WAPELLO — The Louisa County Treasurer’s Office COVID-19 procedures used in the county courthouse in Wapello came under question from local businessman Shawn Maine during Tuesday’s meeting of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Maine, who also serves as the mayor of Wapello, told the supervisors and treasurer Vicki Frank that her decision to not fully open her office after the courthouse reopened this spring was causing a variety of problems and was contrary to public opinion.
The issue actually began on June 16, after the supervisors agreed to reopen the county courthouse after closing it for three months because of COVID-19 concerns. Although most of the offices in the courthouse resumed their normal operations with no or few restrictions, Frank reported at that time that she would have a more restrictive policy because of her office’s layout and services provided.
According to discussions at that time, Frank said the demand for vehicle transfers, drivers licensing, property tax payments and other activities in her office would likely lead to a surge of people crowding into her office.
She had pointed out that would jeopardize people’s health because they would be unable to social distance themselves in the narrow public portion of her office. That led her to keep her office closed to the public except by appointment or other special circumstance. She also installed glass partitions to separate her staff and members of the public.
Maine said Tuesday those procedures were too restrictive and forcing customers to encounter delays in getting needed processes completed. He pointed out his towing and vehicle restoration business was being impacted by the restrictions.
“I just disagree that we can’t access (the office),” he told Frank, adding he felt as an elected official it was important Frank did what the public asked.
“I’m an elected official as well and I will go as far as to say that I am formally requesting (your) office be open to walk-in traffic,” he said.
Frank said she understood Maine’s and other local residents’ frustrations over the appointment requirement and other restrictions. She assured Maine she was working toward the goal of fully reopening, but insisted the current rules were needed to ensure both her staff and the public remained healthy.
“I will talk with public health and (other) county treasurers and get opinions and I will respectfully think about that, but I have to look at the entire county and my employees and everyone’s safety,” Frank replied, adding there were some county treasurer’s offices not even open yet.
“I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree,” Maine responded.
Frank later said she was working to have her office fully open by Sept. 1, depending on the status of COVID-19 at that time.
That possibility may be improving, according to a discussion that Louisa County Public Health Administrator Roxanne Smith held with the supervisors during an earlier part of the meeting.
Smith said there were currently eight active cases in the county and under the state’s school reopening guidelines, the county’s less than 5 percent coronavirus positivity rate was considered minimal.
In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, the supervisors:
• Held a public hearing and later approved a resolution vacating a section of X Avenue west of Columbus Junction. They also approved an agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railroad, tying the closure into a drainage project near Fredonia
• Held a second public hearing and later approved a resolution vacating unused right of way along G48 west of Grandview
• Set an Aug. 18 public hearing on a county tanning facility ordinance;
• Approved $244,481 in claims.