Supervisors hold discussion but take no action on becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary County and speed limit reduction south of Lansing

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, August 23 to address a full agenda of items including discussion of Allamakee County becoming a Second Amendment Sanctuary County, consideration of the 28E agreement with Allamakee County Economic Development, and the discussion and consideration of a Speed Limit Resolution reducing speed on a segment of the Great River Road (X52).

There was no Public Comment and following the time allotted for that portion of the meeting, the Supervisors moved into the discussion and consideration of payment of an education course for the County Medical (Death) Investigator. Jacob Dougherty introduced himself as a Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) paramedic and advised that he has served in this role for five years. Dougherty presented a letter from Dr. Dave Schwartz, Allamakee County Medical Examiner, recommending the medical investigator training for Dougherty, which Dougherty advised is being offered online rather than in person and as a result is now at a discounted rate of $650.

Board of Supervisors Chairperson Larry Schellhammer and Supervisors Dan Byrnes and Mark Reiser discussed reimbursement upon completion for this training. Dougherty said that he would complete the 90-day course November 1 with the Supervisors approving the reimbursement upon completion for the medical examiner investigator (MEI) training.

The Supervisors moved into the consideration of hiring a part-time employee for the Solid Waste Department. Allamakee County Solid Waste Manager Dave Mooney provided a recommendation to hire Lonnie Tysland for this part-time position at $15.53 per hour with a start date of Tuesday, August 24, with the Supervisors approving that recommendation.

Erin Hines, a lifelong resident of Lansing, addressed the next matter relating to discussion and consideration of a food stand at Village Creek boat landing near Lansing. Hines discussed the opportunity and need for a food stand in this location for those who are boating and fishing, with returning to town for food at times being a challenge. Hines said that she decided to move forward with the food stand concept in June and became licensed through the Iowa State Department of Health.

Hines relayed the positive reception the food stand has received from boaters and fishing tournament participants at the landing site. She said that the initial food stand operation on weekends began July 17 and involves grills, a tent and a trailer, which has been operated to measure interest prior to potentially investing additional funds in other options. Hines advised that she assumed she was in compliance based upon information on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website and through her approved application with the Iowa Department of Health. Hines further shared that she is requesting permission from the County to continue for the 2021 season with plans to request permission for the 2022 season with bass fishing tournaments listing her as a vendor on their DNR applications for next year.

Allamakee County Conservation Director Jim Janett noted that Iowa State Code specifies that a person shall not operate a commercial concession within a park, forest, recreation, fish or wildlife area without first entering into a written contract. Janett discussed requirements relating to this request including that, prior to a contract, public bidding for this opportunity would be necessary and liability exposure would need to be addressed in addition to contract terms establishing that regular usage of the area is not impeded.

Jane Regan with Upper Iowa Insurance Services discussed the importance of operating within the DNR management agreement with the County Conservation Board’s approval being necessary to allow a for-profit vendor to operate on State and County property. Regan advised that an approved vendor would need to follow vendor guidelines and meet liability insurance requirements for any booth or vehicle with workers compensation coverage also being a requirement.

Janett further advised that he is not against this matter, but that there is a need to be in compliance, as the Village Creek boat landing is a public area that has benefited from capital improvements through taxpayer funds. Hines suggested that she would have her request added to the Conservation Board’s meeting agenda in the near future. No official action was taken by the Supervisors.

Allamakee County resident Gene Averhoff addressed the next agenda item relating to discussion of Allamakee County being declared a Second Amendment Sanctuary County. Averhoff read aloud a statement relating to this written proposal: “In a time when some cities choose to declare themselves sanctuaries for not abiding by the laws of the land, this document reaffirms our county’s promise to live by our Constitution and particularly the Second Amendment. In a nutshell, this proposal reaffirms and clearly states that the County Supervisors, as highest ranking County officials, you understand, accept and will continue to adhere to the Second Amendment and will always uphold it as it relates to the actions you perform for the citizens in Allamakee County. This includes those offices and officers you supervise as they deliver their services their positions provide for as well. If you sign the Second Amendment Sanctuary County declaration, you will become the ninth county in Iowa and 1,930th county locale in the nation to do so as well.”

Dennis Peterson of Winneshiek County discussed the importance of protecting Constitutional rights, stating that, “The Sheriff’s Office is constructed around the idea of that their chief law enforcement responsibility is defending the Constitutional rights of everyone within this county and I think this application would reflect that; that the priority of Allamakee County is to protect the citizens of Allamakee County from the Federal government.”

