SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave initial approval to a plan to spend up to $800,000 in special county revenues on a new Sergeant Bluff road that will allow truck traffic to bypass schools on the city's south side.

The supervisors agreed in concept to a plan tapping tax increment financing revenues that will begin to flow to county coffers in 2018 due to the expansion of CF Industries' fertilizer plant south of Sioux City. The county would borrow money for the Dogwood Trail project until the TIF money comes in.

Governments use TIF to divert increased property taxes from new construction to pay off money borrowed by issuing bonds to pay for public improvements that spur development and new jobs.

Supervisor Chairman Mark Monson said the road project deserved the county's financial support.

"This is more support for Sergeant Bluff," said Monson, a resident of that city.

Dogwood Trail will cost roughly $3 million. The city has already received an $815,000 state grant toward the project. The county could provide funds ranging from $400,000 to $800,000. That decision will be made in coming weeks.

Specifics will be fleshed out as Johnston, Iowa, consultant McClure Engineering, which has a branch in Sioux City, reports back to the supervisors. Monson said he wants the project fast-tracked.

The Sergeant Bluff City Council on March 10 approved plans for the project. Bids will be sought next week, and construction should be completed by November.

The new road will connect Port Neal Road near the Interstate 29 overpass to Lewis Boulevard. That will allow heavy truck traffic to avoid Sergeant Bluff-Luton schools and better connect to growth southwest of Sergeant Bluff near CF.

"It hits on the momentum that CF has started," Sergeant Bluff City Administrator Aaron Lincoln said.

The CF expansion, costing more than $2 billion, will deliver $130 million in property taxes over 20 years, through 2037. The project is in a TIF district the county created.

Iowa government units can tap into TIF money early, borrowing against projected revenues. The supervisors are willing to pursue that for projects that would boost economic growth.

To do that for the Sergeant Bluff project, the supervisors in upcoming meetings will amend the existing urban renewal plan to include the Dogwood Trail area.

Supervisor Larry Clausen, of Sioux City, cast the sole dissenting vote Tuesday. He said more details about the county's spending should be settled.

In other business Tuesday, the supervisors heard Conservation Department Director Rick Schneider discuss a rough proposal to add solar power capabilities at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville and at Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City.

Schneider said he would know more details later, but early indications are that there may be no initial start-up costs to the county. He said adding the solar equipment would reduce power costs by up to 10 percent.

– Bret Hayworth

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County and education reporter

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