Throwing stones

One would think that Jon Ites is running for Buena Vista County Supervisor, his contempt for Storm Lake is so great. No, but he is not running. Ites is the county engineer who was just awarded a three-year contract by the Board of Supervisors, despite the fact that he is supposed to retire in a year. He sends letters to the editor on the Buena Vista County email system trashing the Storm Lake Police Department because officers had the temerity to stop and ticket his adult daughter for a seatbelt violation. The protective father even showed up at her traffic stop, police said.

Ites does not forsake his free-speech rights by virtue of his county job. He has taken to making fun of police officers for being bad drivers. He has lectured on profiling. He says the cops are young and inexperienced.

Yet the police have helped to put in prison five bank robbers, at least four murderers and countless kidnappers and rapists. They fielded 52,000 calls for service last year. And on Sunday night, an officer found the door on a county shed supervised by the engineer unlocked. Police called Ites to alert him.

Now let’s talk about the county engineer’s operation. People have to write letters to this newspaper to get dust control on busy gravel roads. At last count, more than 40 BV County bridges were rated “structurally deficient” and no action has been taken by the engineer to fix them other than moan about shortage of funds. He fails to return phone calls. When the state asks why the county is not controlling mud flows on active road maintenance projects, the engineer is nowhere to be found. He sends someone else in to take the beating.

And we still don’t have a bike trail around the lake because the engineer and Board of Supervisors refuse to acknowledge its need.

The engineer shouldn’t throw gravel or it might fly back in his eye.

The fact is that he is emboldened to do so because the county resents the City of Storm Lake. The county has battled the city every step of the way on sewage issues, on road maintenance agreements and on economic development. When the engineer jabs the city, he gets a contract extension. This sort of wedge between the city and county has existed for too long, is a serious hindrance to overall community progress, and gets wider by the day. It must stop.

Ites never has called or visited Police Chief Mark Prosser to voice his concerns over police procedure.

So fine, let’s have a discussion about police driving skills. The chief says police, including himself, can improve their driving skills.

After that, let’s have a discussion about the mediocre performance of the county engineer’s office and why he makes more than $100,000 a year on a three-year contract when one year would be more than the public should suffer. And, why is he allowed to use county equipment on purely personal business unless the county endorses his ill will?

Listen to neighbors

The planning consultant that the city hired to draft a new zoning ordinance did crack-up work, no doubt. Now it’s time for him to take a back seat and listen to the people of Storm Lake, who do not want a block between Methodist Manor and Buena Vista University rezoned as “institutional.” Homeowners along the Lighthouse Drive block that faces Scout Park are unanimous in their opposition to the change. Neither institution has asked for the zoning change. It appears that the consultant is the main driver for change, unless there are plans of which we are unaware.

The consultant told the planning and zoning commission last week that they have worked too hard to just abandon this itty-bitty change in the zoning map. We can understand why the consultant is wedded to his poetry. Alas, the verse and meter may be undone but the paycheck will not bounce.

This has always been a residential block. It retains a residential feel. The neighbors are happy where they are, but they worry that if the zoning changes they could have a hard time selling their home or even generating a mortgage. The consultant tried to assuage their concerns by referring to some of them as myths. His degree is probably in urban planning, not law or finance.

If BVU has big plans, then we can reconsider. If Methodist Manor has ideas about supported independent living cottages, that might be different. None of that is on the table.

As former city councilman Jim Treat points out in a letter to the editor today, the city never has stood in the way of BVU or Methodist Manor building something new and better. The city bends over backwards to accommodate all institutions. Let’s bend over backwards to accommodate the neighbors this time. If they want to sell their property to an institution, that’s their business. The city does not need to nudge the process along.