The Webster County Board of Supervisors reversed a long-standing reimbursement policy regarding farm-to-market roads Tuesday morning.
Officials from the communities of Badger, Otho, Gowrie and Duncombe attended the meeting, voicing their opposition or asking for more clarification.
The policy in question involves money reimbursed to communities for their farm-to-market roads, which are routes through towns that agricultural vehicles use to bring grain or livestock to market. In 2004, the Iowa Legislature gave jurisdiction of those funds, as well as the roads, to county engineers rather than the local communities with populations less than 500.
However, at the time, the Webster County Board of Supervisors agreed to continue reimbursing the communities in addition to repairing the roadways.
Two years ago, Webster County Engineer Randy Will asked the board to revise the policy. Will proposed the county keep all of the road use tax funds while continuing to maintain those farm-to-market roads, as stated in the Iowa Code. Additionally, Will asked communities with populations between 500 and 2,500 to pay up to 50 percent of the cost for proposed projects on farm-to-market roads.
"Right now, we're taking care of all the roads in all the towns without compensation," Will said at the board meeting. "That's not right."
Sharon Gross, city clerk for Clare, said the policy would place the small town in a "big world of hurt." The community receives $15,000 annually to pay for street lights and drainage.
Chris Wendell, mayor of Badger, said he didn't think it was right for Will to request communities pay a 50 percent share for road projects.
"Everyone in the county uses those roads," Wendle said. "It's not just us. The expenses for future road projects could be overwhelming for some towns."
Supervisor Kim Motl told the crowd the policy was implemented by the Legislature, not the county.
"We didn't make the rules, but we need to start enforcing them because there's no reimbursement for our expenditures either," Motl said. "It's rough all around, especially for those communities under 500, which is why we're asking for the communities over 500 to ante up too."
Glenda Rasmussen, city clerk of Otho, asked who would decide which projects needed to be done and when.
Will said it would need to be a mutual agreement between the county and the city.
The new policy will place $48,000 in the county engineer's budget to care for 9.3 miles in eight communities. A similar policy was approved in Wright County, according to Will.
Peg Royster, city clerk for Duncombe, said the communities were frustrated by the lack of communication.
"We haven't heard anything since the last time we were here (January 2010)," Royster said. "We need more communication between the cities and the county."
The policy will not prohibit communities from obtaining other sources of funding to improve roadways, such as grants.
"We're just trying to create a uniform procedure to mirror code," Will said.
Supervisors Motl, Bob Singer and Phil Condon voted in favor of the new policy, and Supervisor Eddie Peterson voted against it.
"I'm from the small town of Harcourt," Peterson said. "We're strapped just like any other town. It's tough. I'm on your side."
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