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Enterprise Journal

Stan Walk: Independent for Mitchell County District 4

Oct 08, 2020 03:38PM ● By Savannah Howe
Stan Walk, a nearly two-decades-long incumbent of the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors, is seeking reelection in District 4, representing Stacyville. 

Walk has a three-part agenda if he secures the D-4 seat: secondary roads, recreation and housing.  

“The thing about housing is that it returns an investment,” Walk said. “It’s a good, working program.”

Walk referenced the Constructive Incentive Program, which is funded through tax increment financing (TIF) and awards funding to developers building homes in the county. 

“It is basically a $30,000 grant for the home buyer, not the home builder, but I like to call it a government loan,” said Walk, “because once you buy that house, you pay property tax, so depending on the value of the house, you pay that grant back through taxes.”

Walk said he supports the housing program because, with soundly built homes, someone will still be paying taxes, and consequently contributing money to the county, even 125 years in the future. 

Walk said that Mitchell County being fourth in TIF usage per capita in the state of Iowa is not a concern—and that anyone who is concerned does not understand the program.

He stated that, per capita, the TIF debt in Mitchell County breaks down to roughly $2,900 per person.

“But, you look at your property taxes and there is nothing that says ‘debt services,’” said Walk. “You do not have any [county] debt. Yes, if the windmills failed to make payments, then you would. But the reality of that happening is slim to none.”

The supervisor said that the Turtle Creek wind farm, which was recently put into the Urban Renewal District, is worth upwards of half a billion dollars—making the odds of payments from the wind farm stopping unlikely. 

“They are not going to walk away from it and let it go up for sale. We have yet to see any of these wind farms declare bankruptcy or not pay debt. People try to make an issue of something that really, probably, will never be an issue, because they don’t understand it.”

Walk said that, while the county’s financial advisor reportedly doesn’t recommend taking on large amounts of debt right away, having money left on the table at the end of the 20-year window to use TIF revenue from the wind farm is not a good idea either. 

The supervisor said that those who believe not using TIF would lower property taxes are “completely wrong.”

Every taxing body will always be short of money,” he stated. “Even if we didn’t use TIF, the hospital, for example, will continue to use money, your property taxes. So when we have TIF money, the hospital is not going to say, ‘no, we don’t want this extra money.’”

Walk also feels that strong support of secondary roads is fundamental for economic growth. 

Secondary roads are something that we should look at very closely,” he said. 

In other county issues, Walk feels that can redemption of soda and beer cans is a good program—but in need of adjustments. 

“This problem is a state problem,” he explained. “We’re not going to see very many people willing to do can redemption any more.” Can redemption, or returning soda and beer cans to get the nickel refund per can that the distributor charges in accordance with state law to reduce litter and encourage recycling, is a 41-year-old program that has not seen an increase on that refund amount as processing and wage expenses rise. 

“Redemption sites are only paid a penny per can. A penny isn’t enough anymore. The Iowa Grocers’ Association would like to get rid of the can law, wholesalers want to get rid of it, but the general public thinks it’s a good program. So the state has these two forces colliding.”

The result, Walk said, is a stagnation in the legislature so that the can redemption issue continues to go unresolved. 

Local solutions have included redemption centers giving consumers less than a nickel per can back to maintain any sort of profit margin, but Walk explained that this often upsets the public because “they want a nickel since they paid a nickel.”

Walk said he doesn’t expect any legislative updates on the can problem until the election season is over on the state level. 

The District 4 hopeful feels that high speed internet for all in Mitchell County is important, too, but has concerns on whether or not county government should be involved. 

“We have needs that we haven’t taken care of,” said Walk. He stated he didn’t think the county should be assisting one entity with the installation of fiber optic when others in the county have paid to do it themselves. “I think the state, at some point in time, will provide the money. If we assisted with that and, in a few years from now the state had the funds to cover it but we couldn’t use that money since we’ve already done it, to me that would be a poor use of money.”

Walk feels his experience as a supervisor gives him the best qualifications to continue in the elected seat in District 4. 

“I’m sure the other three candidates are nice people. I think they really feel that they have the best interest of Mitchell County at heart,” he said. “But, I will be finishing up year 20. It has been quite a learning experience. In order to grow and take advantage of programs, you need to have contacts in the state. [...] When you have those types of contacts, you often get personal assistance that others wouldn’t.

“Take a look at my record. If you feel that I’ve helped Mitchell County grow, vote for me.”