Courthouse expands re-opening, Jan. 20

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     As of Wednesday, Jan. 20, the Jones County Courthouse will start to relax its re-opening measures. Most elected officials’ offices will re-open to no appointments. The exception will be the Treasurer’s Office.

     The Jones County Supervisors and elected officials discussed the matter during the Jan. 12 board meeting. The board and department heads were in favor of relaxing the public safety measures, but all felt the health screenings at the west entrance needed to remain in place. Supervisor John Schlarmann felt that the public should also continue to wear facemasks while inside the courthouse.

     “I don’t think we can require masks because we can’t enforce it,” noted Supervisor Ned Rohwedder of the lack of a state mandate from the Governor.

     “Only private businesses can require masks,” added Sheriff Greg Graver.

     County Treasurer Amy Picray said the majority of the public who come into the courthouse are wearing masks.

     Picray said she was in favor of doing away with appointments for the public, with the exception of driver’s licenses.

     “It’s a way for us to control the people coming into the courthouse,” she said of their busiest service.

     County Attorney Kristofer Lyons said the court system will do what it needs to do to resume court services regardless of the county. He warned the board that jury trials are expected to begin in February.

     “There could be a large number of people coming through the doors,” Lyons said of trials. “We need to keep the screenings as long as we can.”

     The county was reimbursed for door security/screenings through the CARES Act until the first of the year. Any ongoing expenses will have to be covered by the county.

     As for where that money will come from, Graver offered funding out of his departmental budget to cover the cost.

     “My staff is committed to sitting there at the west door,” he offered.

     In the last six months, July 1 through Dec. 31, Graver said the cost for door security was about $23,750. That comes to under $4,000 a month.

     Graver said he always includes court security in his yearly budget proposal, but due to the fact that court has been on hold for almost a year, he has just over $19,000 that can be used.

     “My budget during COVID has been very good,” noted Graver. “We’ve had low inmate counts.”

     With more people getting vaccinated, Graver said he doesn’t anticipate an issue once the courthouse further re-opens and court resumes.

     Graver suggested the supervisors revisit the need for screenings again around April 1.

     “Now is not the time to pull the plug,” Graver urged of eliminating the screenings. “We need to do our part to help things move along.”


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