Supervisors discuss courthouse reopening, turbine ordinance complaints

The chief topic at the Page County Board of Supervisors’ June 30 meeting was once again the reopening of the courthouse. Supervisors and department heads discussed final details before the planned July 6 opening.

Page County Public Health Administrator Jessica Erdman told the supervisors there were 20 cases of COVID-19 in Page County, but so far the county had not seen an uptick in cases like some other counties had. She indicated long-term care facilities were beginning a phased process to reopen to the public. This process requires that the facilities have their own supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), and that the county has had no new cases for a certain number of days. 

Erdman said the county was doing a good job keeping cases down, and would continue to do so as long as they reopened slowly and continued to follow best practices for COVID-19. 

Page County Auditor Melissa Wellhausen was unavailable for this meeting, so the supervisors were unable to determine if she had completed the requested courthouse door monitor schedule.

The supervisors reviewed other previously planned reopening procedures. Supervisor Chuck Morris listed those plans as follows:

  • The courthouse will reopen on July 6;
  • masks will be worn by staff and the public in all common areas, but staff can remove their masks once back at their desks;
  • only the south door will be unlocked for the public;
  • a door monitor will greet incoming citizens, evaluate them for COVID-19 symptoms, and send them directly to the office they need to visit;
  • the door monitor will have a list of maximum capacity of people for each office and try to avoid sending too many people at a time;
  • handicapped/elderly people who might use the other entry door will have to ring the doorbell and wait for admittance;
  • the doorbell for the other door rings into the Recorder’s Office, and staff there will tend to that door;
  • restrooms will not be open to the public.

Department staff questioned some of the plans. They questioned how staff would be able to use the restrooms if they were locked to the public, and the supervisors suggested they would have to have keys or make some other arrangement, and that information would be sent out to employees as soon as possible.

Page County Recorder Brenda Esaias asked how her staff would know if there were already too many people at an office when they were letting people in the other door. It was suggested that each office would just have to be prepared to gently ask customers to wait in the hallway if they had too many people in the office.

Esaias also asked if departments could still help people at the outside door if those people didn’t want to come in or didn’t actually need to. The supervisors wondered how often that was likely to happen, and whether they were likely to get a traffic bottleneck at the outside door. Supervisor Jon Herzberg suggested maybe the north door should be the one used to conduct business outside, since it was locked anyway. Morris said maybe they could get by with helping customers outside as needed, and just monitor the traffic, with a plan to move to the other door if it became a problem.

Morris complimented the courthouse staff for doing a “tremendous job” keeping things running during the pandemic, and said he was confident they could serve the public safely as the courthouse reopens.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, some residents expressed discontent with the wind turbine ordinance adopted by the supervisors. A couple of residents had concerns that the setbacks adopted were from the residence rather than the property line and created a nuisance for those who had not wanted a wind turbine on their property, as well as a liability risk to innocent and uninvolved parties. Morris told the residents the supervisors had visited about the ordinance over and over and the supervisors had adopted an ordinance that was fair to the residents as well as people who wanted to develop wind energy in the county.

One resident asked if a meeting could be held about wind turbines, but Morris said he wouldn’t support another meeting on the subject unless the complainants could find a wind farm operating based on property lines. The supervisors agreed they didn’t see how the county would gain from another meeting, adding that if they changed the ordinance, they would take away the right to build turbines. Morris and Herzberg agreed they were not willing to change the ordinance at this time.

When the residents complained that by protecting turbine builder rights and “taking away” resident rights, Morris suggested they should bring an ordinance other than what the county had passed to the table that would still make turbine development possible.

Page County Engineer J.D. King updated the supervisors on road work taking place within the county.

King said blades are out and about, and the county is hauling rock with three trucks. Two mowers are out on paved roads for now; one will switch to gravel after the holiday. Spray patchers are out and repaired damage on T Avenue a few days ago, and are working toward Nyman.

The county has a CAT technician looking at some road equipment and suggesting repairs. The State Auditor comes to do a shop/yard inventory soon.

King gave the following EWP project update:

  • Project 1, which includes sites 3, 4 and 5, was scheduled to be bid on July 2, and King expected more bidders than last time. King anticipated awarding a contract for Project 1 on July 7.
  • Project 2, site 12, prep work is done, and the contractor is ready to put rip rap in the stream and on slopes. Grout may also be done very soon.
  • Project 3, site 1, joint application was submitted.
  • Project 4, sites 9 and 10, should be let later in July.

King said annual fuel bids were received, and he recommended staying with low bidder, Agriland Coop. Agriland bid 4.5 cents per gallon diesel fuel, or 10.5 cents per gallon for number 2 diesel with additive. Sapp Bros bid 4.75 cents per gallon diesel fuel and didn’t supply a bid for fuel with additive. United Farmers Mercantile bid 7.2 cents per gallon, or 12 cents per gallon for diesel with additive. The supervisors approved accepting the Agriland bid.   

In other business, the supervisors:

  • learned that the Page County Conservation Board is listed as the owner of property between the concrete plant and Rapp Park that is troubled by a beaver dam that must be dealt with; 
  • heard the road to the former Shenandoah City dump is unsafe for travel and should be considered for future repairs;
  • were told to contact the conservation board about thistles growing at the entrance area to the Nodaway Valley Park, and
  • heard about a complaint from Ryan Sunderman that the county’s contracted sprayer killed about 10 rows of his beans, and was told that King would contact Sunderman for information.

The supervisors will meet in person next week with the reopening of the courthouse, but Zoom access will also be available.

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