ORANGE CITYThe Sioux County Board of Supervisors approved a formal policy May 28 that outlines the use of the courthouse in Orange City by outside groups.

The county previously did not have a written policy in place.

County auditor Ryan Dokter explained the written policy does not change much from how they handled things before, except for having the policy in writing.

What prompted the county to draft this policy was a request to host a speaker on a topic that could be considered controversial by some, Dokter said.

The auditor said the Sioux County Republican Party requested to use the courthouse as a venue for a speaker who was involved in authoring anti-abortion heartbeat legislation.

This prompted county officials to consider drafting a formal policy for courthouse use because hosting an event such as that could lead to other potentially divisive topics or groups using the courthouse. It also would help county leaders avoid the appearance of giving preference to any groups or topics.

Dokter said Sioux County does not necessarily endorse or promote individuals or groups who make use of county facilities such as the courthouse, or the topics they cover.

The county has not run into problems with groups or events held at the Sioux County Courthouse in the past, according to Dokter.

The policy was approved by the four county supervisors who were present. Supervisor Al Bloemendaal of Sioux Center was absent.

As written in the policy, use of the second floor courtroom is restricted to court activities or any county-related functions during courthouse business hours, which are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

“There’s been a time or two we’ve had the governor stop by for an event, so we’d like to use it for that kind of purpose,” Dokter said.

During nonbusiness hours, that courtroom will be open to such events as tours or certain political party activities.

People desiring a tour must make a request at least 14 days in advance through the auditor’s office as are political parties wishing to hold a convention or precinct caucus. At least one courthouse employee will be present for the duration of whatever activity is permitted.

Although food and nonalcoholic beverages are allowed in the courthouse, the policy states that no food will be allowed in the courtroom and any nonalcoholic beverages brought in must have a screw top or a lid on the container.

Certain types of decorations will be permitted. Anything that may damage or leave a residue on walls, windows or fixtures will not be permitted. Masking tape, however, will be permissible.