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Crowds cannot gather inside courthouse during annual lighting ceremony

Other accompanying holidays events will still being held

Andrew Main, a maintenance tech for Jasper County, assembles a large Christmas tree on Tuesday in the rotunda of the Jasper County Courthouse.
Andrew Main, a maintenance tech for Jasper County, assembles a large Christmas tree on Tuesday in the rotunda of the Jasper County Courthouse.

Unlike prior years, onlookers at the annual courthouse lighting ceremony will not be permitted to enter the building, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors chairman Brandon Talsma confirmed Tuesday. Presumably, this is because such a large gathering of people could risk exposure to COVID-19.

However, the courthouse is still hosting the annual 4-H Festival of Trees, in which local 4-H clubs decorate themed Christmas trees for an organization or nonprofit of their choice. These trees are set up all over the courthouse and tend to draw families eager to participate in the holiday festivities and tour the building.

Even though the courthouse serves as the venue of the 4-H Festival of Trees, Talsma is unaware how the event is going to play out. To Talsma’s knowledge the festival is still a go, and he expects organizers and clubs are following public health guidelines.

Jon Dunwell, a member of Newton Main Street’s economic vitality committee, reminded the county as it begins to make plans to coordinate with those involved in using the courthouse property as an event facility. The courthouse, he explained, is an integral part of downtown commerce.

“We’re so grateful, by the way, for everything you guys do in terms of the tree decorations with Van Maanen and the group that puts that together — it makes a difference to the businesses down here,” Dunwell said.

Talsma also said the board of supervisors will be advising county department heads to continue to follow all guidelines beset by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health. The courthouse, he added, will still remain open for business operations.

Out of the three supervisors, only Denny Carpenter was wearing a mask during the Tuesday, Nov. 17, meeting. When asked by Newton News if the remaining supervisors would wear a mask at the next meeting, Talsma said it would be “up to the individual’s personal choices.”

In September, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors approved the 4-H Festival of Trees to be set up between Nov. 23 and Dec. 28. Jasper County Maintenance Director Adam Sparks asked the board what their thoughts or ideas were on holding holiday events inside the building during a pandemic.

“With everything going on, just not sure it’s a great idea to — at least on the night of the parade — have the courthouse doors unlocked and people standing shoulder to shoulder in here,” Sparks said at a past meeting.

Talsma suggested it would be looked into and evaluated “when it gets closer.”

In other action Tuesday, the board of supervisors:

• Rescheduled a public hearing date for the rezoning of the Joseph Paul property. Talsma said there was a “mishap” resulting in the dates not being published in the newspaper. Since that was not done, the public hearing could not legally be conducted. The public hearings were rescheduled to 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 1, 8 and 15 in the Board of Supervisors Chambers of the county courthouse.

• Signed a $7,360 per year preventative maintenance agreement with The Waldinger Corporation. Sparks said the contract helps prevent “major mishaps” from happening. The county has partnered with the same company for about five years and had “zero issues” with them, Sparks added. “They’re here on time every time,” Sparks said.

• Approved a quote for electrical work on a generator. Jasper County received three quotes: $17,100 from DePenning & Associates, Inc.; $28,600 from Kline Electric; and $14,100 from Van Maanen Electric, Inc. The Jasper County Board of Supervisors awarded the contract to Van Maanen.

• Approved two hiring resolutions. Supervisor agreed to hire Joshua Borg as a deputy sheriff at a hire-in, merged union scale rate of $26.06 per hour, effective Nov. 30. The board also agreed to hire Josh Britton as a seasonal skilled laborer for the secondary roads department at a standard pay rate of $20 per hour, effective Nov. 30.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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