The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

August 14, 2012

County residents speak out against amending railport agreement

CLINTON — Plans are still in the works for amending the railport agreement between Clinton County and the city of Clinton.

Citizens and officials voiced their opinions on the economic development project that requires the county to provide $6 million to aid the city at a public hearing at the Clinton County Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday. 

While officials showed their support for the project, they faced differing opinions from several county residents.

“This modified agreement has nothing to do with the development of the city’s industrial park,” Calamus resident and former Supervisor Dennis Starling said. “This amendment is nothing more than a smoke and mirror tactic to cover up the real intent behind it. The purpose is nothing more than a financial bailout for the city of Clinton by the county.”

The reason for amendment of the previously signed 28E agreement in December 2009, between Clinton County and City of Clinton, is to evolve the relationship of the parties to a position more representative of a joint partnership and ensure mutual aid, cooperation and like strategies in moving the project forward and in securing quality businesses and employment opportunities, according to the amendment.

The county shall continue initial participation by a contribution of $6 million to be used solely for the purpose designated in the urban renewal plan entitled ‘Clinton County Lincolnway Railport Urban Renewal Area.’

The city and county shall also participate, through the Management Committee, in the final construction of infrastructure and in participating in the investigation and vetting of potential railport occupants and land purchasers, according to the amendment.

There was clear opposition to the amendment by Starling and other members of the public. Some county residents went as far as calling the city of Clinton ‘broke’ and saying the county should not ‘gift’ the money to the city.

“Why should the good people of the surrounding towns in the county have to pay for the sins of Clinton,” county resident Marty Ray said.

Currently the city is very financially stable with plenty of money in the contingency fund for the first time in years, according to Mayor Mark Vulich.

“We are far from broke,” Vulich said. “The railpark is an investment, not a gift. All cities are having a difficult time, but right now we are financially solvent.”

This project is more than just an agreement, but a way to break down barriers between the two governing bodies, according to Supervisor Jill Davisson.

“This is not a gift,” Davisson said. “This project is being paid for by every citizen in Clinton County. One of my goals has always been to tear down the wall between the city and the county and just be the people of Clinton County.”

 The amendment also states that in the event that all infrastructure in the railport has been built and paid for, but there still remains unsold land or lots, the proceeds of the sale of remaining land or lots shall first be used for any maintenance issues that may be needed in the railport. If no maintenance issues are presented than the proceeds shall be divided equally between the city and the county.

The Management Committee for the project will consist of six appointed members. Three members shall be appointed by the Board of Supervisors, who are residents of Clinton County and qualified by knowledge or experience to act in matters pertaining to the development of the railport and who shall not hold any elective office in county government. The mayor, subject to approval of the City Council, will appoint the other three members who shall be residents of the city and qualified by knowledge or experience to act in matters pertaining to the development of the railport and who shall not hold any elective office in the city government, according to the amendment.

Several of the supervisors were concerned about not having any representation from elected officials on the committee.

“To best represent the opinions of the people of the community, it seems like there should be some representation of elected officials,” Supervisors Chairman Brian Schmidt said.

The committee will perform the following exercises and duties: selection of officers, adopt rules and regulations, management of funds, infrastructure, sale or property, fiscal responsibilities, limitation on entering contracts and annual report. Term of office for members will be three years.

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