WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Lee County Building Assessment Possible

Aug 25, 2014

The Lee County Board of Supervisors may take a closer look at some existing county buildings before taking any action towards a controversial topic.

Don Seymour is a project manager with FEH Associates, which has several locations in Iowa.

He told several members of the board, during a roughly one-hour meeting Friday afternoon, that any project the engineer firm is involved with begins with a full assessment of the current facilities.

“There is a lot of information that we presented (Friday) that involves more than just bricks and mortar,” Seymour said.  “It is the economics, it is the environmental aspect, it is all of the community workshops where you gather all that input so you have as much information as possible.”

Seymour said in the case of Lee County, the assessment would likely include the North Lee County Courthouse, the South Lee County Courthouse, the Lee County Attorney’s Office in Fort Madison and possibly the North Lee County Office Building.

“We take this team of experts and let everybody pour into it,” Seymour said.  “You could call it a building forensics.  It is actually more than the building, it is the site and part of the community that we look at as well because how you use the building is just as important of what the building is made of.”

Seymour said once an assessment is complete, it works to provide a wide range of options for a client, including building new, leasing space or repairing a current facility.

He said the cost could run from $10,000 - $15,000 for an assessment, with the price likely to increase for multiple buildings.

Board Chairman Ernie Schiller said he is ready to take that step, to find out the official condition of the buildings, versus what people say about them.

He said he appreciates the professionalism and the detail offered by FEH Associates.  He just does not know if the board will buy in, given the number of split votes regarding the new courthouse.

“If we could come to unanimity like that, that would be a wonderful thing because I think as a board, we need to identify… yes, these buildings are old, yes, let’s make them safe, yes, let’s invest some money in them.”

FEH Associates ended up on Lee County’s radar because several residents visited a project in which the firm is involved.  It is currently leading construction on a new Mitchell County Courthouse, which is nearly 3x the size of the previous courthouse.

The meeting included Seymour, Engineer Kevin Eipperle, Board Chairman Ernie Schiller and Supervisors Rick Larkin and Ron Fedler.

Vice Chairman Matt Pflug attended via phone, due to being out of town, but left about five minutes into the discussion while Supervisor Gary Folluo was not in attendance.

Following the meeting, single courthouse proponent Mary Van Pelt of Montrose and opponent Al Nelson of rural Keokuk both told the engineers that they enjoyed and appreciated the presentation.

Schiller said if an assessment is done, the project would go out for public bid.