencer said she would want to know the cost when the project was completed.

• Jesse Hamm, superintendent of Road and Bridge, hired Steve Hudson, former Marion County Park and Lake superintendent, as an equipment operator 3.

Hamm also discussed the possibility of trading in a Volvo motor grader for a Caterpillar or John Deere model because replacement parts would be more accessible and cheaper.

• FACT Inc., represented by board chair Todd Heitschmidt, and the Sub­stance Abuse Prevention Coalition represented by Jo Olsen, 8th Judicial District court services officer, requested $20,000 for the budget, which is a $14,000 increase from 2017. The reason is the loss of an Early Childhood Block Grant that at one time provided $130,000 to $160,000.

“We want to keep kids in Head Start,” Olsen said.

Heitschmidt said Ashley Gann and Linda Ogden, former FACT directors, agreed to help if funds are short.

• Bud Druse, director of the noxious weed department, household hazardous waste, the transfer station and recycling, spoke to commissioners about not receiving bids to repair the transfer station roof.

But he did have a bid from Ship Shape, a local roofer, for $3,855. The county voted unanimously to hire the company to repair the roof.

Musk thistle was illegally dumped north of 240th by a railroad tressel near the county line. Druse said it took more than two hours to remove the weeds.