The year 2017 is now in the rear-view mirror and 2018 is officially here. There were a lot of big stories coming out of Dallas County in 2017.
Here are some of the top stories from the Dallas County News from 2017:
1. Law Enforcement Center Bond issue approved by the voters
In three previous attempts, the Dallas County Board of Supervisors and the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department were unsuccessful in getting voter approval for a new Law Enforcement Center and County office building in eastern Adel.
In 2017, however, the County took a fourth try, limiting the project to just a Law Enforcement Facility, and hired on the Samuels Group to help them figure out the costs and the need, and to educate the public on those. This time, the voters said “yes,” to the project.
6,699 voted in the election, and 5,171, or 77.61 percent voted “yes,” finally giving the referendum passage. The result easily cleared the 60 percent mark they needed to hit for the referendum to pass.
“I can’t thank the employees of the Sheriff’s Department enough, the other county employees enough because they really got involved this time around and helped us out,” said Sheriff Chad Leonard. “They talked to their friends and families and it was huge.”
The facility will host the Dallas County Sheriff’s department offices and a jail with a capacity of 130 prisoners. The current jail only holds 36 prisoners, which meant the Sheriff’s Department was frequently transporting prisoners to other counties and paying to keep them housed in other jails.
The bond was originally approved at $22.9 million, but the bids, which have mostly been approved, are coming in under budget and the project could cost less than $17 million.
The project officially broke ground on Nov. 9, 2017 and could be complete by as early as July of 2019.
2. Apple to invest $1.3 billion in Waukee data center
On Aug. 24, 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited Des Moines to announce, alongside Gov. Kim Reynolds, Waukee Mayor Bill Peard, and many more, that Apple would build a $1.3 billion data center in the City of Waukee.
The data center will be north of Highway 6, west of Waukee, in territory just recently annexed into the city.
This first phase of the project, which includes two data center facilities, will serve North American users of iMessage, Siri, the App Store and other Apple Services.
“Data centers like this new facility are critical to Apple’s operations, and they make up the backbone of America’s innovation infrastructure,” Cook said.
As a part of the agreements with the City of Waukee and the IEDA, Apple will create at least 50 full time jobs at a qualifying wage of at least $29.12 per hour, via the High Quality Jobs program. The city’s development agreement with Apple states that city will exempt up to 71.30556 percent of the value added by the defined buildings from property taxes for a period of up to 20 years, commencing with the date any defined building in the initial project is first assessed for taxation.
Apple plans on being an active member of the Waukee Community and the State of Iowa, with investments already planned in the City of Waukee. Cook said that they are contributing up to $100 million to a public improvement fund for the city of Waukee, which could be used for infrastructure.
“After all, you’re putting your faith in us, and we believe that ought to be a two-way street,” Cook said.
One of the first projects the City of Waukee and Apple will work on together, is the Waukee Youth Sports Campus, which is a part of the design plans for Waukee’s second high school, currently in the planning stages.
The youth sports campus will feature a greenhouse, a playground, a fishing pier and athletic fields for high school and community sporting events.
3. Adel City Council approves changes to tax abatement program
The City of Adel’s tax abatement program has been a hotly-contested issue in the city of Adel for the past several years. On Oct. 10, the Adel City Council voted to change the abatement program, and it will officially come to an end on Jan. 1, 2021.
The current tax abatement plan of seven years at 100 percent will remain in effect through 2018 before seeing changes. In 2019 and 2020, the tax abatement will be three years, with the first year being at 75 percent, the second year being at 50 percent and the third and final year being at 25 percent for new homes built in Adel.
Some council members wanted the abatement program to end immediately, but legal advice and a compromise led to them coming to the approved resolution.
Some developers pleaded their case that ending the program in 2021 was still too abrupt, but the resolution still passed unanimously.
4. Discrepancy Found in Dallas County Election Results
On Feb. 1, 2017, the Iowa Secretary of State’s office found a discrepancy in the Election Results from Nov. 8, 2016 in Dallas County. The discrepancy was found between the number of votes cast and the total number from the official results.
During their reporting process, the County does two separate runs in the reporting software, including one that has Election Day precinct results and one that has the absentee ballot results, according to the report.
The absentee ballots were counted in batches, which were then supposed to be selected and loaded into the County’s reporting software and added in with the Election Day precinct results to get the total count. During the process, due to human error, not all absentee batches were transferred into the totals group and 5,842 ballots were not added to the total results.
The report said that the number of ballots counted in the absentee ballot run is correct.
The votes were canvassed by the Board of Supervisors and the results were unable to be changed. The results of each race in Dallas County would have remained unchanged, however, had the results been reported properly.
On Feb. 22, 2017, The Dallas County Auditor’s Office hosted a review commission to revisit their processes for counting election results and to set processes that included more crosschecking before officially submitting and canvassing the results.
5. Sen. Ernst tours Hope Wellness Center, discusses mental health issues
As a part of her 99 County Tour, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), visited Hope Wellness Center in Woodward on April 21, 2017. Hope Wellness Center offers services and a safe place through Genesis Development for individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis, including crisis intervention services and transitional living services.
Ernst said that with mental health being one of her priorities in the U.S. Senate, the visit to Hope Wellness Center was a productive one.
“I’m excited to see facilities like this and I do believe we need more supports like this across, not just Iowa, but across the United States,” Ernst said. “There are a lot of issues that we struggle with, both on the mental health front as well as substance abuse and if we can keep the recidivism down and help families and individuals, this is what we need to be supporting.”
During her visit, she got a chance to talk with Karen Rosengreen, director of services at Hope Wellness Center as well as Shane Laird and Kyle Willis, who were residents of the facility at the time and got to tell her about their experiences first hand.
“I’m very excited that Kyle and Shane were able to join us,” Rosengreen said. “I think that… experience is definitely the way to learn what we do.”