Residents deserve better

By Steve St. Clair, Decorah

The Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors has been on a wild ride since Feb. 6, when the controlling faction (Dan Langreck, Mark Vick and Steve Kelsay) suddenly – and apparently unlawfully – voted to eliminate the county’s well-regarded Iowa Roadside Vegetation Management Program (IRVMP).

This rash move prompted many county residents to present extensive data demonstrating that the IRVMP made sense both as a cost-saving measure and a vital conservation tool. A good public servant confronted with such evidence would either acknowledge error and change course, or rebut the evidence with comparable data. The Langreck/Vick/Kelsay faction has done neither.

The most memorable efforts to justify scrapping the IRVMP were Vick’s claim that it would save $250,000, and Kelsay’s that it would save $400,000. These dramatic round numbers ($150,000 apart!) cry out for explanation. When pressed for an explanation at the April 17 meeting, Vick said that he had “done his own figures” which he had “at home someplace.”

To get Vick to share his figures and Kelsay to provide whatever similar support he had, I made a formal public records request for whatever materials they had supporting their savings claims. In May, Vick responded: “I have no records or documents that pertain to the request …” So much for the “figures” he claimed he had “at home” on April 17.

Kelsay’s response? He produced only his texting exchange with a road worker who dismissed IRVMP supporters as “the flower side.” It contained no numbers whatsoever in support of Kelsay’s $400,000 savings claim.

As Lee Bjerke said in recently ending his 23 years as County Engineer, board actions of late have been based on “random opinions, conjecture or hearsay,” and “facts and truths do not seem to be sought or even discussed.” Winneshiek County residents deserve better.

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