Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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March 19, 2011

Sullivan’s Salvos 3/22/11

In this edition:

*Tragedy in Japan
*Roads and the Public Benefit
*Road Embargoes
*Mission Creek Festival
*Sound of Friendship Concert
*Chamber Ag Series
*Did You Know?

*Tragedy in Japan
My thoughts and prayers to all the victims of the disasters in Japan. Please do what you can to help.

As for nuclear power… can we learn from this? I would like to think so, but I doubt it. Just look at oil production in the Gulf of Mexico – we are right back to doing the same old things, no lessons learned.

Oh, for some real leadership from our elected officials on this critical matter!

*Roads and the Public Benefit
Like every county, Johnson County faces a funding crisis as far as the Secondary Road system is concerned. Road Use Tax funds are down, and state and federal funding is drying up. The bill for long deferred maintenance is coming due.

We acknowledge that our needs outstrip our resources, and that things are getting worse. We claim to have no appetite for raising taxes. That leaves very few options – cutting services first among them.

If we are going to cut services, I propose cutting in places that affect the health, safety, and welfare of the lowest possible number of people. When I look at the Secondary Roads network, the thing that rises to the top of the “cut” list is Level B roads.

What is a Level B road, you ask? Basically, those are our dirt roads. Johnson County has about 950 miles of road, 50 of which are Level B. Level B roads receive minimum maintenance – this means a maximum of one pass with the blade in the spring, and another in the fall.

Perhaps even more importantly, Level B roads typically lack adequate right of way. Level A roads have at least 66 feet of right of way; Level B roads are often 40 feet or less. This significantly impacts our ability to upgrade the road in question.

I believe Johnson County needs to consider vacating several of these roads. Vacating is another term that requires definition. Vacation refers to vacating the county’s interest. In other words, the property reverts to the landowners. They may maintain it as a private lane, plant crops on it, let it go wild, or basically do anything they like.

We have some Level B roads that are very close to cities, and others that are very close to recreational areas. So there are a few instances in which maintaining them as Level Bs may make sense. But in most cases, my opinion is that roads should either be upgraded to Level A (gravel), or vacated.

When push comes to shove, there is little public benefit to maintaining these roads. They are basically private lanes maintained at public expense. I say it is time to slowly but surely get out of the Level B road business.

Unfortunately, vacating a road is not a popular political decision. Vacating a Level B road only affects 3-4 people, but those people show up at the meeting, and they are angry! So it is definitely easier to simply maintain the status quo.

The problem is, the status quo is not cutting it. We are falling farther and farther behind. At some point, someone is going to have to make a series of tough decisions. I suggest we start with Level Bs.

*Road Embargoes
Speaking of roads, Johnson County now has a few roads that are embargoed.

For a complete list, see the county website at The list is updated daily.

I will be joining several of my fellow Johnson County employees at the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) meetings in Des Moines Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

One prominent addition to this year’s ISAC Conference is the first official meeting of the ISAC Urban Caucus. This will allow the Supervisors from Iowa’s more populous counties to specifically address the issues unique to them. I will report on the success of this initiative.

*Mission Creek Festival
The Mission Creek Festival is March 28-April 4 in various locations throughout Iowa City.

Mission Creek Festival Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing fun artistic experiences in the Iowa City region. Our primary event is the five-day Mission Creek Festival, which takes place in downtown Iowa City every spring. The festival takes over the venues and downtown spaces of Iowa City creating an easily navigated nexus of live music, literary readings, and art events. There will be tons of bands, a lot of writers, and a host of other art happenings.

For the whole schedule of events, see:

*Sound of Friendship Concert
The 2011 Sound of Friendship Concert is 7 PM on Saturday, March 26 at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in University Heights. Tickets are $20 for music, desserts, and fun.

This concert is a fundraiser for Compeer, which matches people with mental illnesses with community volunteers. For more info, contact

*Chamber Ag Series
Session 3 is March 25, and features GREEN ENERGY FOR THE FUTURE.

Panelists: Liz Christiansen, The University of Iowa Office of Sustainability; Steve Fugate, Iowa Renewable Energy Association (iRenew); Mike Ott, Iowa Biotechnology Association; and Sheila Samuelson, Bright Green Strategy.

For more info on the series, call the Chamber at 337-9637.

*DID YOU KNOW? In 2010, Johnson County only rezoned 11 acres from Agricultural to Residential.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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