O'Brien County talks housing fund, dairy

The O’Brien County Board of Supervisors discussed the county’s match funding for its fiscal year 2021-22 allocation of the State Housing Trust Fund Program on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The board will consider approving a local match of $4,871 during its meeting next week.

PRIMGHAR—The O’Brien County Board of Supervisors discussed two items on its agenda Tuesday, Sept. 14, that it wound up tabling for future action.

The first issue was regarding the approval of local match funding for the fiscal year 2021-22 State Housing Trust Fund Program.

The state housing program is overseen by the Iowa Finance Authority, which then allocates funds to local trust funds that address housing needs for low- and moderate-income residents in their respective regions of Iowa.

The Northwest Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund is the local entity that serves residents in Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux counties.

Supervisor Dan Friedrichsen, who also is a board member of the Northwest Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund, said the organization received extra federal funding this fiscal year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Auditor Barb Rohwer said there were two possible amounts the county would need to pay to meet the program’s local match requirement: $4,871 or $6,170. However she noted the county’s match last year was greater than those amounts at $6,234.

Rohwer noted a bill Gov. Kim Reynolds signed would gradually increase the county match requirement for the program to account for the larger amount of funding the program received.

Friedrichsen said he did not know why the amounts were lower than the previous year but noted the regional organization was set to meet Thursday and again on Sept. 21.

He said the increase in funding from the federal level is a good thing for the county.

“We haven’t had an issue with spending it down. There’s a couple counties that do grant awards and so on. We have opened it up to down payment assistance and tried to expand our options available to allow people to utilize,” he said.

In a follow-up e-mail Friedrichsen received from Kristin Larsen, the housing planner and grant administrator for Northwest Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund explained why there were two potential county match amounts.

Larsen said the Iowa Finance Authority was concerned about the ability of counties to take on the extra funding burden at once, which is why two possible increases were proposed at first: One for a 15 percent local match increase, and another for a 19 percent hike. By 2025, it would be set at 25 percent.

“I sent both proposals out to every county because I need the pledge letters to submit the grant and IFA wasn’t set to decide which increase they were going to use until later this month. I just learned, however, that they have elected to go with the 15 percent increase,” Larsen said.

That means O’Brien County would need to pay $4,871 for this fiscal year. The board of supervisors will consider approving that amount at its meeting Sept. 21.

Another item before the board was whether or not to approve a request from Jackson, MN-based ProAg Engineering to move a manure digester plant being built at Roorda Dairy near Paullina farther into the right of way next to Oak Hill Avenue.

In February, the board approved a request from the engineering firm to build the structure within the 100-foot setback of Oak Hill Avenue’s right of way. At the time, the digester was planned to be about 70 feet away from the road.

The request Tuesday was to move the digester so it would be about 50 feet from the road. A letter Rohwer received regarding the proposed change said the reasoning for it was to allow for greater protection of and access around the structures.

Rohwer said she thought a representative for the digester project would attend the meeting to further explain the proposal and answer questions from the supervisors. However, none were present at the meeting.

Supervisor Sherri Bootsma said the board should not take action on it until the company is able to speak with the county about the request further. Friedrichsen agreed, saying he would be willing to hear the company explain.

“Why would this not have been known back when they requested the 50 foot? That’d be my biggest question,” Friedrichsen said.