By Joey May

Many semis engine brake or “jake brake” when they hit this 40 mph sign just south of Hiawatha on U.S. 73.

The Brown County Commission addressed a concern from a county resident about semis “jake-braking” near his house.

Virgil Wiltz lives just south of Hiawatha along U.S. 73 Highway, right about the 40 mph reduced speed sign. He said semis coming northbound on 73 often “jake-brake” — or engine brake right about there — causing excessive noise. Many cities have resolutions against semis engine braking within city limits, however Wiltz wanted to know if the county could extend that further out.

Wiltz, who called in to Monday morning’s meeting. said he contacted the state Department of Transportation, since U.S. 73 is a state highway, and was told that the county commission would have the authority to pass a resolution for this purpose.

Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill, present at Monday’s meeting, said that the county can sign a resolution against this out however many miles from the city limits they determine. He said it would be up to local law enforcement to observe and then enforce, but the proper signage could reduce the number of times this occurs.

Sheriff John Merchant said his officers can enforce the resolution in their presence and write citations based on “jake-braking” incidents.

Wiltz asked if it was possible to move back the sign toward the City Lake and that would warn drivers to slow down at that point, rather than putting their brakes on when they hit the 40 mph zone near his home.

“Anything you can help me with I appreciate it,” he told the commissioners.

Commissioner Dwight Kruse said Fairview had a similar ordinance and that while he can still hear some trucks, he thought it had slowed down some of the others. Hill said Horton also had a similar ordinance in effect.

Hill told the commissioners he would work up a sample resolution for next Monday’s meeting for their consideration. In the meantime, Kruse said the commissioners could decide if they wanted to include any other locations on the resolution.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the commissioners were joined by Emergency Management Director Don Pounds and Jeremey Forkenbrock, from the SPARK Committee to discuss issues concerning some requests for Direct Aid due to COVID-19.

Brown County was awarded approximately $1.9 million in federal COVID relief funds to help local organizations and businesses. A SPARK Committee was formed to help filter through requests and determine eligibility — then the county commissioners approved each individual request.

There were questions concerning requests from both meat packing companies, both libraries and KANZA Mental Health that were discussed. One question centered around technology purchased with SPARK funds. Pound said that if new computers or other technology were purchased then it had to be for programs or reasons related to COVID and that had to be specified on the request. He said the money couldn’t be used just to replace equipment that was old.

It was determined that the direct aid amounts could be sent to the entities and receipts were not being asked for at this time. Brown County Treasurer Cheryl Lippold said the requests were being sent to Wisdom CPA and as long as contracts were in place the county were not required to request receipts. She said as the state audits the allocation of these federal funds, they may request receipts if questions on the usage.

Pounds told commissioners he was concerned with a request from KANZA concerning a sprayer and disinfectant that was to be used also at the Jackson County location. He didn’t feel that was an appropriate use of those funds. Commissioner Richard Lehmkuhl, who serves on KANZA’s board, said the documentation specified that 5 percent of the disinfectant spray purchased with SPARKS funds would be used at the Jackson County office. He also reminded the commission that Hiawatha’s KANZA office was the headquarters for four counties, so all ordering would be processed here.

“I don’t feel they purposely deceived,” he said.

Pounds also said he felt KANZA had requested a lot of PPE supplies related to COVID — almost nearly as much as the hospital. He questioned why all of that was needed. Lehmkuhl pointed out that KANZA serves many patients at their Hiawatha headquarters, as well has have 50-70 children in their summer program. He said he felt that would necessitate the need for quite a bit of supplies.

“Mental health has seen one of the biggest rise of services,” Lehmkuhl said.

The commissioners suggested to ask KANZA Mental Health to request that Jackson County pay a portion of the disinfectant spray from their SPARKS funds. They agreed to process the remaining Direct Aid requests.

They also agreed that if the state deemed the expenses were not credible during an audit, that KANZA — or any other business or organization — could be asked to repay the funds.

Funds from the SPARK money had to be spent this fall with all invoices due to the state by Dec. 15.

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