Restrictions continue for Benton courthouse and offices

Supervisors approve extending restrictions until October 6 meeting

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – Benton County will continue to keep its courthouse and other offices closed to the public, unless people make an appointment, after a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15, at the courthouse in Vinton.

It has been closed for several months in response to Covid-19.

Benton County Public Health Director Katie Cox gave an update on Covid-19 numbers. As of that day, the positive count was 249. About 13 percent are asymptomatic, and 60 percent have symptoms. There are 40 to 50 active cases.

She added all schools have been affected by positive cases, and those affected have been quarantined.

“We are just getting through things and everybody’s feeling really good with it,” she observed. Most of her efforts have been working with schools. Schools work to cohort their students, keeping them in the same place with the same people.

Sheriff Ron Tippett said they are not changing what they are doing at the jail. “What we’re doing seems to be working,” Tippett said, as they don’t get in a hurry. “We should just stay status quo with what we’re doing right now.” He also urged the courthouse should be handled as a long-term care facility, so they have to minimize all contact that they can – within reason.

If somebody gets sick, they’ll have to close the courthouse, so Tippett would like it to stay the way it is.

Treasurer Melinda Schoettmer said few people come in to the courthouse to pay property taxes and are screened. Most leave their payments in a drop box. She also updated the board on driver’s licenses and what other counties are doing.

The county wants to avoid having people congregating in hallways. The board approved keeping the restrictions for another 30 days. Primmer observed cases have been on the incline, but it makes sense with school starting. “It’s going the wrong direction, in my opinion, to just throw the doors open,” he said.

They will review this again Oct. 6, with an eye on what to do for the November election.

Other business

The board discussed a proposal for labor and employment services from Ahlers Cooney Attorneys. Board Chairman Richard Primmer explained this helps in negotiations for human services. Benton County Attorney David Thompson stressed that anything involving an attorney, he has to sign off on it, or it doesn’t happen. In the future he wants to be given a clue it is going to be on the agenda. Primmer recommended tabling this until the county attorney can look it over.

The board approved the Benton County Urban Renewal report.

Mindy Druschel, Department of Human Service, discussed D-SNAP (Disaster food assistance) and use of a county building. This is for disaster supplemental food assistance. They expect 700 households to apply for this. She was concerned that the office is open only by appointment. People will be screened as they come in to the building and will maintain social distancing. Primmer said the board was OK with this, and he trusted the sheriff’s department could handle the security. This is at the county’s service center. There was no formal action by the board. Sheriff Ron Tippett arrived later, and said they would make it work.

The board set a land use hearing date for Dennis Hearn in Section 36, Harrison Township. The date is Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 9:15 a.m.

In reports, the board discussed staff shortages in the conservation department. They are looking to hire two rangers.

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