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Board relaxes procedures for entering courthouse
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Board relaxes procedures for entering courthouse

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HJ - Standard Page County Courthouse

Specific procedures at the Page County Courthouse that were implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been discontinued, following a decision by the Board of Supervisors during a meeting Sept. 15.

As of Sept. 21, members of the public are being allowed to enter the building through either the north or south doors. Previously, the north door had been closed.

The handicapped-accessible door on the lower level is also now open.

During past months, an individual had been stationed at the south door to monitor visitors coming into the courthouse, but that position has been eliminated.

Supervisor Chair Chuck Morris said the steps the county took to keep employees and visitors safe, and to limit community spread of the virus, were necessary, but added that he believed it was “time for us to transition to something different.”

People entering the building are being encouraged to continue wearing masks or other appropriate face coverings while in common areas, but such action is not mandatory.

The supervisors noted that attempting to enforce a mask mandate would place the burden of enforcement on county employees in each office.

“I think it creates undue stress on our elected officials,” Morris said. “They’re busy enough with their work.”

If individuals refuse to comply with a recommendation to wear a mask in a public space, “then shame on them,” he said.

Supervisor Alan Armstrong said he “would like to think that everybody would wear one,” but acknowledged that such a guideline is not always followed.

With barriers in place in the interiors of offices, staff members can be protected from exposure by visitors who do not wear masks, Armstrong and Morris agreed.

“It needs to be said again how well our people have done in difficult circumstances,” Morris said. “They have provided outstanding service.”

From the onset of the pandemic to the present, he said, “we have learned more about the disease. We have been prudent, and we will continue to be prudent. We’re going to ask people to please wear that mask.”

The Clerk of Court’s office is under the jurisdiction of the Iowa Supreme Court, and masks are required in that office as well as in the courtroom during proceedings there.

In other matters at the Sept. 15 meeting, Page County Conservation Department Director John Schwab discussed issues that have arisen after a recent fish much further on the distance it will keep them out of the county,” Herzberg said.

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The ordinance also establishes a maximum noise level of 55 decibels that can be created by a turbine. This is measured from a non-participating residence.

Armstrong said he visited a wind farm south of Blanchard last spring evaluate the amount of sound created by the turbines. Since there are not many homes in the area, he said he was able to easily walk around and listen to the machinery.

“I could hear a little bit of a humming noise. I didn’t find it too disturbing,” Armstrong said.

“I have never noticed the noise being that loud. They make kind of a swishing sound, but it’s not near as bad as grain bin dryers. They are a lot louder than turbines and people get used to it,” Herzberg said.

Another key component of the wind turbine ordinance focuses on the decommissioning and removal of towers should they cease to produce electricity. During its research, Morris said the board learned of experiences where turbine developments failed and questions arose about who was responsible for disposing of the abandoned towers.

Considering the extremely high cost associated with deconstructing a tower, Morris said the Page County ordinance provides a detailed explanation for the removal of the tower. This would be done at the expense of the company rather than the land owner where the turbine is located or the county.

“This was one of the primary reasons for putting the ordinance together,” Morris said. “We felt that was the biggest risk to the county. We wanted a plan to know what to do if a company went belly up.”

“We took a fairly aggressive stance on decommissioning the towers in order to protect the county in the future,” Armstrong said.

Since the passage of the regulatory ordinance, there has been debate over whether or not the ordinance is strict enough and if wind energy production could be allowed in Page County at all. However, rather than being swayed by the emotion surrounding this topic, the members of the Board of Supervisors agreed residents need to weigh both the positives and negatives of wind energy in order to make an informed decision on the matter.

“There’s a lot of pro- and anti- wind information available. I advise residents to do their research and recognize both presentations come with a particular bias. These decisions on whether to participate or not participate are best left to the landowners,” Morris said.

“The more information you have about them, the better informed you are and that will help you make your decision,” Herzberg said.

In order to present details on how wind energy production could benefit Page County, the Board of Supervisors is working to organize a public meeting to be held in October. Morris said representatives from various counties in Iowa that are already producing wind energy will be invited to speak along with advocates for wind energy from the offices of Gov. Kim Reynolds and Sen. Charles Grassley.

“There are a lot of experts out there who have gathered a lot of data on the risk factors, the danger zones, how wind energy works and the impact on animals. That data is out there and is presentable,” Armstrong said. “We need to have that information and share it with the general public. I think it’s important people hear every side of every story and not just the negative.”

Still, Armstrong realizes the board will not be able to satisfy everyone when it comes to this issue. Therefore, he said, supporters and opponents alike must find a way to respectfully discuss wind energy and work toward a compromise that is acceptable to all.

“I feel wind energy is something we need to continue to strive toward. There are a lot of pluses in that type of energy system. I hope as we visit back and forth with all sides we can fine tune the ordinance as we grow. There is a lot more to living in Page County than wind turbines, but we have to do it peacefully and respectfully in my mind,” Armstrong said.

“Good neighbors cooperate with each other. There are ways they can work around issues so there aren’t arguments and someone loses a friendship with a good neighbor,” Herzberg said.

“Our community has a history of working out issues in a respectful way. I hope we are able to do that and keep the emotions in check,” Morris said.

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