Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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August 29, 2014

Sullivan’s Salvos     9/2/14

In this edition:

*RIP Jim Clifton
*Roads Update
*Real Economic Development!
*Did You Know?

*RIP Jim Clifton
         I never really understood how badly the US needed healthcare reform until I met Dr. James Clifton. Yeah, I had a softball injury when I was young, stupid, and uninsured. It took me several years to finally pay off the bill. I hated it, and it seemed unfair, but I naively thought there was no better way.

Then in the early ‘90s, I met Jim Clifton. He had gravitas; he was an important guy at UIHC. Yet he really cared about the health of schmucks like me. In addition to being a skilled provider and teacher, Jim was a passionate and articulate advocate for healthcare reform.

         He left a huge impact. RIP, Dr. Clifton.

*Roads Update
         I decided it was time for an update on this summer’s activities in the Johnson County Secondary Roads Department. This information is cribbed from a report County Engineer Greg Parker sent to the Board on August 12.

Construction Project Updates:
Mehaffey Bridge: The contractor is putting together a new completion timeline due to the two flood events that impacted our original completion timeline. At this point, the contractor appears to be 12 weeks behind schedule. The contractor will have a revised construction schedule timeline completed in the next couple of weeks.
Mehaffey Bridge Road: The intermediate asphalt layer is in place. The contractor has will be putting down the final surface layer within the next couple of weeks. We were hopeful to complete this project before school started, however, it looks like we won’t be complete on this project until September.
520th Street (Utah west to Hills): The flood this summer has also extended the construction timeline for the contractor on this project. We just received an updated schedule and they have all shoulder work and the cold-in-place work being completed by the end of August. The new timeline for completion is the end of September.
Sharon Center Road Bridge: The contractor is bringing in additional crews to speed up construction completion. They will be working on the other pier and they are continuing to get the regrading of the roadway completed.

Design Projects:
Curtis Bridge Road: Design is in progress for the summer of 2015.
Oakcrest Hill Road Bridge (R-28-12): Due to the extended timeline on 520th we are considering holding off construction for this structure until Spring 2015. This is not what we preferred, however after last winter, we do not want to have the road closed over the winter. We will keep you informed as we get closer to the decision deadline.
Copi Road – Timber Bridge: Preliminary design is complete. Permits have been submitted to the COE and IDNR. Staff is looking into the cost for removing and relocating the existing bridge. We have received our approved permit from the COE. We have been calling the IDNR for updates and have not heard back from them yet.
Johnson-Iowa Road Timber Bridge: No change. Preliminary design is complete. Our joint permit has been submitted to the COE and IDNR for approval. The preliminary design plans have been submitted to the Iowa County Engineer for comments as this is a joint project.
Mehaffey Bridge Road Separated Trail: No change. This is planned for a 2016 construction timeline due to federal funding availability.
IWV Road Phase 1: Design is in progress. It is scheduled for summer 2016 construction.
Ely Road/Trail: Staff is working on different phases as it was approved in the 5-year program. We are working with Linn County on their project that starts at the county line and goes into Ely. We have also met with and are collaborating with Conservation on the Solon to Ely Trail alignment to accommodate the trail in the County ROW. Several alignment options are being considered.

Maintenance Activities:
1.) Seal Coat: The contractor is planning to be completed with seal coating of 17.5 miles of County Road which is planned for completion middle of August.
2.) Shoulder Repair and Pothole patching: We are continuing to actively take care of locations.
3.) 2nd Application Dust Control: This is planned for, weather permitting, August 19th.
4.) Equipment: We will be replacing a dump truck with a Volvo as discussed at the Board meeting, the truck has been ordered. We are going to be replacing two District Foreman Pickups as defined on our approved Equipment Replacement Schedule for FY2015.
5.) Culverts/Roadway: We are blading roads as needed, ditch cleaning and replacing culverts.
6.) Flood: We have been repairing the flood-damaged areas and we have had an initial meeting with FEMA. Due to the most recent declaration from the President, we will be attending the upcoming meeting to further prepare for FEMA reimbursements. We are still cleaning ditches, washouts around structures and debris removal.
8.) Maintenance Rehabilitation Program: We are planning to start the Observatory regrade around Sept. 1st. Letters to residents in the area should be sent out in the next week.

Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program Activities:

· Maintenance and weed control of turf type buffalo grass planting at Shueyville Shed.
· Mowing of cover crop in prairie plantings at Shueyville Shed.
· Completion of various visibility complaints at intersections, driveways, etc.
· Herbicide applications for brush management in Districts 3 and 4.
· Landowner contacts for Roadside Maintenance Agreements.
· Seeding and erosion control activities in maintenance/ditch clean out areas.

         As you can see, lots going on in Secondary Roads! Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

*Real Economic Development!
         *What if I told you we could bring in 50 full-time jobs that would pay $15 per hour?

         *What if I told you these jobs could neither be outsourced overseas nor subcontracted?

*What if I told you those jobs would be filled by hard-working low-income people, all of whom are local?

*What if I told you NO bribery (aka “tax incentives”) would be required to land these jobs?

*What if I told you there were no special workforce training programs required?

*What if I told you virtually ALL of the money earned would be spent locally?

         What would happen? Well, the Chamber of Commerce would put it in their newsletter, and the Ambassadors would do a ribbon cutting. Debi Durham would come over from Des Moines and do a big press event, and the Governor just might join her. ICAD would tweet this success to the world. Mayors would grab gold shovels and pose for a photo. You might get a visit from a US Senator. The Press Citizen and Gazette would both do front page stories. The Corridor Business Journal would write a nice editorial. The region would be hailed for its forward thinking, and folks would talk far and wide about how well we do economic development.

         So what if I told you the exact equivalent has already occurred? It has.

         Several years ago, I went to a National Association of Counties (NACo) conference and learned about a program that had started in Cook County, Illinois.

         As it turns out, a huge number of low-income workers leave money on the table when it comes to the federal income tax system, particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Cook County created a series of free tax clinics to ensure this money returned to their county.

         I did some investigating, and it just so happened that Johnson County had the same problem, though obviously on a much smaller scale.

         So I pushed for Johnson County to begin a free tax help program. It struck me that we had a potential partner in the Tippe College of Business, and as luck would have it, I could not have had better timing. Dr. Joyce Berg was ready to greatly expand the work her student tax preparers would do. It was a perfect fit.

         Former Supervisor (and current Legislator) Sally Stutsman was very supportive. Amy Correia had just been hired as Johnson County’s first Social Services Director, and Amy took the ball and ran with it, including securing grants to cover all operating costs. The Tippe College, ICCSD, United Way, Iowa City Public Library, and many others have become valued partners. In recent years, current Social Services Director Lynette Jacoby has maintained and improved upon all this success.

         What are the results? The Free Tax Help Program brings over $1.5 million into the local economy every year. It goes to low-income local workers, who spend it locally. And it uses no local tax dollars.

         Remember when I said “50 full-time jobs at $15 per hour”? That adds up to a $1.5 million annual impact, just like the Free Tax Help Program. But the Free Tax Help Program is actually even better, because it serves over 1,100 Johnson County tax filers and their families!

         Economic Development can take many forms. I happen to believe the Free Tax Help program has contributed a lot of good things to the local economy. We have not had any fancy groundbreakings or ribbon cuttings, but we have accomplished something!

         So if you know Lynette Jacoby, thank Lynette Jacoby. She has done great work! If you know Joyce Berg, thank Joyce Berg. Her students have given much more back to this community than they could ever take.

*DID YOU KNOW?  Johnson County is responsible for over 900 miles of roads!

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

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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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