CLINTON — The Clinton County Board of Supervisors approved two resolutions Monday to move forward with the process for a bond for communications upgrades.
The Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 to approve a resolution instituting proceedings to take additional action for the issuance of general obligation bonds not to exceed $5 million. The Supervisors also unanimously approved a resolution directing advertisements of sale of $4.75 million general obligation bonds during 2021 and approving electronic bidding procedures.
The board has wrestled with a solution to the communications problems brought into focus by the Aug. 10 derecho. The storm damaged the KROS radio station tower, which the county was leasing for emergency services communications at the time.
The Supervisors in December approved a motion to approve a contract with Motorola. The contract is for just short of $4.5 million to provide equipment for communications upgrades. The county also needs to fund a communications tower, which was estimated to cost as much as $500,000.
County Treasurer Dustin Johnson is “still not very comfortable with this,” he said. It is a pretty big expense for property taxpayers that Johnson does not believe is necessarily the right place to be spending the money, Johnson said.
“We’re bonding a significant amount of money for quite a few years on something that can be pared down a little bit,” Johnson said. “I feel like you guys were kind of pressured into making some of these moves, too. And my opinion on it is that we should still pump the brakes.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Determann believes the process moved a lot faster than the county would like to go through the process. However, the county needs a reliable source of communication, he said.
The timeline was placed on the Supervisors, Supervisor Dan Srp said. The urgency was based on the August derecho and the system going down, he said. Responding to Johnson’s claim there were solutions that cost significantly less than $5 million, Srp said they are not “apples and apples solutions.”
“The solutions that were pursued by the professionals that use them have been supported by all the elected officials throughout the county as far as the mayors’ boards that generated this recommendation also,” Srp said. “They’re all on the record for being supportive of this action as well. Your point is well noted, well taken. I do believe that there are always ways that we can reduce expense but I think the concern was about what sacrifice might need to be made with that reduction and that’s what ultimately led to this proposal being moved forward.”
Johnson noted the Supervisors are the only ones taking on the obligation of funding it through property taxpayers.
“They can say what they want but they don’t have to make that vote,” Johnson said.
Determann would like to talk with cities in the future about potentially funding a replacement. Determann is not too keen on the county doing the replacements, he said.
“There might even be legislation, I would think there should be, for them to fund that kind of stuff,” Determann said.
Communications Director Eric Dau noted the future need for narrow banding. He said it is something the county could kick down the road or address it now with the communications upgrades.
Board Vice Chairman Jim Irwin Jr. noted with narrow banding the cost was going to significantly increase because of the need to put up additional towers across the county over the next two years. The county would still not have had the system that is being proposed with the Iowa State Interoperable Radio System, he said.
“From my standpoint, the ISICS system is probably the best long-term solution we have at this time,” Irwin said.
Irwin believes the county needs to follow up during budget conversations how communications upgrades will be funded going forward.