Johnson County F.W. Kent Park shower house and dump station renovations delayed by budget concerns

The project, aimed at helping protect Johnson County’s F.W. Kent Park Lake water quality, is waiting for revised bids from contractors.


Matt Sindt

A sign is seen near the entrance of Kent Park. Sept. 27, 2022.

Alejandro Rojas, News Reporter

Renovations to better the water quality of Johnson County F.W. Kent Park’s lake is delayed because of over-budget contractor bids. 

Tests on water quality yielded results that told the county that the shower house and the dump station were polluting the water. Changes to the shower house and dump station at the park will cost an estimated minimum of $3.5 million, funded by the county’s American Rescue Plan Act grants.  

RELATED: Johnson County to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to strengthen food initiatives during COVID-19

Johnson County Conservation Program Manager Brian Freidhof said the water is polluted because the shower house and dump stations are older structures, dating back to the 1980s, and could be leaking. 

The idea for water quality improvement efforts began in 2019 after renovations to the lake and watershed.

“We said, ‘We’re going to do everything that is humanly possible for us to protect the water quality of the lake,’” Freidhof said. “The only thing that remained that we were aware of was that the septic field for both our dump station associated with the campground, and the camper shower house, were still located within the watershed of Kent Park Lake.”

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Conservation Board Director Larry Gullet wrote that another goal of the project is “to make sure the lake is safe for people to swim and recreate in.” 

American Rescue Plan Act funds will be used to help pay for the project. James Bechtel, Johnson County Board of Supervisors project and systems analyst, said to maintain the quality of the restored watershed and lake, improvements to the shower house must be made.

“That kind of pointed toward a good opportunity to invest ARPA funds to maintain that whole area of investments for the county,” Bechtel said. “The specific logic utilized from our perspective is grounded in the public use of that area, and the need to have access to this area.”

Freidhof said the current issue for the project has been the bids from contractors coming in over the proposed budget, leading the conservation board to reject them. Supply chain issues and worker shortage have also affected the project.

To move ahead on the project, county staff proposed to split the renovation project in two. The current plans list the renovations the shower house and dump station as one project.

Bechtel said splitting the projects can have individual timelines and the dump station portion can be finished quicker.

“And so, to get some benefits from the investments on water quality in watershed protection, it’s more the recommendation so that instead of having everything moved together, we can do the easier one, the one that has less issues associated with supplies and construction,” he said.

For Friedhof, he said the hope is to complete the project as soon as possible so people can fully enjoy the park again.

“We want them to come out here and feel like it’s home,” Freidhof said. “Come out here and camp and relax, grab a quick shower. We want all those amenities that we can provide. And we want high quality amenities for them. So we’re going to continue to work hard to get this project done.” 

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