If the University of Iowa decides to collaborate with Winneshiek County, it will want to make it worth its while.

Recently, the University of Iowa was contacted by the Winneshiek County Protectors regarding possible economic and health impact studies on the effects of frac-sand mining. Winneshiek Conservation Director Barb Schroeder has been talking with the U of I regarding additional studies which could benefit the county.

At Monday's meeting of the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, Schroeder said she has been corresponding with Nick Benson, program coordinator for the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) at the University of Iowa.

Schroeder and Benson have been discussing how students from the University of Iowa's field problems course could help Winneshiek County.

Schroeder said the Conservation Board also is interested in looking at the economic impact of the Trout Run Trail.

Benson said students are already committed for the 2013-2014 school year, but a request for proposals (RFP) will be sent out later this fall.

"It would be great if Winneshiek County/Decorah put together a proposal with multiple project that touch on a variety of disciplines (such as urban planning, engineering, geoscience, public health, etc.)," said Benson in a note to Schroeder.

Benson said the IISC employs a "place-based" approach to such projects.

"We typically like to have at least four or five projects going on in our partner communities so we feel like we are making a significant impact on the area," said Benson.

Schroeder said the Conservation Board is currently brainstorming potential projects.

"They have already chosen their projects for next year, so we need to submit RFPs to them so they can choose which communities they are going to work with next year. I have been working with City Manager Chad Bird to see if the city has some projects ... If there are any other studies you gentlemen need, we can come up with a list and then narrow it down," she said.

Schroeder said the only cost of such a partnership would be the students' mileage to Winneshiek County.