Page County courthouse to reopen July 6

The Page County Supervisors agreed during their regular meeting on June 23 to plan on reopening the Page County courthouse July 6, while saving some procedural decisions to a later meeting.

Page County Public Health Administrator Jessica Erdman told the supervisors there were 18 cases of COVID-19 in Page County as of that date, and the targeted testing she had been doing had been coming back negative. Erdman said 25 counties in Iowa were seeing increases in cases, though, with Pottawattamie County being the closest one of those counties.

Erdman said health officials were still encouraging people to wear masks and stay home if they are sick, but she had noticed a decrease in the number of people wearing masks locally. She didn’t know if people were getting a false sense of security or had tired of the masks, but advised the public to continue wearing them.

Robin Shirley met with the supervisors to talk about what the courts planned regarding hearing cases. She said she knew there were cases scheduled and coming in on July 6, but the final decision on that date rested in the supervisors’ hands. If they chose not to reopen the courthouse on or before that date, the court cases would be rescheduled to July 13, but they would take place regardless of whether the courthouse was open or not on that date. Shirley added that the courtrooms have already been marked off to provide for social distancing, and they were ready to go when the county was.

The supervisors agreed they were ready to pull the trigger and talked about the mechanics of having a door monitor for the reopening. Several county employees had volunteered to take shifts as hall monitor, and the supervisors asked Page County Auditor Melissa Wellhausen to work on creating a schedule of shifts for the volunteers.

The supervisors and courthouse staff present discussed other issues that arise with reopening. They considered the possibility of just having the south door open to the public, and what the handicapped or elderly would need. If both doors were open or people were waiting at the other door, the hall monitor would have to leave his post to go to the other door. It was suggested that there was a doorbell that rang into one of the offices, and maybe staff from that office could come down and open that door when the bell rang. 

The supervisors also questioned whether to leave the restrooms closed to the public, but the group thought it might not be legal to have the county offices open and the restrooms closed to visitors. Currently, people who are coming in by appointment have their temperature taken and answer health questions. The supervisors agreed those steps should continue, and the monitor should send people directly to the office they needed. The supervisors agreed to reopen on July 6, and continue procedural discussions at the next meeting.

Page County Engineer J.D. King updated the supervisors on what his staff was doing. King said he had road graders out, men hauling rock with three trucks, a crew spray patching, and mowers at work. A pipe crew was working northwest of Northboro, and a second pipe crew was scheduled to work northwest of Hepburn that day. King said the county should be hauling rock to the city of Coin that week, as Coin had paid to have crew grind up a street earlier in the month and bring rock in to put down.

King said he expected to receive fuel bids back on the 25th and would plan to discuss those bids with the supervisors at the next meeting.

King concluded that EWP work remains the main focus of his department. Project 1 was sent out to 14 contractors for bids during the last week. Project 2 has some work under way on Site 12, and A.M. Cohron is hauling rip rap. Rights-of-way and permits are still at issue for other projects and sites.

The supervisors heard from Ryan Urkoski, a resident who was particularly dissatisfied with the condition of the gravel roads 230 and 255 from M-60 west. He said he felt the roads were not properly prepared before gravel was put down a few weeks ago, then gravel was put down so thick it threw his vehicle around if he drove over 20 miles per hour. He added that then the graders came out and all of the rocks were thrown out of the potholes and the washboard surface was right back, leaving two thirds of the gravel piled along the ditch. This also served to narrow the road width because of windrowed gravel on the edges. He declared this was not just a grader operator problem; it was a management problem. He concluded that the roads have to be properly prepped before laying gravel or it was just a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.

The supervisors acknowledged his concerns, and Chuck Morris said he had driven the roads being discussed and understood Urkoski’s concerns. Morris did remind those present to, “keep in mind over hundreds of miles of road, we do a lot more right than wrong. Safety is our number one concern.” He added, “Our roads were not built in the first place for the kind of traffic they have nowadays.”

King said he had looked at a map of blading territories and their size and time needed to complete the work, as well as reviewing the experience of blade operators and factors in road rock and gravel supply in considering why the county gets some washboard roads.

Morris said he thought some of it was the quality of the rock the county was using. He said he had obtained some gravel from Sac County that seemed to be much better quality. The supervisors and King agreed the county should haul some rock from Savanannah or Weeping Water and do a test road to prove or disprove a difference in quality.

“The rock we’re currently getting from Braddyville is very fragile, you can squeeze it with pliers and break it,” Morris said.

Morris also suggested the supervisors do a road tour so they could get an idea of the number of miles of gravel road and the topography the roads department was dealing with.

The supervisors discussed the courthouse lawn policy supervisor Morris had sent them for their review. It was suggested “no smoking” should be changed to no tobacco use of any kind. The supervisors agreed the policy looked sufficient to protect the county.

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