The COVID-19 pandemic affected many parts of community life, and public officials had to deal with still serving the public and holding meetings while also trying to keep themselves, employees and community members safe.
“We learned a lot,” said Monroe County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dennis Amoss. “Whether it’s this pandemic or a flu or whatever it is, you just handle it.”
Especially in the early days of the pandemic, when scientists were still learning how the virus spread, how contagious it was, and how deadly it was and when there really weren’t any known treatments for the disease, the question for officials of whether or not to keep offices and businesses open was more then likely to side with closures, at least temporarily.
Iowa never implemented a complete shut down, but during March and April as the first cases were beginning to show up in the state, the governor did order many businesses and government offices to shut down, or be open by appointment only.
The Monroe County Board of Supervisors was determined to keep their offices open if at all possible, and they found that it was possible.
“We were one of four counties in the state of Iowa that kept our doors open,” said Amoss. “We did everything that we could do to get us through.”
They did have to ask people to make appointments to meet with the supervisors for a short time, but they opened back up as soon as they could and never had to completely shut their doors to the public.
They did hold meetings in the courtroom at first to help with social distancing. Eventually they moved back to their regular meeting room and still wear masks during meetings while trying to seat people as far away from each other as possible.
Amoss said eventually Auditor Amanda Harlan and Engineer Jeremiah Selby decided to reopen their offices.
“They opened their door, they set a table in front of it, they put the plastic up … so they could go ahead and do their business,” said Amoss.
Amoss said the supervisors also did whatever they could to help people who showed up at the courthouse to try to take are of whatever business they had. Other offices also eventually made changes in order to open up for business but everyone tried to follow health guidelines as well.
“If there was somebody that got sick we followed the guidelines just like CDC told us to do and we really didn’t have a lot of problems,” said Amoss. “We’re still doing what we need to do.”
Amoss himself suffered through a bout of COVID-19 but has recovered and all three supervisors have now gotten their vaccine shots. Amoss said they have a saying that they often go back to.
“We will be prepared,” said Amoss. “We’re just not going to be scared.”
Amoss said that throughout the year, the supervisors were worried about their LOST funding, local option sales tax. The funding is used to make payments on the county’s bond issue, which built the jail. If the revenue fell because businesses were closed and people were not spending money, the supervisors would still have to make their bond payment. Luckily the fund stayed fairly steady throughout the year.
“It is better then we anticipated, but I think that’s because people stayed home and did projects on their homes and spent their money right here,” said Amoss.
Amoss said the fund was already in good shape before the pandemic began as well.
“Luckily our auditor and treasurer have done an excellent job maintaining it (LOST),” said Amoss.
Amoss also had praise for Monroe County Auditor Amanda Harlan, who had to hold five elections during the pandemic and for Monroe County Public Health workers.
“I sit on the public health board … and those ladies did an awesome job,” said Amoss. “Probably a few years ago if you asked people in Monroe County what our public health people do they couldn’t tell you. … I think they did an excellent job.”
Amoss said ultimately they just kept the knowledge front and center that they were there to serve the public and to do there jobs and with the cooperation of very hardworking county employees they were able to make it through the year and are looking forward to the future now.
“Our biggest thing we did throughout this whole thing was we still had an open business because the people of this county need to have our services,” said Amoss. “We got through this. We learned a lot. If it comes back, or something else comes back … we’ll learn how to deal with it.”