Capital Clicks

Public discussion of Polk’s $65 million water and land referendum is Wednesday

By: - October 19, 2021 5:31 pm

This stretch of the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines would be more accessible to kayakers as part of a $117 million water trails plan. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A Wednesday afternoon town-hall-style meeting hosted by a government spending watchdog group will focus on Polk County’s upcoming $65 million bond referendum to fund water, parks and trails projects.

The Polk County Water & Land Legacy Bond needs support from at least 60% of voters in the Nov. 2 referendum to pass. A similar measure in 2012 got 72% approval among voters, and a survey this spring of likely voters suggested similar support this year, said Rich Leopold, the county’s conservation director.

“We’re very happy with those numbers,” said Leopold, who is set to field questions from residents during the 4:30 p.m. meeting.

The remote meeting via Zoom is hosted by the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa. Residents can join it by clicking this link.

Leopold said the association has not yet announced whether it will support the referendum. The interim director of the association did not respond to a request to comment for this article.

The average Polk County property owner will pay an estimated $11 per year if the referendum succeeds. The 2012 referendum — which authorized the county to borrow up to $50 million for the projects — was projected to result in a $9 per year increase.

It’s anticipated that up to $15 million of the new referendum money would help pay for projects prioritized by the Iowa Confluence Water Trails group, which is led by local elected officials, business leaders and others. The group wants to improve several creeks and rivers to better accommodate canoeing, kayaking and tubing to encourage recreational tourism.

Leopold said it is likely some of the money will also fund a new campground and other improvements to Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, which the county bought this year.

Establishing and enhancing parks will also be a priority.

“Des Moines is growing so fast that if you don’t do it now, it’s not going to get done,” Leopold said.

He said the county used money from the previous referendum to leverage about $42 million of funding from other sources for a variety of projects, a list of which can be found here.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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