By Katie Dahlstrom and Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writers
Roughly two dozen area leaders will travel to Des Moines on Tuesday to keep the needs of Clinton and the surrounding communities on the minds of state legislators.
Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich, Camanche Mayor Ken Fahlbeck, DeWitt Mayor Don Thiltgen, Clinton County Supervisors John Staszewski and Brian Schmidt will tentatively partner with representatives from educational institutions, healthcare entities and local economic development organizations during the annual Clinton County Day in Des Moines to rally support for projects affecting the area.
“Our goal is to keep our needs and concerns in front of the legislators,” Vulich said.
The event is organized by the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce and the DeWitt Chamber of Commerce.
“We have an organized plan of engagement,” Clinton Chamber President and CEO Nathan Sondgeroth said. “Our goal is to leave the impression that Clinton County is unified and able and ready grow.”
In the morning, leaders will meet with state leaders from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, Iowa Department of Transportation representatives and the Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services Charles Palmer.
Around noon, Clinton area leaders will host a lunch with the legislators before meeting with the state party leaders in the afternoon.
The group has meetings scheduled with members of Governor Terry Branstad’s staff, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha and Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs. Local officials will express their needs and also listen to what state lawmaker’s legislative priorities are.
Clinton County leaders will mainly focus on five major issues during their trip: economic development, transportation, education, the human impact of the state regionalizing human services and finally healthcare.
The lincolnway railport remains an economic development tool in the forefront of Clinton area leader’s minds. Officials will pursue a certification for the railprt deeming it a premiere site for industrial development. The issue of commercial property tax rollback which city of Clinton leaders fear will financially weaken municipalities will also be discussed with state officials.
Vulich said the city would also like to discuss the 411 pension system which is responsible for police and fire pensions. The city is responsible for 30 percent of the cost, which Vulich said he would like lowered.
“Thirty percent is a pretty hefty chunk of change for us to be funding,” he said.
City finance issues, commercial property tax, gas tax and the pension fund remain top issues for the City of Camanche. City Administrator Tom Roth, Mayor Ken Fahlbeck, City Engineer Dan Solchenberger and Councilman Greg Nelson will make the trip to represent not only their community, but regional efforts as well.
“It is important that we go as a region,” Camanche City Administrator Tom Roth said. “We need to support regional things and support other communities.”
Transportation issues that have a local as well as regional effect that officials will address include the always pressing need to expand U.S. 30 to four lanes as well as adequate funding of transportation infrastructure.
On the subject of healthcare, officials will specifically address the issue of medicaid expansion.
Officials will also relay the human impact that the switch to a regional delivery of mental health and domestic violence services has on Clinton County where the presence of these issues is higher than other areas of the state.
Roth said they look forward to learning and talking with state legislators, no matter how big or how small the issue is.
“We may not deal with mental health much as a city, but we are definitely interested in issues like this as Iowans,” Roth said.