Apr 13, 2023 - News

Polk County to exit economic district

Illustration of a despondent George Washington on the dollar bill

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Polk County is withdrawing from a regional organization intended to help metro governments maximize federal grants.

Why it matters: It could cost the county millions of dollars in lost opportunities, Matt McCoy, the only supervisor to vote against canceling the membership last month, tells Axios.

The other side: The work of the Mid Iowa Planning Alliance for Community Development (MIPA) duplicates what Polk's staff already does — and the county does fine on its own, supervisors chairperson Tom Hockensmith tells Axios.

Catch up fast: MIPA is a seven-county Economic Development District that officially launched last year.

  • Their grant applications help show regional innovation or collaboration for disaster recovery and economic development efforts, according to research from the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which helps staff the group.

State of play: Local governments combine to contribute $70K a year for administrative costs. Polk's portion in the current fiscal year is $5,000.

  • MIPA used that money to obtain more than $3.1 million in grants in its first 11 months for things like upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities, MIPA senior planner Caleb Knutson tells Axios.

Between the lines: It's a control issue.

  • Hockensmith acknowledged to Axios his concerns that the MPO has "mission creep."
  • Its original primary purpose was regional transportation planning, but that has extended over the last 40 years into things like recreational river trail projects, he says.

What they're saying: The MPO is tasked with overseeing a wide range of regional bids and grants, including through MIPA, because it's most equipped to do so efficiently, McCoy says.

  • Polk's costs to apply for some of the grants on its own will far exceed the county's annual MIPA dues, he predicts.

What's next: Polk County's membership officially ends June 30.


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