Resolution to reduce board of supervisors from five to three stirs controversy

The Tama County Administration Building in Toledo. In a move that stirred both controversy and head-scratching last week, a resolution was proposed by some members of the county’s current three-member board of supervisors to move Tama County from the five supervisors who will be elected this November for the first time since 1934, back down to three. The resolution was ultimately tabled. SUN COURIER FILE PHOTO

TOLEDO – Rows and rows of citizens sat eagerly awaiting the 15 minutes of public comment time to express their opinions on the agenda during last Monday’s Tama County Board of Supervisors meeting, with one even telecommuting to have his say. The agenda item that caused such a stir was a resolution asking to put on the general ballot the proposition to decrease the Board of Supervisors from five back to three.

Multiple citizens stood up and spoke during the public comment time, many of whom are candidates for the five supervisor positions on this June’s primary ballot. Starting off the comment time was Randie Brodigan (R-Dysart), who is running for supervisor in District I. Brodigan was unable to make it to the meeting, but called in and spoke via speaker phone.

“Right now, I think we need to leave things as is. As the voters chose,” he said.

Next up in public comments was David W. Turner (R-Tama), the only candidate for District II. Turner focused more on the technicality and legalities of the resolution.

“On this resolution section 331.204, paragraph one begins with, ‘In a county having a five-member board, the board may by resolution, or shall upon petition of the number of eligible electors of the county as specified in section 331.306, submit to the registered voters of the county at a general election a proposition to reduce the number of supervisors to three.’ It states it has to be a five-member board,” he said.

Heather Knebel (R-Traer), a supervisor candidate for District III, stood up next.

“Sixty-two percent voted yes, let’s go from three to five. So, it was very disappointing to see you guys try to use your power, which again doesn’t look like it follows Iowa code, to change what the voters want,” Knebel said.

Bob Vokoun (R-Gladbrook), who is also running for the third district supervisor seat, was the last of the candidates to speak their opinion during the public comment time.

“All the people I’ve been talking to have been asking me why we need to have five supervisors. They didn’t understand the petition before. I’ve had a lot of people tell me, well, they signed it just so people will leave them alone,” Vokoun said.

When Supervisor Curt Hilmer (R-Dysart) addressed the subject, he started by saying he was going to be honest.

“It came down on me Monday, and I was kind of surprised, I mean I was a little surprised by it, but I agreed with it. You know what I mean? Because I do. We can save some money there,” he said.

Hilmer went on to talk about waiting on a decision, getting more information on the issue, and listening to the people who elected him.

“I will probably be not voting for this, today,” Hilmer ultimately said.

Supervisors Dan Anderson (D-Tama) and Bill Faircloth (R-Toledo) gave their opinions on the subject.

“The fact that we’re going to put two more supervisors on, it’s going to cost the county well over a hundred thousand dollars. I think decisions can be made by three people just as easily as it can by five,” Anderson said.

Faircloth had a similar assessment.

“I’ve had two phone calls this morning already, people supporting this. I have talked to a lot of people in my district since this went in, this five-supervisor thing. And I have not talked to anyone that was for five supervisors. And I’ve talked to a lot of people,” he said.

Anderson spoke again on the subject and felt that a lot of people “didn’t realize” what they were voting for because of the lack of clarity on the ballot.

One of the last opinions from the public came from Richard Arp of Dysart.

“In my opinion, if the public wants this to happen, let them fill out a petition, just like it happened the last time. Don’t you two guys make a decision that almost 4,000 people voted for,” he said.

After all the discussion, it was decided to table the topic until the legality of having the subject on the agenda was determined. A late call from the Secretary of State’s office told the supervisors that they should contact their county attorney first.

The subject was put on the agenda after all three supervisors talked about the idea after the adjournment of last week’s meeting. A portion of the public that was in attendance at last week’s meeting was still in the room as the supervisors discussed putting the five to three question on the agenda. When members of the public asked about the questionable nature of that meeting, the supervisors responded by saying that any member of the public had the option to stand in front of their desks and listen in to the conversation.

Other business

The county engineer reported at the meeting that it was a good day to be a duck. He also reported that a hole in 270th Street led down to a culvert, and work on it will begin soon. The newly hired mechanic, Ben Drummer, will be starting next week. An old digger is in need of several costly repairs. So, the supervisors approved buying a new digger with money the engineer found in his budget due to projected savings. A contract was approved and signed for a twin box culvert project.

A public hearing for the FY25 budget was set for April 29 at 10 a.m.

Claims totaling $54,526.13 were approved.