By KELLY GERLACH
“The people have spoken tonight.”
That’s how Maquoketa City Councilman Kevin Kuhlman summed up the situation before the council voted, 5-1, against selling nine acres of land for a proposed rental housing development.
The city still owns the land for which it paid $249,000. The Woda Group had proposed buying that property for a government-subsidized housing project for young working people.
Nick Surak, vice president of development for The Woda Group, said his company was still interested in the project but could not promise that would be the case in a year.
“I thought we put together a good proposal,” Surak said during a phone interview after the meeting. “There’s a housing need in Maquoketa, and we’re very good at what we do. But the city decided
Over the past 20 years, the Jackson County Regional Health Center’s leadership team has done an outstanding job of managing the taxpayer-supported hospital’s finances and putting it in a strong position.
But the Jackson County Board of Supervisors doesn’t seem to think that’s important.
That became painfully clear last week when Sentinel-Press News Editor Kelly Gerlach asked each supervisor – Jack Willey, Larry McDevitt and Mike Steines – for their thoughts regarding the hospital board’s plan to build a new facility.
The hospital board and the facility’s administration realized years ago that the old hospital – which was built in 1949 and then added on to several times – was on its way to obsolescence. To their credit, they didn’t hide from that reality and kick the can down the road, as other elected bodies so often do.
To ensure the hospital could perpetuate its mission (which is exactly what hospital board members are elected to do), the hospital tightened its fiscal belt so that it could begin saving for the new facility it would someday need.
Today, it has saved $18 million.
Yes, $18 million!
And that money is now available to be put toward a new facility. It’s enough to pay for half of a modern hospital, and the facility’s revenues are strong enough to pay for the rest. That means Jackson County can build a new hospital without it causing taxes to go up.
Of course, county taxes might go up, but it will not be because of the hospital. More likely, it will be because our outdated county jail needs to be replaced, and virtually nothing has been saved to put toward that project.
So now, instead of being celebrated for its financial discipline and strategic foresight, the hospital board and its executive leadership are being criticized for having prepared for the future.
Somehow, in all the public hubbub surrounding this issue, that fact is being overlooked. And Supervisors Willey, McDevitt and Steines seem to be chief among those missing that point. Whether the supervisors want a new hospital to be built or not, they owe the hospital and its leadership some respect for accomplishing something that, over the years, members of the Board of Supervisors have failed to do.
The supervisors should acknowledge that the hospital tax existed long before any of the hospital’s board members were elected. It’s not like they created the tax. Their job was to provide governance for the hospital, not to rethink the county’s tax structure.
The supervisors are picking and pulling at the hospital’s plan in an obvious effort to discredit it.
Here are a few of the things they said during their interview with Gerlach:
McDevitt said he believes “we need a hospital,” but went on to make an argument against it. “I don’t think it’s being used. It’s not like if we build a new one, people will come. They won’t.”
Apparently, he has not taken the time to study the readily available information about who uses the hospital and how much revenue it generates. For the record, 21,025 patients used the hospital last year. That’s more than 400 people a week. (I was one of them.)
McDevitt and Steines went so far as to suggest that Curt Coleman, the hospital’s administrator who is contracted through Genesis Medical Center, doesn’t have the hospital’s best interest at heart. They offered no evidence to support the claim, but that didn’t stop them from saying it.
Willey also muddied the water with off-point comments that have nothing to do with the merits of the hospital’s plan.
“Here the trustees are telling people about all the horrible things that are wrong with the building,” Willey said. “But then they think [the county] should buy it and sink money into it for a jail.”
The supervisors are sending a not-so-subtle message that they might refuse to issue the bonds that could be needed for a new hospital to be built. They said their top priority for the hospital was for it to be self-sustaining, which means they want the hospital to no longer receive tax support.
The supervisors should acknowledge that this idea would never have come up if not for the hospital’s financial discipline. If it had blown through the $18 million it has today, its taxing authority wouldn’t be in question. The hospital is being punished for its success.
