August 19, 2022

Jasper County held open house to showcase relocated departments

Residents got a first look at $3.6M renovation of new administration building

Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop speaks with guests during an open house on June 14 of the new administration building. Bishop says the new space will increase efficiency in the driver's license, motor vehicles and tax departments.

Several residents attended a June 14 open house to get a sneak peek of the new Jasper County administration building in Newton, which will relocate many employees who worked in the annex building, the courthouse and in a leased property just south of First Avenue near city hall.

Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop and his staff greeted guests as they browsed the new office space for the driver’s license, motor vehicles and tax departments. Bishop said the one comment he kept hearing over and over again was how much bigger the space looked in person.

“I was very pleasantly surprised with the turnout,” Bishop said. “We weren’t expecting that many people but we were thankful that they did show up and take the time to attend. The main statement, really, was: ‘We can’t believe it’s this big. It sure doesn’t look like it from the outside.’”

Currently, Bishop’s customers must use the south entrance of the courthouse to get their services. Oftentimes people have to wait on the wooden benches outside the department doors. The new offices have seating inside, similar to the DMVs offices in Polk County, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Compared to the courthouse location of the driver’s license and motor vehicle departments, Bishop said the new offices and layout will be much more efficient and have better customer flow. Staff are so cramped in their current space that it is difficult for everybody to conduct their business.

“It gets so loud, and the driver’s license and motor vehicle side half the time you can’t hardly hear,” Bishop said. “We absolutely love the courthouse and we hate to leave it, but a 100-year-old courthouse wasn’t designed for the amount of traffic that we put through our offices.”

Bishop expects traffic to the office will only increase. The word is already out, he said, about the Jasper County DMV, especially now that the state passed a law allowing individuals from any contiguous counties surrounding Jasper County the ability to get car title transfers with Bishop’s staff.

Newton News previously reported on this possible influx of customers as a result of the new law. Bishop told the county board of supervisors last year he expects the law will drive more customers from bigger counties. He also expected people in nearby Polk County towns will be coming to Jasper County in droves.

From the results his office has seen thus far, Bishop’s predictions were correct.

“We’ve got some from every contiguous county already. Of course Polk County we’re seeing a lot of traffic come down here because it’s easier,” he said. “If you take the Bondurant, Altoona and Mitchellville area, it’s actually easier to drive to Newton to do your title transfer or your driver’s license than it is the state.”

Isn’t Bishop worried the extra traffic will be too much for Jasper County?

Well, the new building’s flow should help. And he also credits the board of supervisors for being receptive to making sure the DMV is properly staffed to fulfill the demand. Bringing in visitors isn’t a bad thing, either. Bishop suggested out-of-towners are helping citizens in a unique way.

“Every one of those individuals that comes from outside the county and drops money here is helping to actually keep taxes from being raised,” Bishop said. “And it’s an economic driver. Hopefully they’ll get a tank of gas or buy a cup of coffee or swing by Fareway while they’re here…and support local businesses.”

Other departments like the Jasper County Health Department are going to see major changes with the move as well. Currently, the health department is located at a leased building, 116 W. Fourth St. S., in Newton. Jasper County Board of Health Administrator Becky Pryor said it has been there for more than four years.

Also housed in the leased property is the community development department, which includes planning and zoning, environmental health and animal control divisions. So as a result community development will also move into the new space with the health department close by.

Pryor said the board of health “is very happy about the awesome, visionary, new office space.” The health department was awarded a technology grant, and as a result the conference rooms have modern audio and visual equipment to more easily host community meetings.

The board of supervisors, county treasurer and other department heads “had a great vision” for the county buildings and programs that now have “become a reality to improve Jasper County.” And now so many departments will be located in one area, pulling off that “one-shop stop” promise.

“It will be great for the community to have many human service and government agencies under one roof,” she said. “We are thankful for the board of supervisors, (the) maintenance department and IT department and all the hard work to plan and improve Jasper County in the final stages of the project.”

The board of health and public health team are very excited to get settled into the new office space, Pryor added. Jasper County Maintenance Director Adam Sparks told Newton News the departments will not begin moving in until July. Still, Pryor is looking forward to the new level of convenience for citizens.

The parking and handicap accessibility for the public, Pryor added, will also be a great improvement. Public health offers a number of medical services by the two nurses, including Vaccine For Children (VFC) were staff give vaccine to children ages 0-18 that have a lack of health insurance or a medical provider.

“(Which) we will be offering in our new clinic, immunization room,” she said. “…We hope in the future to continue to provide more services to the citizens in Jasper County. The citizens will benefit by having a one-stop shop with so many services under one roof.”

The county administration building was a result of a successful $3.6M bond referendum, which passed in March 2021 with 64 percent of voters in favor.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 6560 or at cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.