PRIMGHAR—The O’Brien County Courthouse in Primghar is not yet ready to return to normal operations due to the coronavirus pandemic but changes to hours and visitor protocol are moving forward.
Jared Johnson, county emergency management agency coordinator, discussed those changes and other updates during the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Johnson recently met with county department heads and said there are some departments that would like to extend the visitor walk-in period from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. to 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., which are the building’s normal operating hours.
“We’d like to see face masks continued as a requirement, if it’s possible for the person to wear a face mask,” Johnson said.
“On Sept. 21, we were wondering if we could switch from the 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. to the 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The treasurer’s office would still by appointment only for driver’s licenses.”
Johnson also pointed out the last day of work for the building’s part-time COVID-19 screener, Kiersten Kruse, was Tuesday, Sept. 8, and she would be leaving to attend college.
Since Kruse’s position would not be filled — and he said no visitors had been turned away after being screened — Johnson suggested the courthouse stop screening visitors starting Wednesday, Sept. 9.
“We would still have signs up and we would also have thermometers available for employees to monitor their temps if a question comes up, but we would remove that screening stuff,” he said. “The plan would be to give additional face masks to each department in case someone needs a face mask. The departments could monitor that in their office.”
The board approved the requested changes, which Johnson described as a modified second phase of reopening.
Johnson also updated the board on his work going through county expenditures to submit an application for the Local Government Relief Fund. The fund is a state program that allocates money Iowa received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to cities and counties.
Here are the expense categories for coronavirus relief and the amounts Johnson calculated were spent from March 1-July 31:
- Personal protective equipment: $27,364.36.
- Sanitizing products: $11,759.59.
- Other necessary COVID-19 medical supplies and equipment: $4,281.10.
- Software technology infrastructure for remote services: $4,378.71.
The county was also able to seek 25 percent reimbursement for the time public safety and public-health workers spent working during that period, not including overtime:
- O’Brien County Public Health screening assistance: $4,349.52.
- O’Brien County Law Enforcement: $95,868.43.
The total amount requested was $148,001.71, which the supervisors approved at the meeting.
The deadline for a second round of relief — which would be for expenses in August and September — is Oct. 9.
Johnson said the county is first required to submit the relief request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to see if the agency could provide aid for eligible items through its Public Assistance Program. Expense items can only be reimbursed by one program.
Since Johnson himself is paid through the federal Emergency Management Performance Grant, he said he did not include his hours in the request for reimbursement.
Board member Sherri Bootsma asked how many hours the pandemic has added to Johnson’s workload.
“Quite a few, but it’s been manageable,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of a new norm right now. I’m just working extra, but I’m doing well. When I need a break, I take a break.”
He also pointed out the county public health office has been working extra during the pandemic by taking calls and doing contact tracing on the weekends when needed.
“Someday this will be done, but there’s still a lot of work going on,” he said.