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Residents express concerns over county contracting
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Residents express concerns over county contracting

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HJ - Standard Page County Courthouse

Parts of the Page County Board of Supervisors July 21 meeting got heated as members of the public who attended expressed frustration about contracting for services and potential quarantine enforcement efforts.

The supervisors approved publishing an ad seeking someone to tear down a house and remove some trees on the county farm. This decision led to lengthy discussion during the public comment period from members of the public who questioned why the county couldn’t do it themselves instead of paying someone else to do the work.

When told that it was likely an outside contractor could do it for a third of what it would cost if the county did it, one visitor asked why the county wasn’t contracting out everything if it could be done so much cheaper. Page County Supervisor Chuck Morris said he had talked about contracting out more jobs if it would be cheaper, but there was some difficulty finding contractors who could do everything the county needs in the county’s timeframe. Morris added that there were some contractors in the area who would be interested, but indicated the wheels of government move slowly. The residents asked for the amounts on bids for demolition and tree removal.

Morris clarified, saying at this point, they were assuming it would be cheaper to contract. He added that people also needed to keep in mind where projects were happening in the county and what equipment was in use elsewhere. Morris explained they didn’t have the bids yet, but said when they got them, if there was a huge difference between bids and county cost estimates, it would serve as a starting point for discussions about making changes.

Page County Public Health Administrator Jessica Erdman talked to the supervisors about the county’s current COVID-19 case count and the fact that most of the exposures came from an event people attended. Erdman said the hospital has been doing more COVID testing and is seeing a spike, and she expected this week might be “bad.”

Page County resident Jane Simpson told the supervisors she had attended a Board of Health meeting recently and was “shocked and dismayed” to hear suggestions about arresting people who were not quarantining themselves. She said she thought people were obsessed with positive cases, but only .002 in the county tested positive. Simpson said there were concerns that someone who had tested positive was seen out and about instead of quarantining, and it was suggested they be charged with a misdemeanor and fined.

In reference to this, Page County Sheriff Lyle Palmer Palmer said he got a call from Erdman saying they were having problems with some people not following quarantine guidance, and that there were code sections that addressed the issue. Palmer said he told Erdman if the Board of Health wanted to go that route, he would sit down with the Board of Health and county attorney to discuss it. He added that he’d rather not see a bunch of sick people sitting in jail, but it could be handled case-by-case with the attorney.

Morris agreed there should be repercussions, saying, “I’ll go on record saying that if that’s what the Board of Health wants to do, I am 100 percent behind them. People have a social responsibility to follow medical advice and not doing so is a crime against their neighbors. It’s a crime to test positive and blatantly go out and infect others.”

Morris said the world was different now and would be for the foreseeable future.

Another visitor, Kaitlyn Hall, noted that she didn’t believe anyone should deliberately infect others, but she found it concerning that the county was willing to charge people with a crime or jail them over it. Hall added that the idea was presented and the Board of Health said they did not think that was a good precedent to set.

Another visitor indicated he thought the Board of Health discussion was just that, discussion about possible ways and ideas to enforce quarantine guidance for people who tested positive.

Erdman told the supervisors the CDC had just issued revised coronavirus guidance suggesting 10 days isolation rather than 15 in most cases. Erdman said most of the area schools had completed their Return to Learn plans, but the new guidance may require some to amend plans. She said ultimately it was hard to say how many more times plans would have to change or new guidance might come out.

The supervisors agreed that the coronavirus situation looked like it might be long-term, and a new solution was needed for the door monitor. Page County Safety Coordinator Tom Nordhues had been handling it, but the supervisors thought they should let him get back to his job and hire someone to act as door monitor. They agreed to advertise for two people, working part time, at $10 to $12 per hour to take over as door monitor.

Page County Treasurer Angie Dow told the supervisors the courthouse may be open, but her office is continuing to issue driver licenses by appointment only. Dow indicated this was not because of the coronavirus, though, but rather because they had learned it was more efficient. They could cycle 18 people through per day with appointments, or a few less on driving days.

Page County Engineer J.D. King told the supervisors he had crews hauling rock, blading and cutting brush during the week. The pipe crew was building pipe for 200th Street, and two sections of pipe were delivered on Tuesday. The spray patching crew was working on the Braddyville road J-55, and would be doing B Avenue next. A dirt crew was on site at the G-27 bridge, and a crew was waiting for dry conditions for seeding on the W-45 culvert.

Regarding EWP projects:

• Site 12 was completed, and ARCS paperwork had been started, and

• Project 4-sites 9 and 10-went out for bids July 16. A pre-bid meeting on-site was scheduled for July 23. Letting for Project 4 was scheduled for July 30 and 14 bid packets were sent out.

King said his department had received the July allotment of road use tax, and it was the highest monthly receipt they had received in 5 years. He admitted it was traditionally higher in late summer, July-September, and said it would remain to be seen if this was an anomaly or if things were improving.

Page County Supervisor Chuck Morris asked King if he and the supervisors could decide on a deadline for the gravel experiment. Morris asked if King could put something together in 30 days and present it to the supervisors, and King indicated that could be done.

Page County Veterans Affairs Executive Director Janet Olsen provided the supervisors with her bi-annual report. Olsen indicated the department gets a $10,000 allocation, but she didn’t know what they might get next year. Olsen said her department had been using the allocation judiciously and was able to save the county $3,000. She had been able to do Facetime visits with veterans, and had found she was seeing a lot of retirees, but not a lot of new active duty members.

Olsen asked the supervisors if they were still considering a satellite office for the VA in the Clarinda annex. Morris said the supervisors needed to discuss that, but he thought it would be beneficial. Olsen said a space had been offered to the VA in Clarinda. Olsen noted that she thought it was a good idea, as she didn’t feel like she had been able to help veterans there as much or as easily as those coming to the Shenandoah office.

Page County Attorney Carl Sonksen presented the supervisors with a copy of a letter from Contrail Wind Project, LLC, saying they were signing an agreement with MidAmerican. Sonksen said there was nothing the supervisors needed to do, it was just a courtesy copy for their information.

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