Supervisor work on grant funding and employee policy for Covid-19

The Benton County Board of Supervisors meets with Benton County Attorney David Thompson.

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – Covid-19 related grant funding from the Iowa Department of Health was explained at the Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, meeting of the Benton County Board of Supervisors, at the county’s service center in Vinton.

Speaking with the board was Katie Cox, Benton County Public Health Director. She said the greatest need for grant money is contact tracing for Covid cases. Benton County has 1,726 cases, and there is still 641 cases to be contacted. The grant money will help home health nurses help the state with contact tracing. Any funds left over can go to vaccine supplies or health care packages. She also wants to be sure they have contacted and educated everyone. With the funds, she feels they can get caught up. 

Cox expects cases to spike up again in the next couple of weeks, even though things are now trending down. 

No action by the board was required. Cox explained how tracing works in educating people and dealing with various scenarios. They work closely with school nurses and she explained how they deal with students who test positive. 

Board Chairman Richard Primmer thanked Cox and said all were in agreement that this is what needs to be done.

The board also discussed a temporary Covid-19 policy for Benton County with Benton County Attorney David Thompson. Thompson said the policy is almost entirely drawn from the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website. He also worked with the county’s public health director. The policy can be tweaked as health recommendations change. The policy is in effect until it is rescinded. They went over scenarios regarding quarantining. Thompson said now is the time to stress good sanitary practices, such as wearing a mask, washing hands and cleaning work areas. “Cases are still on the rise, it appears, so we really need to buckle down and wait for the vaccines to become available,” Thompson stressed. 

Primmer said the public is becoming more aware and proactive.

Other business

The board approved the transition of a part-time correctional officer, Karysn Semelroth, to full-time status, effective Dec. 5, 2020. The wage is $16.39 per hour. She’ll get full wage after completing jail school. 

Vacation carryover was approved for land use administrator and sanitarian Marc Greenlee. The carryover was 10 days.

The board also discussed with Thompson retaining Laura Folkerts of Dutton Daniels Hines Kalkhoff Cook and Swanson for labor negotiations. The billing rate is $175 per hour. The county has negotiations with the sheriff’s department and secondary roads unions. She will also deal with matters stemming from union contracts.

A public hearing was held on a budget amendment for this year, for conservation and the auditor’s office, to allow for grant money. In discussion for next year’s budget, the board is hoping to hold the bottom line. 

Sheriff Ron Tippett told the board there has been an increase in cases for mental health. As for crime, there has been more thefts from garages, storage unit, vehicles and machine sheds. He said they all seem to turn up in Cedar Rapids.

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