Mask restrictions are eased for Benton County

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – The mask mandate for Benton County offices and facilities was eased at the Tuesday, May 18, meeting of the Benton County Board of Supervisors. The meeting was held at the service center in Vinton.

It was approved on a 2-1 vote, with Chairman Tracy Seeman opposed.

Personal responsibility was stressed on whether people are vaccinated or not. They also looked at written reports from the clerk of court and Benton County Public Health.

Supervisor Richard Primmer said the county has always followed the lead of the court system. The clerk’s office states that fully vaccinated people are not required to use face coverings or shields. Signage in the courthouse is to be modified to reflect this change. Face coverings are still recommended for unvaccinated people, according to the clerk’s report.

Scott Hansen, Emergency Management, questioned if people will be required to produce a vaccine card, or who to believe when someone says they are vaccinated or not vaccinated. He felt it was to the point that they can go back to personal responsibility. People can still wear masks to protect themselves.

Sheriff Ron Tippett agreed with personal responsibility. Other officials gave their input as well and agreed.

Benton County Attorney David Thompson was asked how this would affect courts. Thompson imagined that court officials on the second and third floors will ask people if they are vaccinated. If they are not, they will need to be socially distanced and put on a mask. He felt they will have to go by the honor system.

Katie Cox, Benton County Public Health Director, reported Covid-19 numbers are trending down and vaccinations are increasing. Since offices are open to the public, they still need to keep their best practices in place.

Tippett questioned where officials stand regarding HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and asking people questions about medical information, especially regarding vaccinations. “Do they have to answer, or can they just say ‘none of your business?’” Tippett asked. Cox said there is no guidance on this.

Thompson felt people coming into the courthouse should still be screened and be advised of what the court is requiring. He stressed he is all for civil liberties. “As the employer, you folks control this building,” Thompson said to the board. “You have the right to set reasonable rules to safeguard both your employees and the public.”

Primmer agreed there needed to be guidelines, and that a mask be required for unvaccinated people. Supervisor Gary Bierschenk asked how this would affect people who might have had the disease and didn’t know it. Cox emphasized the importance of getting the vaccine.

Primmer made the motion to approve the changes, with a second by Bierschenk, to follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines, and post signs stating masks are not required for those who are fully vaccinated. The motion also called for continuing screening at the doors until guidelines comedown otherwise.

Engineer

Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek received approval for a utility permit for Interstate Power and Light in Kane Township. This deals with poles along Highway 30.

A resolution was approved to hire Grant Vesely as a mechanic in secondary roads.

A bridge embargo was removed in Florence Township.

A bridge embargo was removed with a one-lane designation in Big Grove Township.

Parizek also gave an update on the proposed 61st Street project, and a proposed 28E agreement with Vinton that goes with the project. He also talked about when dust control will begin. He expects work to begin next week. They also talked about the detour north of Blairstown due to bridge replacement, and the condition of the railroad crossing on the detour east of Blairstown.

Other business

A land use hearing was set for 9:15 a.m., Tuesday, June 15, for Tarrell and Rhonda Price for Parcel A, Section 25, Polk Township.

The board met with Judy Funk on renewal of the policy with Heartland.

The board approved a fireworks permit for Charles Yedlik on May 22.

The board approved use of the courthouse lawn for Craig Streeter, for recognition of the 20th anniversary of 911, during the Vinton Cruise, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., June 12, subject to appropriate paperwork.

A cigarette permit was approved for Kimm’s Mini-Mart.

Samantha Petersen gave an update on utilities, solar farms and wind turbines, and business with the Iowa Utilities Board. She also gave an update on a petition regarding ag land use. They also heard information on a study regarding property values for people who live near solar farms.

The board approved the DCAT4-21 amendment for this year’s budget.

Supervisor Gary Bierschenk gave an update on funding for mental health. Seeman gave an update on emergency management and the use of sirens in area communities. He also updated the board on use of the land at the former Duane Arnold Energy Center.

The board approved a deed to East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) for the transportation building. Benton County will lease it from ECICOG.

Adam Rodenberg presented contract recommendations for the Middle Cedar Watershed Management Authority Pack 7.

May 18, 2021 meeting on YouTube

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