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Infrastructure, lake project dominate legislative luncheon dialogue

Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, speaks during a legislative luncheon Jan. 24 at Lakeside Casino.
OST photo by AMY HANSEN Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, speaks during a legislative luncheon Jan. 24 at Lakeside Casino.

Roads and water — those were two of the most discussed topics during a legislative luncheon Jan. 24 at Lakeside Casino.

Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, and Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, spoke during the luncheon, which was sponsored by Clarke County Development Corporation.

Sinclair said one of her priorities during the legislative session is addressing the needs of the state’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges.

“Now, being in the district I’m in, having Wayne and Decatur county in my district,” Sinclair said, “I’m not interested in just adding another tax on to fuel that would drive people down to Missouri to buy gas, along with their cheaper cigarettes and higher alcohol content beer and fireworks.”

Other option

If the solution isn’t through fuel taxes, what is it?

Sinclair said she recently filed a bill with other co-sponsors in the Iowa Senate.

“(It) would take 2 percent off the top of the general fund’s gross receipts every year from the state and transfer that into the road-use tax fund,” Sinclair said. “It addresses the issue of not making our fuel more expensive. It addresses the issue of not having enough in 10 years when vehicles are getting higher mileage.”

During public comment, Clarke County Supervisor Marvin McCann said the county recently had its bridges inspected and had to close three bridges and lower the weight and speed limit on two others.

“It’s just a dire need. I don’t think people understand that we have to address it,” McCann said. “I guess I’m not going to argue one way or the other for gas tax, or whatever. But, I think we need appropriate funding to do it, however you do it.”

CCRC’s lake project

Another topic that drew a lot of public comment was Clarke County Reservoir Commission’s (CCRC) Squaw Creek Watershed project.

The ongoing CCRC project could provide a water supply for Osceola and Southern Iowa Rural Water Association (SIRWA) with an 816-acre lake, which could provide 2.2 million gallons of water per day.

West Lake, the current water source, doesn’t meet the needs of Clarke County and SIRWA.

The total project cost for the reservoir in the CCRC Squaw Creek Watershed is estimated at $37.6 million. Funding for the project includes many sources, especially funding from the local-option sales tax.

Right now, CCRC is going through the process of declaratory judgment with the watershed project.

Declaratory judgment is a court review for acquiring land for a public project. It authorizes CCRC to purchase land from voluntary sellers and exercise eminent domain for involuntary sellers within the area of the watershed project. Eminent domain is the government’s power to take private property for public use by a state.

A court date in Clarke County was set for March 10 to determine if CCRC can authorize declaratory judgment in its watershed project.

There were other public concerns about businesses leaving Osceola for another location with an adequate and cheaper supply of water and no sewer taxes.

Local concerns

Osceola resident Dr. Jim Kimball asked if Sinclair and Fry knew of any efforts to block the lake project in the legislature or if they would be a part of the process to block the lake.

Fry said there is eminent-domain legislation that has emerged in the House, and it also includes many issues from across the state.

“Eminent domain conversation is alive in the Iowa House and in the Iowa Senate, not just for what’s going on in Clarke County, but as it relates to the northern half of the state and also as it relates to an issue around Pella,” Fry said. “ ... From a large context of eminent domain, I would expect to see more conversation around that.”

Use of eminent domain

Sinclair said she wanted to clarify she only supports judicious use of eminent domain.

“I do not support the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes alone, for recreational purposes alone,” Sinclair said. “I do not support eminent domain outside of what is essential for public good. I don’t want to be unclear about that. I support only very judicious use of eminent domain in all circumstances.”

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