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Floyd County courthouse reopens; supervisors pass ATV ordinance

By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

The door to the Floyd County Courthouse was unlocked this morning (Tuesday), but not all county departments are open to the public.

The Floyd County Board of Supervisors decided at a special meeting Monday morning that the county has met the COVID-19 guidelines the board set last week for when the courthouse could reopen.

The board also passed a new county ATV ordinance into law, which will allow the recreational vehicles on most rural county roads, and it approved a salary scale for a new county Veterans Affairs director.

At a meeting last week, the board had decided to reopen the courthouse when there was less than a 10% increase in active COVID-19 cases in the county for 14 days.

County Auditor Gloria Carr said the board had initially discussed the threshold of having no new COVID-19 cases in the county for two weeks before reopening the courthouse, but said that after talking with county Public Health Administrator Gail Arjes, “that’s not really reasonable,” because many of the people with COVID-19 will have already recovered.

Supervisor Chairman Roy Schwickerath had proposed and his fellow supervisors had passed a motion that the courthouse would reopen once there is less than a 10% increase in active COVID-19 cases for two weeks, with the possibility that the courthouse could be closed again if that spikes to more than a 50% increase.

Carr has been keeping a spreadsheet of new cases of COVID-19 in the county, recovered cases and currently active cases.

According to that spreadsheet and the guidelines passed last week, the courthouse could have reopened May 24, Carr said Monday morning. The public door to the courthouse has been locked since March 20.

The board briefly discussed opening the courthouse up right away Monday morning after the meeting was over, but decided to wait until Tuesday to give county departments notice it was happening.

Supervisor Doug Kamm said he was in favor of opening and letting the individual county departments decide if they need any special rules in their own offices.

“Open it and leave it up to the individual offices to figure out how to handle it,” said Kamm.

On Monday afternoon, Floyd County Treasurer Frank Rottinghaus said the supervisors’ decision “kind of put us in a little bit of a bind,” and he wished the board had set the opening for later in the week to give departments more time to prepare.

“The Floyd County Treasurer’s Office is not yet open for normal operations,” he said in a statement sent to the Press.

“A measured and gradual path will be taken to restore necessary services to the public,” he said. “Since the closure of the building the public has utilized an internet payment site, www.iowataxandtags.org, as well as the postal service and email to conduct necessary business.

“Going forward some services requiring physical interaction will be available only by appointment until the health and safety of the public and county employees can be assured,” Rottinghaus said.

He noted that Gov. Kim Reynolds has extended the waiver for state requirements regarding registration and titling of vehicles, driver’s license expirations and the payment of property taxes until at least June 25.

Schwickerath said at the meeting Monday morning that the departments he had visited with were prepared to reopen.

“Obviously we will have hiccups in this,” he said. “We will have times when we have too many people to deal with, I’m sure, but we’re gonna keep moving forward.”

Also at the meeting, the board approved the final reading of a long-discussed new ordinance that will allow all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility-transport vehicles (UTVs) on most hard-surface and gravel roads in the county, except they would not be allowed on state highways, minimum maintenance roads and roads that are in areas controlled by Floyd County Conservation.

There would be a 35 mph maximum speed limit, drivers would need at be at least age 16 and have a driver’s license, and they would need to carry proof of liability insurance or other financial responsibility.

Drivers under age 18 would need to have completed an ATV certification course and carry the certificate with them.

Violation of the ordinance would be a county infraction punishable by a civil penalty of up to $750 on the first conviction, and up to $1,000 on subsequent convictions.

Also at the meeting Monday morning, the board:

• Approved the salary provisions for a new county Veterans Affairs executive director, Todd Schriever of Marble Rock, who will replace Maria Deike, who resigned to take a similar position in Cerro Gordo County.

The board approved the county Veterans Affairs Commission’s recommendation of $38,000 per year to start, with a 3% increase after a successful review at 6 months, and an additional $1,000 after completion of certification from the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs.

• Approved the third and final reading of a new county zoning ordinance that brings the county code into compliance with new federal flood plain regulations.

• Took the first steps toward establishing an Urban Revitalization Plan for a strip of land along the Avenue of the Saints southeast of Floyd for the construction of a building for a new company locating there.

Metal Wholesale, which already has a plant in Bloomfield, plans to open a metal fabrication shop next to Fox Woodcraft on Highway 27/18, to wholesale sheet metal products to lumber yards.

The county is working on a three-year, 100% property tax exemption development incentive. The company plans on having 30 employees within five years. A public hearing on the proposed plan will be held at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, July 14.

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