Ed Jones reviews DOT vouchers

Osceola County Board of Supervisors chairman Ed Jones reads final vouchers for two Iowa DOT construction projects completed in 2018 and 2019 at the board’s meeting Dec. 4.

SIBLEY—Osceola County rolled into 2021 by looking ahead at potential development plans for the Osceola County Enterprise Park.

Osceola County Economic Development director Stephanie Neppl raised the issue with the Osceola County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Dec. 4.

Neppl shared that an individual had expressed interest in purchasing undeveloped property at the Osceola County Enterprise Park, located at the intersection of Highway 9 and the Highway 60 expressway northeast of Sibley.

“We don’t have an offer in writing but I have had verbal conversations,” Neppl said. “It’s not a firm plan.”

Forty acres of the business park already have been purchased and developed, but 17 acres remain on the north side which were not made development-ready when the county purchased the property in 2008.

The board agreed something needed to be done with the land, which is undeveloped and does not generate tax revenue, but board member Mike Schulte said he was not prepared to sell it off as vacant ground.

“I could see giving up some of that ground for building a building,” he said. “But just to sell it, I don’t think I’d be interested in that.”

Neppl said one of the barriers to getting any development offers is that the last engineering report on the acres in question was from 2006 and did not provide much detail on any flooding issues or the overall suitability of the area. When the full Enterprise Park was purchased by the county in 2008, development had focused on the southern 40 acres which were the easiest to develop.

“It’s a bit of an unknown exactly what we’re dealing with out there, I just don’t have that much information on what’s possible,” Neppl said. “It’s still a lot of land, but is it the same value as we’ve been getting for the rest?”

She recommended hiring an engineer to compile an updated report to help the county determine what to do with the remaining property and potential costs associated with developing it.

The board agreed to have her pursue this action and told her to pass along to any future interested parties that the board was not interested in selling any of the property at this time without a development plan.

“We’ve got to be able to get more lots out of the 17 acres; you can’t tell me the whole 17 acres is not developable,” said board chairman Ed Jones.

Neppl also recommended updating signage at the enterprise park to indicate that only 17 acres are available.

The county also signed off on three final vouchers for Iowa Department of Transportation projects started in 2018 and 2019 at its Dec. 4 meeting.

The DOT is responsible for paying the vouchers, but closing the projects was delayed while waiting for the county engineer and the contractor to resolve disputes over final details.

The coronavirus pandemic also has been a delaying factor, according to assistant engineer Roger Mouw.

“If you’re thinking that sure took a long time, my contact through the DOT, he’s been working from home since March,” Mouw said.

One of the projects in question is a resurfacing project of 29 miles of county secondary roads undertaken in 2019 in east and southeast Osceola County. Work started in the summer of 2019 and wrapped up in August the same year, but additional diamond grinding on a few sections of the road was required for the work to meet contract standards. The grinding was completed last September.

The other two vouchers are for replacing two bridges and culverts between Roosevelt Avenue and Silver Avenue on 100th Street at the Minnesota border. The work was completed in 2018, but a dispute over whether materials for the culvert foundations met project specifications created paperwork that delayed closing the project.