Schellhammer recommended that Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke review this proposal prior to any official action being taken by the Supervisors. Byrnes noted that a resolution relating to this matter would provide an opinion of the Supervisors, which he said would not change the Sheriff’s Department’s requirement to enforce Federal gun laws with local laws not being able to supercede Federal laws.

Byrnes quoted a recent Des Moines Register article that included comments from Representative Steven Holt. Byrnes read aloud, “Holt said Republicans who control state government have shown they support the Second Amendment, but he’s concerned there could be ‘unintended consequences’ of the county resolutions depending on how the language is written. That’s because Iowa has passed laws that limit the ability of local governments to regulate firearms. ‘Obviously, we’re strong on the Second Amendment,’ he said. ‘But we have to be careful that the wording doesn’t come in conflict with state law, and that’s one of my concerns, frankly.’”

Byrnes advised that a Second Amendment Sanctuary declaration may send the wrong message to citizens or create confusion relating to the law. Byrnes provided an example that a convicted felon may misunderstand or misinterpret that they are able to possess a firearm under the Second Amendment Sanctuary declaration. Reiser discussed being in favor of the declaration and that its intent would allow for protections against the Federal government and gun confiscation, reaffirming the County Sheriff’s authority.

Schellhammer again advised that no action should be taken at Monday’s meeting with the County Attorney to review the matter. Byrnes further quoted the Des Moines Register article: “State Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, who has led the passage of some pro-gun measures in the Iowa Legislature, said the state hasn’t passed its own sanctuary language in part because ‘we do have some legal concerns about people misconstruing that and getting themselves in trouble.’”

Byrnes suggested that from an information and education perspective, this declaration sends a message that would be difficult to understand and questioned whether a term other than “sanctuary” should be used. No official action was taken by the Supervisors at this time.

The Supervisors moved into the discussion and consideration of a Speed Limit Resolution reducing speed on the Great River Road (X52) on a segment between Whalen Hill Road and Power Plant Drive southeast of Lansing. Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour advised that the County Sheriff’s Department has conducted a speed study on this section of road with data collected on three different days during one-hour increments. Ridenour provided the daily results of that study, with an average traffic count of 50 vehicles each hour monitored with 50-52 m.p.h. being the average speed.

Ridenour further provided a map to the Supervisors that illustrated the 1.47-mile section of road that has been requested by some residents for a speed limit reduction to 45 m.p.h. Ridenour discussed the accident history on this section of road, with a majority of these accidents being deer hit related. He noted that the placement of mailboxes per U.S. Postal Service regulations requires residents to cross the road with widened shoulders not being an option due to constraints due to the nearby railroad tracks.

Following the overview from Ridenour, Schellhammer discussed erring on the side of safety with the recommendation from the County Sheriff and County Engineer to lower the speed limit to 45 m.p.h. to improve safety for pedestrians getting mail, improved bicycle safety and to improve awareness with rumble strips and signage. Byrnes said that he was in agreement with Reiser not to lower the speed limit. Byrnes recommended that an Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) speed study be conducted and that white lines be painted on the edge of this road as another safety measure. Without a motion from Byrnes or Reiser, no further action was taken relating to this matter.

The Quarterly Report from Allamakee County Environmental Health was accepted and placed on file.

Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Stephanie Runkle presented plat requests by Cote Family Farm LLC, Dale E. and Virginia Kurth (estate planning) and Ray D. and Kerry M. Wacker. All three plat requests were individually reviewed and approved.
Beyer and the Supervisors discussed the 28E agreement between Allamakee County and Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED), with the matter being approved by the Supervisors.

Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker addressed the next matter relating to the Alert Iowa emergency notification system. Snitker advised that a display case will be used within the Allamakee County Courthouse to provide information to the public relating to this statewide emergency alert system.

Under Department Head updates, Beyer noted that tax statements are arriving in mailboxes with some residents already paying their taxes at the courthouse. Beyer reported that she and several department heads will be attending the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) meeting this week. She discussed matters to be added to the next meeting agenda with 1st Deputy Auditor Janel Eglseder to send out that agenda in Beyer’s absence later in the week.

Ridenour discussed the next Six-County meeting scheduled for September 2 and that Cedar Falls Construction has been able to start patching roads earlier than projected. Ridenour noted that there have been some delays in receiving replacement parts and that blading will be taking place on secondary gravel roads.

Prior to adjournment, Snitker discussed heat and precipitation as part of the upcoming weather forecast. Snitker discussed trends relating to COVID-19 and the Delta variant. He said that personal protective equipment (PPE) is available for courthouse offices and that Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) and Wal-Mart have take-home COVID-19 testing kits available. Snitker also discussed the booster or third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with official details yet to be determined but that dose likely to be recommended at some point.