The Mitchell County Board of Supervisors met for their weekly meeting at the Mitchell County Courthouse on Tuesday, January 28. Here are some highlights from that meeting:
New supervisor sworn in
The meeting began with the swearing in of Amanda Adams of Stacyville as District 3 supervisor, who was appointed by a committee consisting of County Auditor Lowell Tesch, Recorder Pat Skuster and Treasurer Shannon Paulus to fill the seat vacated earlier this month by Paulus, who resigned her seat on the Board to accept her appointment as Treasurer, which in turn was vacated by the resignation of Pamela K. Meyer earlier this month.
Adams officially resigned her position on the Stacyville City Council before being administered the oath of office by Supervisor Stan Walk.
Adams will serve the remainder of Paulus’ term of 11 months, at which point there will be a regular election for the seat. The interim appointment was made, according to the committee, to avoid the costs associated with holding a special election, which Tesch estimated at a few thousand dollars.
District 3 consists of central and eastern Mitchell County, including the communities of Stacyville, McIntire, Riceville, Orchard and Little Cedar.
Adams had served on the Stacyville Council since 2012, recently winning reelection to a second term in 2016. Her work on the Council, she says, was “a positive learning experience” that familiarized her with local government; primarily working with economic development and infrastructure, serving as liaison for the Council to Stacyville EDC and deeply involved in the recent street projects and other infrastructure updates to the town, population 494.
Adams will remain employed at Hemann Insurance in Stacyville, where she lives with her husband Matt and their one son who attends St. Ansgar Elementary.
Senate bill would close courthouses
County Attorney Walk reported on a letter from the State Court Administration, outlining proposed de-appropriation by the legislature; specifically SSB 3089 calling for a $4,835,445 reduction to the Iowa Judicial Branch budget in fiscal year 2018 (absorbing slightly more than 9% of the recommended reduction for all state government).
The letter says that, since 96% of the Judicial Branch budget comprises of personnel costs, options are limited for making cuts. Should SSB 3089 pass and the $4.8M cuts come to reality, the State Court Administration projects the closure of over 30 county courthouses and the elimination of personnel state-wide. The letter goes on to say that the courthouses selected for closure within each of Iowa’s eight judicial districts would be determined by caseload volume in each county. The workload of the closed courthouses will be then shifted to other courthouses in other judicial district. It was not explicitly stated whether the construction of the new $8.7 million Mitchell County Courthouse just three years ago would be a factor in determining it’s closure whether the budget cuts came to fruition.
Supervisors Walk and Joel Voaklander both expressed their concern with the information shared by the State Court Administrator, saying that obviously the closure of any county’s courthouse, and the allocation of all county resources to be shared with another, would be detrimental to the county in every imaginable way.
An April 2017 article from Grant Rogers of the Des Moines Register reported that, for more than two decades, Iowa Supreme Court chief justices have issued intermittent warnings that budget considerations might someday force consolidation of the legal system.
SSB 3089, introduced by Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Charles Schneider (R-22), was advanced through that committee on January 25 and, now as SF 2117, could be scheduled for a vote by the full Senate as early as next week.
In addition to the $4.8M cut from the Judicial Branch, SF 2117 calls for a total of $50 million from the budget year ending on June 30, 2018.
Numerous departments would face drastic cuts under the bill: $19.3M from the three regent universities, $5.4M from community colleges, $9M from Department of Human Services (DHS), and $3M from the Dept. of corrections, among others. The bill does not call for any cuts to K-12 education or Medicaid, as outlined in the EJ’s coverage of last Saturday’s legislative forum with Senator Waylon Brown (R-26) and Representative Jane Bloomingdale (R-51).
New Sheriff’s deputy appointed
The board moved to approve Brad Evans as a Deputy of the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Department effective March 1, filling the vacancy caused by the retirement of Deputy Jeff Huftalin. Sheriff Greg Beaver reported that the Department’s is now well staffed, with 7 full-time sworn peace officers (including the Sheriff), 4 part-time officers who provide supplemental coverage and courtroom security, and 3 full time employees at the Mitchell County Jail (5 employee capacity, 33 inmates). The Department’s fleet consists of 4 trucks and 3 SUV’s.
County services building in disarray
Mitchell County Public Health Director Melissa Smith expressed to the board her view of the “not workable” conditions that her department is facing in their offices in the county services building at 415 N Pleasant in Osage. Smith requested that the board address the need for better management of the space in the building that the Public Health Department and Home Health currently shares with county social services, DHS, the Mitchell County Food Bank, and a satellite office of the nonprofit One Vision (formerly Opportunity Village).
Smith said that the workspace is cramped, insufficient and is counter-productive, citing that over 20,000 hours of overtime has been accrued during the last 14 pay periods. The tight quarters, and lack of a dedicated exam room, conference room and break room for employees has led to unsanitary conditions that Smith says are likely not compliant with OSHA standards, and lack of handicap access may not be compliant with Fire Marshal standards.
The Health Department is the only agency in the building that is staffed seven days a week. The board indicated they would contact department heads of the building’s other tenants and put a plan in place to efficiently re-organize the shared space in the building.
The Mitchell County Board of Supervisors meets every Tuesday at 8:30 AM in the Board of Supervisors room of the Mitchell County Courthouse.