If the supervisors get their way and the hospital tax is somehow eliminated without a new facility being built first, it’s hard to say what kind of future our hospital has. Without a modern facility, the outdated, wrong-sized, wrong-shaped hodgepodge is not the kind of facility a private healthcare company is likely to want to buy. Maintaining the current facility would consume what the board has saved, and without tax support it is likely the volume of care and services provided would be diminished.
How’s that for progress?
Trevis Mayfield is president and
publisher of Sycamore Media. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
By KELLY GERLACH
Investment in your community can spark great things and keep it from being stagnant.
That’s what Suzanne Schulz said about The Woda Group Inc.’s multiple housing projects in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she is the city planning director.
“When you get new investments, this spurs additional investments in the community,” she said. “Next might come someone with market-rate housing. That’s the spark that can lead to other projects and investments.”
By KELLY GERLACH
A proposed housing development for young
workers is meeting with criticism from people who fear it will be a project for low-income residents.
The Maquoketa City Council plans a public hearing Nov. 6 on the proposed development at Tubbs Orchard Estates.
Some city residents have launched campaigns on Facebook, through letter-writing, and by word of mouth to get people to Monday’s meeting to tell the council what they think of the housing plan.
The chief concern seems to be that the proposal is for federally subsidized housing, formerly known as a Section 8 program. But city officials and developers insist the Tubbs project will not involve subsidized rent.
According to Nick Surak, vice president of development for The Woda Group Inc., the Ohio-based developer would build duplexes with state tax housing credits, but tenants would be responsible for paying the full amount of their rent without government aid.
“It’s geared toward people who have the means to pay the rent themselves,” Surak explained.
By KELLY GERLACH
Babies were born there. Tonsils removed. Dialysis treatments administered. Broken bones mended.
Much like other rural hospitals, however, Jackson County Regional Health Center has seen a sharp downturn in services offered since it opened in 1950. The hospital sees more than 21,000 patients per year.
The sharpest change is seen in inpatient vs. outpatient treatment, according to Curt Coleman, president of critical access for the hospital.
That change is one of the reasons the hospital’s Board of Trustees is leaning toward
By KELLY GERLACH
Two Maquoketa women who waged write-in campaigns will be sworn in when the Maquoketa Community School Board convenes Monday night.
Incumbent Tanya Roeder, 38, was elected to her second term on the board, receiving 200 votes in Tuesday’s school board election.
Kristi Becker, 47, the first person to announce a write-in campaign, received 224 votes. She will replace veteran board member Brian Tabor, who did not seek another term.
A third candidate, Terry Creegan, 64, received 79 votes.
A total of 283 district residents voted in the election, which was the last time school board elections will be held in September. Beginning in 2019, the election will be held at the same time as city elections in November.
“It means a great deal to me to get elected to serve another four years on the Maquoketa School Board,” said Roeder, who works at Maquoketa State Bank. “I think people can see that I, as part of the current board, was part of a cohesive group that genuinely cares for our students and wants
A Bellevue man was killed and two women were injured in a head-on collision Saturday morning just north of Andrew.
Mitchell Roy Kelchen, 40, of Bellevue, an officer on the Anamosa Police Department, was killed in the accident, which occurred in the 16000 block of Highway 62 at about 7:40 a.m., according to a report from the Iowa State Patrol.
By KELLY GERLACH
The aged, worn, nail-ridden piece of lumber in Leona Golladay’s hand could probably tell a lot of stories.
Wood cannot talk, but Golladay can, and she had many stories to tell of childhood exploits at Maquoketa Caves State Park.
“I grew up around here, near Baldwin,” Golladay said last Tuesday, standing on a stair leading toward the popular Dancehall Cave as volunteers took apart the wood landing a few stairs away.
“There were three generations of us trying to push over the Balanced