The Fremont County Board of Supervisors is still struggling to meet FEMA paperwork requirements to get reimbursed for flood debris removal.
Rick Biondi of Homeland Security attended the January 8 meeting to “highly recommend” the supervisors change the current flood debris removal contract with Southwest Iowa Parking Lot Maintenance, owned by Trent Tiemeyer, to include debris tonnage. Biondi has been advising the supervisors for the last few weeks that the terms of the contract as written were too vague to satisfy FEMA requirements.
The current contract, signed in September, 2019, contains an agreement for Tiemeyer’s company to remove flood debris that have been placed on the public right-of-way from six designated zones for a lump sum of $195,000. At the time the contract was signed, it was assumed the last of the debris removal zones would be completed by the end of February, 2020. Cleanup has been delayed due to efforts to comply with FEMA requirements.
Biondi said setting tonnage amounts would protect both the contractor and the county anyway, as it could ensure a contractor didn’t do the minimum, while also ensuring he didn’t bid the job then discover he was hauling way more debris than he had bid for.
The supervisors discussed the difficulty in accurately estimating the amount of debris. Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius said he had gone out with FEMA representatives to measure debris piles at an earlier date and been told by the related home owners that the piles had been larger earlier, but people were removing things from the piles. Crecelius also said he knew that scrap iron haulers had been going around picking up metal from the piles to sell. Crecelius and the supervisors were worried that not only would estimates be inaccurate, but the longer the debris stayed on the roadside the greater the chance they would be spread far and wide up and down the roads.
Supervisor Dustin Sheldon said he was still worried that by trying to amend the contract after it had been accepted the county ran the risk of offending the only contractor who had bid, causing him to quit or fight the county on the contract terms.
At Biondi’s continued insistence that this was the only way he thought the county would get FEMA to approve, Deputy Fremont County Attorney Tyler Loontjer said he would work with Crecelius and the roads department to try to come up with tonnage figures, then talk to Tiemeyer as soon as possible about amending the contract.
The supervisors continued an ongoing discussion about the use of county credit cards by county departments and employees. The supervisors have had concerns that there are too many credit cards being used, with limits too high, and that they are being used at times and for items they shouldn’t be used for. Fremont County Auditor Dee Owen confirmed that there are some departments that seem to be using the credit cards for daily needs rather than large unavoidable expenses as expected. Owen also pointed out credit card claims were not always itemized in a way that made it possible to determine what they were used for.
The supervisors agreed that most of the services and suppliers the county uses should be using direct billing to the county. They questioned how there came to be so many credit cards in use, and such high limits, but no one was able to provide a definitive answer, other than it had been going on for decades.
The supervisors asked if they had the authority to revoke cards and lower limits for those remaining. Loontjer told the supervisors the county’s credit card policy was actually pretty well-written and they had the ultimate authority to pay or not pay claims if they thought they were inappropriate, as well. Owen asked what would happen if the county denied payment of a credit card claim, and Loontjer said the department head would have to figure out how to pay the bill then, and likely would not want to do that very many times before changing the way his/her department employees used their cards.
Loontjer said the supervisors should address the subject in the upcoming department head meeting, ensuring all departments understood what credit card policy was, how things should be paid for, and what could happen if the cards were abused. The next department head meeting was scheduled for January 15.
The supervisors approved signing the annual construction evaluation resolution allowing them to use the Master Matrix to evaluate construction permit applications for large animal confinement and feeding operations.
According the DNR’s administrative rules, if the board of supervisors wants to use the master matrix between February 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021, the board of supervisors must submit an adopted “construction evaluation resolution” to the DNR between January 1 and January 31, 2020 for the year starting in February 2020.
If the supervisors had not adopted the construction evaluation resolution for 2020, then the county could not:
1) submit a formal recommendation to the DNR concerning a particular construction permit application; the county can submit comments, but they are not given nearly as much weight by DNR as a formal recommendation would be;
2) send a county employee along on a DNR site inspection; or
3) appeal the DNR’s decision regarding a construction permit application to the Environmental Protection Commission.
Additionally, applicants in counties using the master matrix must meet stricter environmental standards than they would have to meet otherwise.
In other business:
Crecelius advised the supervisors the Army Corps of Engineers had emailed him at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday telling him they would be raising Gavins Point releases, after they had already done so;
the supervisors approved an amendment to the 28E agreement between Mills and Fremont counties for county attorney services, clarifying that Fremont County would pay two fifths of health insurance costs, rather than “not more than half”, and
Crecelius told the supervisors a public flood meeting would be held at the United Faith Church in Sidney on March 5 at 6:30 p.m.