Benton County continues to deal with Covid-19

Benton County Courthouse

VINTON – Benton County continues to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on its operations, and debated opening up the county more at the Tuesday, May 26, meeting of the Benton County Board of Supervisors in Vinton.

Talking about the upcoming election, Benton County Auditor Hayley Rippel said there were 3,400 absentee ballots mailed out with 1,800 waiting to come back. In 2016, only 340 ballots were mailed in that year’s primary.

Rippel explained after the meeting that there will be a dropbox at the west door of the courthouse for voters to deliver their ballots in person. Ballots may also be mailed with a June 1 postmark. She also noted the supervisor’s meeting will be held Tuesday, June 2, in the GIS room. The supervisors’ office will be used by the absentee board.

She added that there will be no precinct voting in the courthouse that day, as Eden/Harrison/Taylor precinct is moved to the skating rink in Vinton. Those who want to visit the auditor’s office are urged to call ahead for an appointment.

Supervisor Gary Bierschenk gave an update on the health board. After looking at Benton County’s numbers, he said it was interesting that there has been no change in Benton County, considering it is located between Linn and Black Hawk Counties have so many cases. Supervisor Chairman Richard Primmer attributed the high counts for neighboring counties to long-term care facilities and meat-packing plants.

Rippel read an update from Karen Phelps of Benton County Conservation, saying no one “stormed the gates” at the parks over Memorial Day weekend, and there were good practices and social distancing. They hope to open cabins in the coming weeks. Fogging devices have been purchased to kill viruses and bacteria on contact. They will be tested. Supervisor Tracy Seeman also checked the campgrounds over the Memorial Day weekend,

There might be a meeting later in the week if there are any changes.

Other business

A farm exemption was approved for Rickie Gordon West for land in Section 36 of Harrison Township. This is for a new home.

A rate increase was approved for cremation services in Linn and Benton Counties.

An agreement was signed with Benton County Transportation and East Central Iowa Council of Governments for purchase of service for next fiscal year.

A bid was approved with the Watershed Management Authority for several projects. Eight contractors submitted bids. Hull Excavating on Greene was the lowest bidder at $921,925.

Allison Hicks of Benton County Historic Preservation Commission received approval to submit an application for a Historical Resource Development Program (HRDP) grant. A survey of historical rural churches will be held with the help of the grant money. There are six in rural Benton County. The low bid was accepted by the commission, pending the grant. The grant is $5,000. The county match is $1,500. There is also an in-kind match for personnel. This could be a prelude to the churches being added to the National Register of Historic Places, if the churches want. They might also get help with the Certified Local Government grant. This is awarded in the fall on a 60/40 split.

Hicks added that Preston’s Station, Belle Plaine, has a national register nomination. A public hearing on this is planned 7 p.m. June 4 in Vinton at the service center. They will also try to make the meeting online.

Brandon Geiger was approved as a full-time correctional officer. He has been working full-time, effective May 26, at $18.74 per hour.

Seasonal and part-time hires were approved for the weed department. This includes Luke Hennings as a truck driver at $16.50 per hour. Intern George Haefner was also approved at $13.79. Both are effective on June 1.

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