Benton County gets ready for in-person court this week

Officials discuss opening the courthouse for in-person court.

VINTON – Benton County is getting closer to reopening the courthouse for in-person court, according to court officials at a meeting Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at the courthouse in Vinton.

Benton County Attorney David Thompson said this is the week they have announced in-person opening. “I really don’t think much is going to change in Benton County,” Thompson told the Benton County Board of Supervisors. The public defenders will continue to do most of their work through phone calls and paperwork in advance, and will not come out in person. When people do come out in person, there will be requirements to maintain social distancing, cleaning and face shields.

He wanted the board to be aware of this, since there will be more people using the restrooms, using chairs and tables. Clerk of Court Julie Hessenius stressed cleaning will be done by everyone and all have to pitch in to make a difference.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Thompson said.

The board and officials discussed security needs, especially for large court gatherings. They also talked about using a fogger to disinfect the courthouse when needed.

Supervisor Gary Bierschenk said he was concerned that the virus keeps going up, while Benton County keeps opening up. The board plans to address this at their Aug. 11 meting.

In a related matter, Thompson asked the board to consider moving their meetings to a date when court is not in the building, since the current meeting room can get crowded. He suggested Mondays. The board the week before moved to the magistrate office, which is larger.

Other business

A land use hearing was set for Jeff and Marcia Knupp for land in Parcel A, Section 35, Benton Township. The hearing is Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 9:15 a.m.

In a follow-up on the vote for a land use change at the July 7 meeting, regarding a proposed event venue north of Shellsburg, Chairman Richard Primmer asked Gary Bierschenk’s reason why he voted against. “I just felt that it was setting and precedent.”

“We had already set a precedent with passing that other one,” Primmer said of a similar land use change north of Vinton. Bierschenk countered there weren’t any objections to the one north of Vinton, while there were objections to the one north of Shellsburg. This occurred during approval of the minutes.

An update was give on the weed season from Ben Bonar, weed commissioner. A map was presented on weed complaints, with a lot from the southern part of the county. Most of the weeds are Canada thistle. Earlier in the season it was musk thistle. Options to manage weeds are spraying, mowing or burning. Wild parsnip was also explained. It’s a common weed and it causes burns, but it is not noxious. Palmer Armaranth is a common noxious weed, which was just added to the list by the state.

Information is being sent out on this, plus how to take care of weeds. Spraying was also explained. They are also working to bring back native vegetation.

Bierschenk felt Benton County does a really good job, compared to what he has seen in other counties on rural roads. Bonar agreed that comparatively, Benton County is doing a really solid job.

Law enforcement contracts were approved with Luzerne and Mount Auburn. There are no changes with the contracts. Sheriff Ron Tippett said his office is talking with Atkins about adding more hours, and they have encouraged Atkins to look into getting their own law enforcement.

The board received a request for use of the courthouse lawn for an Iowa Bible Reading Marathon. The request was approved.

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