May 23, 2022

County waits for projects to develop

Union County officials still want to use COVID funding for some remodeling at the courthouse.

All it needs is a contractor wanting the work.

Union County building and grounds coordinator Shawn Lauer told the board of supervisors Monday he was still waiting on bids. Planned renovations to the courthouse, law enforcement center and jail are expected to cost more than $340,000, with most of the money coming from American Rescue Plan Act.

The county has received half of the $2.3 million in ARPA allocation and is expecting the remaining balance to be received next month. Late last year, supervisors approved the courthouse work plus new fairground bleachers, camping site upgrades and broadband internet expansion.

Lauer said he had had people review the projects, but no formal bids have been received.

“I never thought that would be the sticking point for getting projects done but it has certainly became one,” Lauer said about the wait.

Board Chair Dennis Brown said the number of projects is far greater than the number of contractors, despite the availability of funding. “I’s like the world is turned upside down,” he said.

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.

One of the plans is to relocate the assessor’s office from the lower level of the courthouse to the main floor. Assessor Mindy 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.

“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 earlier this year 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.

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.

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.

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.

Plexiglass used in customer service areas will be replaced with bullet resistant barriers. Touchless fixtures will be installed in restrooms throughout the courthouse, law enforcement center, jail and DHS building.

The jail will have improvements to the plumbing infrastructure and inmate visiting room.

Lauer suggested the county-owned garage at 309 N. Pine have a metal roof and siding if the building will be used long term. Snowblowers, lawn mowers are kept also with sheriff’s department equipment. Supervisor were in favor of Lauer’s suggestion and he will pursue quotes.

Lauer had a bid for first aid kits and an AED service agreement with Sintas. Inititial costs were $2,987 for one-time purchase of six first aid kits and three AED. An AED assists treating people suffering a heart attack. Reoccurring costs for maintaining the AED and first aid kit supplies would be $129 a month. Lauer planned to get an updated quote for three first aid kits and one AED.

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.