Johnson County addresses concerns with conservation collaboration

BY DI STAFF | NOVEMBER 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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Harry Graves, the Johnson County conservation director, at Thursday’s Board of Supervisors meeting discussed the project collaboration between Johnson County and the University of Iowa, in which the county gave 125,000 trees to the university for a fuel project.

Supervisor Janelle Rettig expressed concern the trees had not been put up for public bid, claiming the Conservation Board prevented the supervisors from participating in “transparent government.”
Graves responded saying that these allegations weren’t true.

“I think those are bogus charges,” he said.

Discussion heated up, with Rettig and Graves repeatedly interrupting each other, giving contradictory recollections of the events leading up to the partnership.

Rettig said the public should have had the first chance at the trees, while Graves said there was no reason for the public to be interested.

The supervisors decided to look into the events leading up to the partnership to see if the public should’ve been given an opportunity to bid for the trees.

The 125,000 trees suffered from disease and will all succumb to insect damage, preventing the forestry from being used in other ways.

This pushed the county to give the trees to the UI following the university’s determination it could use the trees as fuel, and the supervisors agreed in July to the partnership. The UI is still working on gaining permits for the project.

— Stacey Murray

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