Initial motion to declare Allamakee County as Second Amendment Supportive does not receive a second, resolution not approved after involved discussion

by Joe Moses

The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors met in regular session Monday, August 30 to address a full agenda of items including the Public Hearing for the Private Burial Ordinance, consideration of the Bible Reading Marathon to take place on the Allamakee County Courthouse lawn and discussion and consideration of a resolution declaring Allamakee County as a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.

During Public Comment, Executive Director Val Reinke with Allamakee County Economic Development (ACED) discussed attending the Iowa Rural Summit at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids with representatives of Postville relating to community development and grant opportunities. Reinke also discussed attending the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, manning the ACED booth there Saturday and Sunday, August 21-22 with follow-up taking place relating to specific information requests.

Reinke said that the Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund regular meeting and annual meeting will be taking place later in the week. Supervisor Mark Reiser advised that he is planning to attend, with the Six-County meeting being finished prior to the start of the first Northeast Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund meeting.

Reinke also advised that noon September 9 is the nomination deadline for the Cloy Kuhse Positive Impact Award. Reinke said that there has been some discussion relating to the Harpers Slough and Wexford area and the possibility of reducing boat traffic to better protect duck habitat.

The Public Hearing relating to the Private Burial Ordinance was opened with Allamakee County Zoning Administrator Stephanie Runkle providing some background on the matter. Runkle said that she has received a couple requests to allow burials on private property and that research has taken place relating to legality and maintenance requirements used in other counties. General Manager/Director Craig Lensing of Martin-Grau Funeral Home discussed requirements for cemeteries which could also be required of private burials relating to an outer enclosure or concrete vault. Runkle further discussed the need for mapping of the burial site to avoid a groundwater hazard and that a survey needs to be recorded with the easement.

Supervisor Dan Byrnes advised that a vault would be recommended in case the burial would need to be found and relocated in the future. Runkle noted that with some changes to be made to the current draft of the Private Burial Ordinance, Assistant County Attorney Jill Kistler has advised that the updated version be published with the process to move forward from there. The Public Hearing was closed with consideration of the first reading of the Private Burial Ordinance being tabled.

The Supervisors moved into discussion and consideration of the Bible Reading Marathon to take place on the Allamakee County Courthouse lawn. Board Chairperson Larry Schellhammer and Byrnes discussed that this matter has not required official action in the past as an event falling under the public’s right to assemble. Byrnes recommended notifying Head of Maintenance John Roe to make him aware of the date and time of the event to prevent any maintenance activities that could be a conflict, since this event is taking place on the courthouse lawn.

Pastor Duane Smith of First Baptist Church in Waukon suggested that this portion of the Bible Reading Marathon will take place September 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. No official action was taken relating to this matter.

The Supervisors approved a transfer of $9,050 from the General Fund to the Emergency Medical Services Fund. A list of tax abatements was also approved as presented.

The discussion and consideration of the resolution declaring Allamakee County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County was next addressed by the Supervisors. Gene Averhoff, who participated in discussion of this matter at the August 23 Supervisors meeting, presented copies of an opinion written by Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke to the Supervisors.

Mark Peterson, owner of River N Ridge Outdoors in Lansing, discussed being very pro-Second Amendment, noting that he is the owner of a firearms business in Allamakee County. Peterson added, “There have been multiple counties across Iowa, last count as of Saturday was 10, that have done something similar to this. Basically, this will give us extra protection for our Second Amendment rights. There has been some questions come up relating to the term ‘sanctuary’ and I know the Supervisors have had concerns about that, with ‘sanctuary’ being changed to the term ‘supportive’.”

Peterson further relayed, “Saturday, I had a conversation with (Allamakee) County Sheriff Clark Mellick, who opened my eyes relating to repercussions that could happen if ‘sanctuary’ was used rather than ‘supportive,’ which didn’t change my mind, personally. However, looking at the common good for everyone throughout the county, it’s not such a bad idea.”

Later in the meeting, Averhoff commented that he was in agreement that the term ‘supportive’ would be an acceptable compromise in place of the term ‘sanctuary’.

Paul Whalen of New Albin discussed only listening at last week’s Supervisors meeting without commenting. He stated that he was concerned that one of the Supervisors had already made up his mind prior to hearing feedback at the August 23 meeting. Whalen further discussed concerns relating to the potential of Federal overreach affecting other Constitutional rights including religious freedom. He advised that there is a need to look at what is happening in Venezuela, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Whalen closed his comments by adding, “This is not just about the Second Amendment, they were not Amendment 1 and 2 by accident. You have to think back to the people that gave us the freedoms we have, the men and women that died to give us these freedoms. I don’t take them lightly.”

