Kalona hosts final supervisor debate
The Washington County supervisor candidates faced off for the last time Monday before the Nov. 6 election. The candidates met in the Kalona Chamber of Commerce building, where they answered written questions from the audience for about an hour and a half.
Just as in their debate in Washington on Oct. 16, Monday’s debate touched on the issue of the Richmond lagoon. Joel Huber of the Farm Bureau, which sponsored the debate, read a question from the audience which asked the candidates how they could justify making all the rural residents in the county repay the $500,000 loan owed to RUSS if the county does not proceed with the Richmond lagoon.
Stan Stoops, Republican candidate in District 4, said the $500,000 figure has been bandied about but is wrong.
“I want everyone on this panel to write down this figure, because it’s not half a million dollars. It’s $238,000,” Stoops said. “They’re using exaggerated figures and they’re sticking to that $500,000 to make people squirm.”
Stoops said he was not going to answer the question the way it was asked.
Adam Mangold, Independent candidate for District 4, disagreed with Stoops and said the figure was not inflated.
“You’re talking $193,000 for Richmond, $125,000 in Rubio, $178,000 in Ollie, and $95,000 that has been spent on the ground and $33,000 that has been spent to condemn that ground,” he said. “That money is all tied together. I don’t care if they want to pretend it’s not tied together. It is.”
Mangold said that if just one of those three projects fails, the USDA will pull its funding. If the county withdrew from the Richmond lagoon, it could only hope that Ollie would not sue the county for breach of contract.
Bob Yoder, Republican candidate in District 2, said the county should stop pouring money into a bad project, remarking, “Let’s stop now and start over and actually go fix the problem.”
Kay Ciha, Democratic candidate in District 1, said that forcing all rural residents to pay 90 cents per $1,000 valuation to cover the loan might not be fair but it would get rid of the problem. She also said that Ollie’s problems are not Washington County’s concern.
“You didn’t recognize the town of Ollie,” she said. “It’s not in Washington County. We need to protect the people in our own county.”
Huber read a question which asked the candidates if they thought it would be better to amend the county zoning ordinance rather than eliminate it altogether.
Yoder said the county never had a problem with zoning. He said that, more than anything, the county needs economic development. He said he’s heard stories about people who couldn’t put up buildings on their own property because of zoning.
Randy Billups, Independent candidate in District 2, said it was not true that zoning limits existing businesses.
“I continue to hear Bob say it hinders economic growth and that it keeps businesses from growing,” he said. “I just read the three to five pages again today, and there is nothing in there that would hinder a small business from growing.”
Dawn McCoy, Democratic candidate in District 2, said the zoning ordinance is difficult to understand because it was taken mostly from the Iowa code. However, she said she was in favor of some form of zoning.
Jack Seward, Republican candidate in District 1, said he didn’t understand how zoning was supposed to protect property values.
“Whose property values are protected by telling a guy he has to pay $50 to put a portable shed on his property?” he asked. “I’m not really sure there’s any gain in prosperity by telling a fellow who wants to put up a workshop in his backyard that he can’t because it’s going to be 9 inches too tall, since he wants to put his father-in-law’s semi in there to fix it.”
Ciha said she was against zoning and that the problem with the ordinance was that it did not address confined animal feeding operations.
Richard Gilmore, Democratic candidate in District 4, said his problem with zoning was that it restricts “bed and breakfasts” to a commercial area.
“That is the last place you’d ever want to visit a bed and breakfast,” he said. “You can put up a hog confinement anywhere you want in the county, but not a bed and breakfast. I really wanted more bed and breakfasts in this county, and I wanted more people to experience this county, but this ordinance has made it difficult.”
During Gilmore’s opening remarks, he thanked the sponsor of the debate, Farm Bureau.
“I’d like to thank Farm Bureau, of which I probably won’t be a member anymore.”
On a different question later in the forum, Gilmore made a reference to Farm Bureau’s support for county zoning. The question was about how he would tackle an issue that split his constituency 50-50.
“You should be able to work with these two groups to come to one decision, except when you have the Farm Bureau, which is for one thing: zoning. That group, you probably can’t talk to. They have their candidates, so that one would be a little harder.”
Mary Zielinski, Independent candidate for District 2, said that while zoning and the Richmond lagoon have taken up a lot of time during the debates, the county has other pressing issues to address. She mentioned that the county wants to spend $26 million on roads over the next six years, and that it doesn’t know where it will come from.
Another issue Zielinski touched on was mental health services.
“The regionalization of the mental health services is a mess,” she said. “You are now paying, for each person who receives those services, $35. That’s not too bad, but it’s going to go up to $47, which means this county is going to have to levy $245,000 more each year to pay for it.”