Courthouse limits public access again

Board of Supervisors
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In September, the Jones County Board of Health and Public Health approved a proclamation encouraging citizens and visitors of Jones County to wear face coverings when in public.

     The Jones County Supervisors have not taken action on the proclamation until approving it at their Nov. 5 board meeting. (It had been tabled for some time.)

     “I feel we could support this; I see no reason not to,” commented Supervisor Ned Rohwedder. However, if it had been a mandate, Rohwedder admitted he’d be in a different position of support.

     Supervisor Jon Zirkelbach said he and the rest of the board received e-mails both for and against a mask mandate. Zirkelbach said it was helpful to get input from the public on the matter.

     Due to the drastic increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Jones County, the board voted to limit public access to the courthouse and county facilities, effective Monday, Nov. 9. Access is restricted to appointment only services until further notice.

     • For court appearances and other court-related services, call 319-462-4341.

     • County staff will be able to assist the public vis telephone and e-mail.

     • Masks are recommended when inside the courthouse to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Some departments may require masks before providing services by appointment.

     • A secure drop box is located in the courthouse parking lot near the garage. It is under 24/7 video surveillance. The public may use the box for documents, license plates, payments, etc.

     Each county department will maintain a customer log of any person visiting that office. This will be used for contact tracing if needed.

     Courthouse security will continue to check visitors’ temperatures at the west entrance.

     “Given the (COVID-19) situation is significantly worse than it was before,” warned Public Health Coordinator Jenna Lovaas, “we recommend going back and limiting in-person business.”

     Lovaas further explained that “all of the screening in the world” would not keep the virus out of public places, including the courthouse, especially with how high the numbers are in Jones County.

     County Attorney Kristofer Lyons said the last time the courthouse operated on limited access, court services in Iowa were suspended. He was unsure how those services would be offered now.

     “We’re watching case counts,” he said. “We’re allowed to do most (services) online.”

     County Recorder Sheri Jones said while customers weren’t happy with having to make appointments last time, she is willing to do everything she can to mitigate the spread of the virus. She said with a small office staff, if one of them contracts COVID-19, the office will likely shut down for a period of time.

     Sheriff Greg Graver said the dispatch center is locked down again. Deputies are limiting access to the public. Graver encouraged the courthouse to continue screening the public at the door, but warned it’s not the public bringing the virus into the courthouse; it’s county employees.

     “I don’t fear the public coming here with limited access and exposure,” Graver said. “Employees are bringing it in and exposing their offices. I’m less concerned about the public.”

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