August 16, 2022

Assessor’s office, board of supervisors on the move

Union County Assessor Mindy Schaefer said a few steps should make a big difference.

As part of the project approval by the county board of supervisors using American Rescue funds, Schaefer’s office is switching places with the board of supervisors. Supervisors agreed using some of the $115,525 intended for the courthouse to pay for the relocation and remodeling, plus requests from other departments. Approved by the federal government, American Rescue funds were distributed to municipalities to recover lost funds due to COVID-19.

Union County was awarded $2.3 million and have so far received $1.18 million of its amount.

Schaefer said the idea of moving the assessor’s office from the lower level of the courthouse to the main level has been discussed since at least 2019, when she took over the position.

“We all knew the Department of Human Services was moving,” she said about courthouse activity in 2019. “That would leave our office by ourselves.” Although Veterans Affairs is also located in the lower level it does not have the same hours as other departments.

“That becomes a security issue,” she said about her department.

Schaefer said what people using the courthouse have gone through is just as important.

“It is common for people to come to our office, then we have to send them to another office for a reason, only for them to come back. It was inconvenient,” she said referring to the stairs and those who may have difficulty walking.

Schaefer explained how the move and remodel will work.

The board of supervisor’s meeting room on the main level will be relocated to the assessor’s office in the lower level. The assessor’s office will move to the main level with some modifications to where the supervisors meet.

“I’m just glad to have windows to see outside,” Schaefer said.

The entry area to the supervisor’s room will stay. That space will provide some room for assessor’s office record books available to the public. A window-counter space will be created in a wall in that area.

Schaefer’s two-person staff will be stationed in the meeting room and be able to see approaching people through the window-counter. Schaefer will convert a room into her office. Her office will have a window installed so she can see the her staff and window-counter for customers.

Additional space in the room adjacent to her new office will be storage space for the assessor’s department and a conference room, which can be used by the board of review and others, if needed. Schaefer said meeting room is limited within the courthouse. That meeting room will have a window only for people to know if the room is being used. Technology for meetings will be installed.

Schaefer said the county has just started the bid process to have all the work estimated and contracted. She did not know when the work will be done. She expects her office to be operational during the relocation. The physical move may happen during a weekend to lessen disruptions with operations and people inside the courthouse.

Treasurer’s office

Union County Treasurer Kelly Busch is also having changes done to her department. She said the walk-in vault within her department will be removed as it not needed. There are still secure places to keep records and other information.

Busch said the vault removal is a bit complicated because of its size, structure and location. Union County Secondary Roads suggested engineering firms that will plan to take it out. Attention will be made to avoid any damage to the courthouse’s marble floors.

Busch said the space the vault was in will create more room for driver’s license testing. That will also reduce the size of her personal office. An additional customer window will also be opened in a space where one was previously.

She did not know when any of the work will begin but expected the vault removal to be held over a weekend to avoid people within the courthouse and treasurer’s office operations. After the vault is removed affected, adjacent walls will be finished.

The courthouse dates back to 1953. Other than the addition of the law enforcement center, some county officials said this may be the most extensive work ever done to the building.




John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.