Waukon resident Kathy Hannum stated, “I, too, am a patriot and strongly believe in our Constitution and revere it, but I think we have the Constitution and State law, and imposing something on our county is unnecessary. I went to the Department of Homeland Security website and the F.B.I. website yesterday and domestic violence is a real threat, and to somehow put that we are a sanctuary is a real problem for our county and attracts people who do not abide by our Constitution and laws.”

Waukon resident Ann Hart thanked the Supervisors for their work in improving infrastructure and keeping County roads in great shape. Hart added, “You’ve always had Republicans, you’ve always had Democrats, but you have never been political. This has been my experience. I think it would be a mistake to go down that road.” She continued, “Keep your role as it has been. You do a great job representing us.”

Also in attendance, Tyler Baughman stated, “I’m a Second Amendment proponent, the things the Federal government is trying to do to infringe upon our rights, that created this country... I want to see how that is affecting our local government and how you plan on upholding those Constitutional rights.”

Peterson further advised that he is not bringing up these points as a political statement but rather to help ensure that his children and grandchildren are able to stay in Allamakee County and protect themselves.

Allamakee County Attorney Anthony Gericke noted that the Supervisors can approve this resolution and that there is nothing preventing this from happening from a legal standpoint. Gericke added that this is not enacting a law, but rather making a political statement that this is what those who represent the County believe is best for the County. Gericke recommended that a better forum may be to have the public make a decision on this matter at the ballot box.

Reiser made a motion to approve the resolution declaring Allamakee County as a Second Amendment Supportive County. The motion died without a second from Byrnes, with Schellhammer explaining, “I think this takes us into the political arena where, as a board, I don’t think we need to go. I think Dan and I work very hard to keep politics out of there. I feel the wording here is primarily symbolic. I am a supporter of the Second Amendment; I probably won’t be construed that way from the public now.”

Schellhammer further explained that he is appreciative that this was brought forth for discussion, adding that this is more of a political statement that potentially opens up the door to other issues outside of matters customary for this board.

Byrnes commented on the Board of Supervisors’ support of the Constitution. He read aloud, “Iowa Code 63.10: I do solemnly swear that I support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Iowa and that I will faithfully and impartially to the best of my ability discharge all duties of the office of Allamakee County as now or hereby required by law.” Byrnes noted that this oath summarizes the board’s duties and feelings relating to the Second Amendment.

The Supervisors moved into the consideration of setting a letting date to take bids on a sealcoat project. Allamakee County Engineer Brian Ridenour provided a recommendation to set the letting date as September 27 at 10 a.m. which was then approved by the Supervisors. Ridenour explained that this double sealcoat will take place on A26 Iowa River Drive from Highway 76 to Lycurgus Road, approximately seven miles.

The final payment voucher for the Waterville Road (X32) project was approved in addition to the approval of road and bridge plans for various projects.

Under Department Head/COVID-19 updates, Ridenour discussed the upcoming Six-County meeting and its agenda. Ridenour said that with recent storms and rainfall, numerous wash-outs and trees on roads have been addressed. Ridenour noted that the Smithfield Bridge in south Allamakee County is now open, with barricades having been removed as of last Friday. He also said that patching is resuming as weather permits and that interviews are planned this week to fill vacancies in the Secondary Roads Department. Ridenour also advised that a new Caterpillar motorgrader has arrived.

Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker provided an update relating to a variety of matters including an upcoming meeting with Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) and a conference call with Emergency Management/Homeland Security at the State level. Snitker advised that additional personal protective equipment (PPE) is being ordered in preparation for the fall and winter. He also discussed the storm activity from last week with predictions that the Upper Iowa River could reach flood stage for part of the day Monday. He also spoke about recent storm damage near Castalia and Monona with some crop damage showing the path of strong winds.

Snitker also provided an overview of upcoming events including the Driftless Half Marathon in September. He advised that a meeting is scheduled in Des Moines relating to camera options for the Allamakee County Courthouse, with that likely requiring a bidding process prior to a decision or purchase.

Allamakee County Auditor Denise Beyer discussed attending the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) conference and provided an overview of the topics covered including cyber security and human resources, among others. Beyer also advised that a cyber infrastructure security company will be making a presentation this week.