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Masks are optional at reopened courthouse

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The Carroll County courthouse reopened this week to regular visitors, who are encouraged — but not required — to wear masks.

The courthouse is home to the most-frequented county offices and has been closed for about four months because of the coronavirus pandemic, which subsided for weeks in Iowa but is on the rise again.

“We’re going to have this a while, and I don’t think we can keep the door shut until the other end of this,” Supervisor Rich Ruggles said last week before the board of supervisors decided to reopen the building.

Offices of the auditor and sheriff, for example, are open like normal, but there are additional requirements at the busy treasurer’s office:

— There is a limit of three visitors at the counter at a time. Those waiting in line are encouraged to wait outside the building or, at the very least, to stand six feet away from people nearby.

— Driver’s license help is by appointment only.

— Tax payments and basic car renewals should be done online or with a drop box in front of the courthouse, but there is the option to make payments in person.

Ruggles said many local residents grew accustomed to the online processes while the courthouse was closed and might opt for those in the future rather than going to the courthouse.

“That may change our courthouse traffic,” he said. “It may change it forever.”

The recorder’s office is asking anyone who seeks to examine records in the office’s back room to sanitize their hands and wear a mask.

“These are documents that we cannot guard with any sort of shield or wipe down between use,” County Recorder Ashten Wittrock said.

The clerk of court’s office — which is operated by the state — has been open to visitors while the rest of the courthouse was closed. Court trials are set to resume next month.

Supervisors cautioned that they might have to restrict visitors again depending on the severity of the pandemic in the coming months.

“This still remains a very fluid situation,” Supervisor Dean Schettler said. “If numbers spike in Carroll County we might have to look at it again.”

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