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Controversy Over Land for New Warren County Jail

INDIANOLA, Iowa -- Plans to build a new jail in Warren County are causing controversy.

One county supervisor is accusing the other two of backroom negotiations and an agreement to pay an inflated price for the land needed for the new jail.

The land being considered is 18-20 acres near 17th Avenue in Indianola, called the Friestad Family Limited Property. Supervisor Dean Yordi has already reached an agreement to buy the land for $28,000 per acre. After learning of the tentative agreement, Supervisor Crystal McIntyre took to Facebook, writing, “approximately 18 to 20 acres at $28,000 per acre. If it wasn't the county paying that price, they'd never sell that land for anything close!”

Agents at Exit Realtors, the ones working with Friestad FLP to sell the land, say that simply isn't the case.

“Currently in Indianola we have development land that is listed for sale anywhere from $25,000 an acre to over $60,000 an acre," said Terry Pauling of Exit Realty.

While on the low end of that scale, McIntyre still says $28,000 is too much. On Facebook, she points to the county's economic development website, saying, “$28,000 is three times what’s listed on the website." She goes on to say, "It appears the Friestad property Dean has a purchasing agreement for is listed on the Warren County Economic Development website for $7,500 an acre."

Community developer Chuck Burgin said that assessment is outdated and doesn't reflect the market value.

“Those values don’t often keep up with the market value. They are not raised to the market value. That’s what we typically see," Burgin said.

So how did Yordi reach the $28,000 per acre figure? By negotiating with realtors at Exit Realty.

“We just went back and forth, I went down to 23, we went back a forth a couple times and we got to 28, and they said that's where they were gonna stay, they weren't going any lower than that, and I finally said okay," Yordi said.

Another reason Yordi agreed to the deal is that the land already has some of the infrastructure to support a new jail.

“There is public water that's available to the property. They'll need that, of course, for water and most likely for sprinkler, so there is public water that's available, it's just adjacent across the street. There is a sanitary sewer," Burgin said.

The tentative deal will go before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Even if the sale is approved, it will be contingent upon voters approving a bond referendum to pay for it.

According to findings from the State Jail Inspector, the current jail is overcrowded and has problems with mold, sewer gas, and water heaters not maintaining heat.

Warren County will vote on May 1st, 2018 on whether to pay for the new jail.