Letter: Conservation board 'left out of the loop'I’m writing in response to recent Osceola County Supervisors proceedings regarding the Osceola County Conservation Board’s refusal to “sign off” on an R.E.A.P. grant application for improvements at Hawkeye Point.
By: Ron Spengler, Director, Osceola County Conservation Board, Ocheyedan, Iowa, Worthington Daily Globe
I’m writing in response to recent Osceola County Supervisors proceedings regarding the Osceola County Conservation Board’s refusal to “sign off” on an R.E.A.P. grant application for improvements at Hawkeye Point.
Hawkeye Point was initially proposed as a gift to the Osceola County Conservation Board. The high point with an access road consisting of 1.6 acres was discussed with no action taken until Donna Sterler and her three children had concurred on the exact nature of the gift and certain guarantees requested by the family. Then, the Board of Supervisors suddenly purchased the entire acreage, taking it out of our hands. The Conservation Board has been left out of the loop as far as further development is concerned.
Recently, a grant application requiring the conservation board’s approval was hastily drawn up by a team of grant writers representing the Board of Supervisors and the Hawkeye Point Foundation to beat a looming grant application deadline. The group requested to be put on the conservation board agenda with only four hours advance notice. It was presented to the conservation board by S. L. Martin, City of Sibley Administrator, and Mike Earll. Unfortunately, the grant application was not properly submitted. Six copies should have been presented at the previous monthly meeting, allowing the Conservation Board ample time to thoroughly review the proposal. Instead, it was presented on a county conservation board application form reserved for the exclusive use of county conservation boards. The Osceola County Conservation Board, as well as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources R.E.A.P. grant coordinator, rejected the application due to these reasons.
At the request of the Board of Supervisors, Conservation Board Chairman Ray Akkerman and I met with the supervisors at their Aug 12 meeting to explain their rejection of the proposal. One of the supervisors began by asking the group what R.E.A.P. stood for. They really should find out what these grants are for before questioning them. R.E.A.P. is an acronym for Resource Enhancement And Protection. I think the supervisors thought the conservation board would just rubber stamp any proposal they submitted. Actually, the conservation board is an autonomous board not subordinate or subservient to the Board of Supervisors. Members are not marionettes to be manipulated by the Board of Supervisors. They prepare their own grants based on the merits and the quality of the project, and submit them as they see in the best interests of the taxpayers.