Supervisors meet at courtroom

Members of the Sioux County Board of Supervisors listen to county auditor Ryan Dokter propose opening the county courthouse to the public on June 15.

ORANGE CITY—During the Tuesday, May 12, meeting of the Sioux County Board of Supervisors, county auditor Ryan Dokter began discussion on a potential timeline for opening the county courthouse to the public again.

The courthouse in Orange City has been closed to the public except for scheduled appointments since mid-March, but the state began to lift some restrictions May 1.

Dokter felt comfortable with opening the courthouse to the public on June 15, which would be after the June 2 primaries. He said that will give the county more time to know if instances of the coronavirus were leveling off as more testing is conducted.

The supervisors were supportive of the June 15 date. That way, they could discuss the outlook at their June 9 meeting and see if it would be sensible to open to the public then.

Dokter suggested that they start with a partial opening. The building could be open to the public at reduced hours to allow staff to thoroughly clean each day.

Members of the public mainly gain access to county offices by setting up appointments. Otherwise, remote options such as phone calls or online alternatives have been put in place for the public’s convenience.

For instance, sheriff Dan Altena noted that his office began offering weapon permits online to reduce the number of people stopping in at the office.

By going to siouxcountysheriff.com, visitors can go to “Apply for a Weapon Permit” under the “I want to” tab.

The judicial system also has taken to remote options, county attorney Tom Kunstle said, videoconferencing whenever possible for certain hearings.

“The judicial branch is using GoToMeeting for everything,” Kunstle said. “We conducted a contested hearing yesterday and several other uncontested hearings, but they’re all by videoconferencing. The judge is at his home in Sioux City, the defense attorney is wherever he’s at, I’m there. The defendant calls in or videos in. So we’re getting that stuff done.”

County supervisor Mark Sybesma said the county has been able to serve the public well during the pandemic.

Department heads who were present at the meeting said they have observed that most visitors do not wear face masks. That’s a reason why many were interested in putting in barriers at their office between staff and members of the public who do come in to conduct business.

County deputy treasurer Donna Siebersma said she placed the order for glass partitions to be installed at the treasury building, and county recorder Jessica Kooiker would like to see a similar barrier for her office’s front desk.

In other matters, county engineer Doug Julius has hired Joel Sikkema of Sioux Center to begin work as the assistant to the engineer starting June 1.

Although the longtime county engineer is not planning to retire, he hopes having Sikkema in this role will help the county when that day does come.

Julius said he hopes that by having an assistant on hand whenever the time comes to have a new county engineer, Sioux County would not be put into a position where they have to search for a replacement who would not be familiar with how the office has been run.

Sikkema has long worked in the engineering department at Dordt University in Sioux Center.

“I’m really looking forward to coming on and serving Sioux County,” Sikkema said. “It’s really important work, and I’m looking forward to continuing the good work that Doug is doing.”