For years, Dubuque County supervisors have discussed and debated the merits and challenges of operating the only county-run long-term-care facility in the state.
At the center of the concern is the $2.9 million annual subsidy budgeted for the county to run Sunnycrest Manor. The taxpayer burden has led to some calls to sell the facility while other stakeholders pleaded to have Sunnycrest remain under county control.
Over those years, a majority of county supervisors have opted consistently to try other means to control expenses at Sunnycrest, and this year, it appears to be paying off.
Staffing shortages, higher Medicaid reimbursement rates and better financial management could lead to roughly $1 million in savings this fiscal year in Sunnycrest operations. Taxpayer support is expected to drop by about $650,000 next fiscal year compared to the current budget.
While short staffing isn’t an ideal way to save money, the other contributing factors are a good indication that Sunnycrest is moving in the right direction under Administrator Cris Kirsch.
That’s not to say that Sunnycrest officials and county supervisors shouldn’t continue to look long and hard at the facility’s future. That’s the responsibility of elected officials in being good stewards of taxpayer money. Having these discussions doesn’t mean that Sunnycrest will be closed, sold or leased. It doesn’t mean that residents and their families must find a new place to live.
What it does mean is that local officials are cognizant of their duty to all county residents — those living in Sunnycrest and those paying to keep the facility operating.
Whatever the location, the arguments for and against installing sidewalks where currently none exist are largely the same.
Longtime residents don’t want the expense and the upkeep of sidewalks when for years people got along just fine without them.
Others see it as a safety measure that protects pedestrians and serves the greater good of the community.
Both perspectives played out in Asbury, Iowa, and in Dubuque recently, and both ended with the same outcome: A city council vote that required unanimous approval to overrule a constituent petition.
In Asbury last week, a proposal to reconstruct a portion of Springreen Drive died, even though a majority of City Council members supported the project. The 4-1 vote wasn’t enough to approve installing sidewalks along the entire length of the road. Because a majority of property owners along the road signed the petition, a unanimous vote was required.
The same scenario played out in Dubuque — on more than one occasion — when the discussion arose about adding sidewalks to John F. Kennedy Road.
In both cases, citizens concerned about cost and upkeep trumped the concern about safety.
Just as in the case of Dubuque sidewalks, government fails to meet its responsibility in these situations. Citizen safety should supersede other concerns.
In both Dubuque and Asbury, we hope to see city officials working with residents to seek a common-sense solution that would bring about sidewalk installation without posing too big of a burden on the neighborhood. If a tragic accident were to happen in an area where no sidewalks exist, communities would move immediately to make the area safer, whatever compromise was required.
Here’s hoping we can sidestep tragedy and move directly toward the solution.
One of the wonderful attributes of small communities is the ability to pull together for a common cause.
We see small-town pride shine through when severe weather strikes, with neighbors helping neighbors and pulling together. We’ve seen townspeople helping out those in need with farming operations, rebuilding, food donations and countless other areas of assistance.
The City of Lancaster seems to have figured out that same sort of community camaraderie even can get economic development done.
When community members saw the need for a midscale to upper-midscale hotel in the Lancaster market, a group of local investors worked with the city to finance the $5 million initiative. Common Council members this week unanimously approved a related development agreement, with the city transferring the property to the developers for $1 and provide up to $943,250 and interest using funds generated by a new tax-increment-finance district.
Tax revenue generated from property improvements within the district will finance the developers’ costs, including site grading and paving, utility extensions and stormwater retention implements.
Getting a new hotel built in a small town takes a different recipe than it might in a larger community. But when community members and government officials can both put some skin in the game for a project they believe has sufficient demand, that just might be the small-town way of getting it done.
Congratulations to Lancaster officials and local investors who stepped up to launch a project they see as filling a void in their community.