Courthouse access limited; services will still be offered

By: 
Bethany Carson
Publisher

As state and national emergen-cies have been declared and schools closed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Butler County Board of Supervisors, in con-junction with county officials, took proactive steps at their meeting Tuesday, March 17, limiting courthouse access in the interest of public health and the safety of county em-ployees.

The doors to the court-house were closed at noon on Tuesday, March 17, and no public access to the courthouse building will be available until further notice.

County offices will remain staffed and ready to serve. All offices request that citizens use their drop box or conduct business via email, mail, fax, or online when possible. Phone numbers for each office are available at www.butlercoiowa.org or in your local phone book. If an in-person visit to any county office is necessary, call for an appointment.

The court will continue to hear emergency matters, and the Clerk of Court’s office, like county offices will contin-ue to provide assistance to the public at this time. The public is encouraged to call 319-267-2487 with any questions be-fore coming to the Clerk’s office in person. When possi-ble, assistance will be provided remotely; in-person assistance will be available for emergency matters.

Individuals filing papers for the June 2 Primary Election should call 319-267-2670. The Auditor’s Office will provide directions in order to receive the paperwork for the March 20 and March 25 deadlines. Deadlines have not changed.

Supervisors meetings will continue to be held and will be open to the public as electronic meetings in accordance with Iowa Code section 21.8.

The decision to close the courthouse as a preventative measure to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus was made at the recommendation of Butler County Public Health and Butler County Emergency Management.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution and be proac-tive instead of next week or two weeks down the road go to the reactive stage and won-der why we didn’t do this sooner,” said Butler County Emergency Management Coor-dinator Chris Showalter.

Various county officials noted that with schools closed, instead of staying home, peo-ple had begun bringing their children to the courthouse to get business done there, in-stead of staying home and practicing social distancing.

“There are about 15 cough-ing kids in the hallway right now. I think this is a good decision,” said Sheriff Jason Johnson.

No cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in Butler County at the time of this de-cision, and Supervisor Tom Heidenwirth emphasized that while the county is taking pre-cautionary measures, they do not wish to alarm the public.

County officials stressed that if you need courthouse services, they are there for you, and will help you with a variety of available resources. Just call their offices.

Franklin County and sever-al other counties throughout the state have taken similar measures with limiting court-house access.

In a press release, Butler County Public Health and Emergency Management en-courage residents to wash hands, cover coughs and sneezes and stay at home when sick or not feeling well.

“We need to do our part to make sure that people are dis-tancing themselves from each other. The only way to stop the spread is to prevent people from being around other peo-ple,” said Public Health Direc-tor Jennifer Becker.

If you have any questions in regards to COVID-19, But-ler County has opened the EOC during business hours, 8 a.m. to 4 pm. Please call 319-267-9968.

“Thank you for your un-derstanding and cooperation with this situation,” county officials stated.

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