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State of the County
State of the County Address
Paul Toot.PNG
Paul Toot
Chair - Story County Board of Supervisors

Audio Recording of Supervisor Paul - 2016 State of the County Address available here.

It is both an honor and a privilege to serve you as a member of the Story County Board of Supervisors.  As Chair of the Board this year, I am afforded the opportunity to work with two committed and dedicated colleagues in Wayne Clinton and Rick Sanders. Both Rick and I are in our second terms as Board members.  Wayne is nearing completion of his fourth and what will be his last term since he has decided not to seek re-election this year.  For nearly 16 years, Wayne Clinton has brought his unending energy and dedication to Story County and has, and will continue to, shape our future.  His leadership both locally as well as throughout the state and nationally will leave some pretty big shoes to fill. 

Together, the three of us know that good policy and responsible governance is important, and we come together for the good of Story County.  Collectively, we focus our energies to making this County a great place for all of us to live, work, and play.

2015 brought another year of significant progress and milestones for Story County.    Our 250-plus employees are highly talented and dedicated, serving the citizens of Story County with over 2,500 years of combined service. While we have mandates from the State that we must provide, we continue to look for innovative solutions to provide these services at the highest quality possible.  We make strategic decisions that increase our ability to provide services in line with priorities that we’ve identified, not simply business as usual.  We tackle our challenges and make major investments to provide the foundation of our next generations.

The Board of Supervisors has both legislative and administrative powers and is the policy-making body for Story County government. We adopt legislation and policies for department operations, set priorities, allocate resources and maintain budgetary control.  In this capacity, we held 52 total meetings last year, considering nearly 900 items before the Board. Presenting the inaugural Citizen of the Year Award to Mayor Wallace Loney of McCallsburg and former YSS CEO George Bellitsos highlighted one of our best meetings of 2015. Given annually, we developed this program to award to Story County residents who perform meritorious service above and beyond what would be expected of a citizen. Their efforts demonstrate creativity, vision, leadership, and citizenship by providing service to programs and activities that positively impact the welfare of the citizens in Story County.

To increase efficiency and streamline communication channels, we created two new positions in the Board of Supervisors’ office.  The position of Director of External Operations and County Services was filled with the transfer of Deb Schildroth from her position as Community Services Director.  Alissa Wignall’s responsibilities were increased as she assumed the position of Director of Internal Operations and Human Resources.

As we started budget discussions a year ago this time, we were made aware that the long-standing flex benefit allowing employees to “cash out” the money put towards the cost of insurance could not legally continue as it did not qualify as meeting the affordability test. We re-evaluated the practice, amended our policy, and offered a more cost-effective insurance plan for employees and their families. 

In early 2015, Story County started work on our first comprehensive plan looking forward to 2036.  With the help of a consulting team to guide us through this planning project called From Cornerstone to Capstone, or simply the C2C Plan, we started by gathering public input early last spring. We asked – what are the important reasons  you choose to live and/or work in Story County, how will our quality of life change over the coming five years, and much more.  Thank you to all of you that have taken time to complete surveys, attend open houses, read draft documents, and more over the past 12 months. The schedule brings the C2C Plan to the Board for action in June this summer.  It will serve as Story County’s living guide for growth and change in Story County and the involvement of residents, business owners, and other stakeholders is essential to the overall creation and implementation of the Plan.

This past fall, the Board of Supervisors responded to the Iowa Department of Transportation’s proposed alternatives for the US Highway 30 Planning Study for the stretch of that road from Ames to Nevada.  We expressed strong opposition to the DOT regarding potential permanent closures of crossings at 580th, 590th and 600th Avenues and continue to encourage the DOT to retain access points for businesses and the farming community that uses the corridor on a daily basis.

Our economy remains strong and growing.  Throughout 2015, we continued to identify programs and to positively impact Story County, whether that meant building our workforce, helping communities plan for future investments, or provide financial assistance to special projects. We forged collaborative partnerships to ensure Story County remains economically viable, sustainable, diverse and welcoming.

Governor Terry Branstad recognized Story County as a Home Base Iowa community in 2015. We designed the Welcome Home to Story County relocation package to supplement efforts of the State’s program, providing up to $2,500 in relocation assistance for a Veteran moving to Story County.

The Board of Supervisors formally adopted the Façade Improvement Grant Program in 2015.  This is one of several programs we have put in place to help Story County’s smaller communities. In August, Roland was awarded $892 for a $4,460 project working on a vacant building, and in Zearing received nearly $2,000 to help with a $15,000 project. Over the past three years, we have been able to provide nearly $650,000 in financial assistance through our Urban Renewal Area program to communities and schools in Story County.  Funding for these programs comes from the tax increment financing program we put in place in 2012 with the construction of the 120-plus wind turbines throughout Story County. 

In Story County also provided assistance for several special projects, including:

  • Contributing $10,000 for construction of the pool project in Story City;
  • Committing $80,000 to the Story County Fair Association for the Community Building project;
  • Funding $33,000 to help Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency purchase two new buses; and
  • Providing $100,000 in funding towards improvements at the Ames Municipal Airport.

While quality of life is often measured by our economic prosperity, our natural resource assets also significantly affect our quality of life in Story County. Natural resources are of value to our communities, the county, region, state, and nation,  So, it was with much excitement, after planning for decades, that we celebrated the grand opening of the redesigned, redeveloped and expanded Dakins Lake in northeast Story County.  Dakins Lake is now a 103-acre park with nearly 40 campsites ranging from sites with full hookups to primitive camping sites and it is one of many exciting projects happening in and around Zearing.

For a number of years, we have been working to plan and complete improvements in key watersheds throughout Story County. In 2015, we began implementation of the first phase of strategies identified to positively affect the watershed draining into Hickory Grove Park. This first phase of the watershed improvements focused on stream channel maintenance and stabilization, pond construction, and culvert replacement. More work continues this year and into next.  We remain a member of the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority, and I’m still serving in the capacity of the chair of that group.  We are very proud of the projects and funding opportunities stemming from the 2014 management plan we developed.

We are collaborating with the ISU Research Park and the City of Ames with current expansion plan. With the phenomenal growth of the Research Park, Story County, through Conservation, plays a key role.  We will own and maintain the green spaces and trail systems and create a state-of-the-art national model to demonstrate best management practices.

Much of our success can be attributed to the step we took nearly four years ago to put together a strategic plan. This past August, we adopted our newest strategic plan to guide us over the next three years, serving as our roadmap to define our priorities, strategic directions, and concrete goals and objectives.  Looking forward to 2016, Story County remains strong and committed to providing sound and sustainable service delivery that promotes quality of life for all our residents.  We are guided by a great foundation set forth by our strategic planning efforts, and in June, we will place the capstone as we consider the C2C Plan, with projects to prioritize and work to implement to continue to achieve our goals.  I am confident that, all of us, working together, will respond to the challenges that 2016 and beyond may bring.  And, our strong spirit will continue to build a better Story County for today and even greater for our future generations to come.


Audio Recording of 2016 State of the County Address