WAPELLO — Financial difficulties could force a two-county drainage district south of Muscatine to curtail its operations, potentially increasing the flooding danger to portions of the city of Muscatine, GPC, Beyer, thousands of agricultural acres and hundreds of residences.
Assistant Louisa County Auditor Selena Gerst interrupted the Louisa County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday to break the news, explaining Muscatine County officials were asking Louisa County to release around $29,000 in drainage seepage funds to relieve some of the financial pressure on Muscatine-Louisa Drainage District #13.
Muscatine County is the controlling county for the drainage district, which reportedly includes about 30,000 acres from Muscatine down to Michael Creek in Louisa County, an area locally known as the Muscatine Island.
A pumping plant is located about 12 miles south of Muscatine, and its operations over the past several months of high water is apparently part of the cause for the financial problems.
According to Gerst, the district recently received a $40,000 utility bill from Eastern Iowa REC and has also been forced to cover around 130 hours of overtime for a part-time employee, along with the wages for a full-time worker.
Gerst said the drainage had spent $110,272 so far of the $115,000 requested from Louisa County, leaving less than $5,000 in funding remaining for the budget year.
“(The district) will need to lay off employees until fall and will be shutting down (the pumping station),” Gerst told the board.
The news was a bombshell for the supervisors.
“Has this just developed?” supervisor Randy Griffin asked, explaining that he had coffee earlier that morning with three individuals who own property on the Muscatine Island, and none of them had indicated any concerns.
During a latter break in the discussion, Griffin telephoned one of the individuals and discovered they had not known about the situation that morning.
The supervisors did not immediately act on the request for releasing other money but urged the auditors to contact Louisa County Emergency Management Interim Coordinator Brad Turner about the situation.
They also suggested contacting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel who are already in the area and also wondered if the National Guard could be contacted.
“They can’t stop pumping. That water won’t stop,” supervisor chair Brad Quigley said.
Supervisor Chris Ball said he had recently had a discussion with Senator Chuck Grassley’s office and would report the current situation to those officials.
“I don’t know what happens when a drainage district stops pumping during a flood," Griffin said. "It’s unbelievable.”
In other action during the meeting, the supervisors approved a low bid of $269,625 for a new Louisa County Secondary Roads Shop at the main headquarters in Wapello.
Meyers Construction, Sperry, submitted the bid, which included a base bid, mezzanine and paving. Other work, such as electrical, demolition and asbestos removal, will increase the building’s total cost to around $324,186.
The supervisors are expected to approve a final contract at the next meeting.
Assistant county engineer Adam Shutt said the building is scheduled for completion by November.
In final action, the supervisors:
- Received monthly updates from conservation board director Katie Hammond, general assistance director Cyndi Mears and mental health and disability director Bobbie Wulf.
- Approved a county procurement policy.