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Haskell Avenue Bridge

Weeds grow out of the pavement in front of a closed bridge on Haskell Avenue between County Road K64 and State Highway 140 located north of Moville, Iowa. The bridge was closed after being damaged from flooding in 2014 and 2016.

SIOUX CITY -- A majority of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors stuck with their original decision of two years ago, so a rural bridge on the north side of Moville, Iowa, will be replaced later this year at the cost of $700,000.

Board members Jeremy Taylor, Matthew Ung, Rocky De Witt and Marty Pottebaum resisted changing their decision to build a new bridge on Haskell Avenue. Board Chairman Keith Radig contended the money could be better spent on frontage road improvements one mile south in Moville, to boost business prospects.

The discussions played out in the weekly Woodbury County Board of Supervisors meeting, as the supervisors considered which project was most deserving of a chunk of county money running from $400,000 to $700,000. The proposal by Radig died on the table without a vote, so the bridge project will proceed.

Taylor said the original decision should be upheld, not changed because another nearby need in Moville has since come up.

“It feels a little bit like a bait-and-switch,” Taylor said.

Later in the meeting, Pottebaum and Ung said if the Moville frontage road, which is owned by the county, is in need of repairs, the supervisors could look into the merits of funding it, but entirely separate from the bridge replacement issue. Pottebaum said he hoped that discussion happens, since it is “such a dumpy road.”

Moville is a town of 1,600 people, and has seen a burst of businesses locating on the frontage road since 2016. That road is on the town's south side and within eyeshot of U.S. Highway 20, which is bringing more traffic than ever by Moville, after a four-lane modernization that wrapped three months ago.

The frontage road is in need of infrastructure, such as street paving and replacing the sanitary sewer system. Moville Mayor Jim Fisher wanted the county to provide some money to the project, while the Moville City Council also mulls funding mechanisms for spending on the frontage road.

Originally, the county supervisors in March 2017 went on record in support of replacing the bridge on Haskell Avenue, which could cost $700,000. Rural residents Dennis Rumohr, Eric Nelson and Kurt Nash on Tuesday urged the supervisors not to back away from that plan.

“A deal was a deal. A vote was a vote,” Nash said.

Radig proposed deleting the Haskell bridge from slated county projects, and redirecting $500,000 to another bridge and $200,000 to the frontage road.

“The Haskell Avenue bridge isn’t as important on the horizon…To me, it just doesn’t make sense to do that project,” Radig said.

He also proposed giving another $150,000 to the frontage road, by potentially using $75,000 from the county's local option sales tax fund in each of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years. That would have brought the county's financial support to a combined $400,000.

Since July 2016, a Lewis Drug pharmacy, Dollar General store, Movillatte coffee shop and Nicklas D. Jensen Funeral Home and Monument Company have opened on the frontage road.

The Haskell bridge has been on a timeline for a bid-letting in summer 2019. The bridge took hits in two severe water events from McElhany Creek between 2014 and 2017. The structure has been removed and the bridge area is barricaded.

Rural Moville people back in 2017 and in the Tuesday meeting cited the necessity of replacing the bridge. Many Moville residents used Haskell Avenue as the quicker way to reach County Road K-64 to the north than going via Iowa Highway 140. Those three roads essentially form a triangle, with Haskell as the shorter option than Highway 140.

Radig said keeping Haskell closed would mean a drive of 780 yards further, something that might cost drivers a minute of time.

Rumohr said a key point is that the intersection of K-64 and Highway 140 is unsafe. A 2017 Journal article cited government sources and statistics, showing only one wreck had occurred in 17 years at the intersection. Taylor joined Rumohr in debating the merits and “reasoning” of the Journal article.

“It is not about distance, it is about safety,” Rumohr said.

Nelson said, "Some of the accident records could be deceptive."

COUNTY BUDGET DISCUSSIONS

Also in the meeting, the county supervisors looked into proposed department budgets for a second week. On Jan. 2, they started the process of setting the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.

County Finance Director Dennis Butler said the projected budget sits at $56.9 million, which is $2.3 million more than the current fiscal year budget. The budget year runs from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020, and all Iowa counties must set budgets by March 15.

The supervisors made minor changes to the budget a week ago, and did similarly in reviewing the budgets for county parks, the auditor's office and emergency services department.

Going into the Tuesday meeting, Butler's projection showed the property tax rates at $7.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for city residents and $9.96 per $1,000 for rural residents. The tax rates in the current year are $7.29 per $1,000 for city residents and $9.53 per $1,000 for rural residents.

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