Supes nix art on county-owned property for liability reasons

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

The Greene County supervisors plan not to allow art on county-owned property after the Ring Out for Art sculptures are moved from the courthouse grounds in November.

The decision came at the board’s Tuesday meeting after supervisors Pete Bardole and Dawn Rudolph, and county attorney Thomas Laehn reported on a meeting they had with representatives of the Jefferson Matters: Main Street Tower View Team. The TVT sponsors the Ring Out for Art display on courthouse grounds.

Previously, Laehn had advised against the county allowing the grounds to be used as a venue for such examples of free speech. Justification for the ban of art was if one group were allowed access and exercised free speech there through art, all groups must be allowed access, even groups with hate messages.

On Tuesday, after the meeting with TVT, focus of the justification for not allowing art on county grounds changed to liability if the grounds were damaged or someone were hurt by the art, by climbing on it, for example.

Laehn said, “It’s not about being anti-art,” and “it has nothing to do with content of speech.” Laehn said he will do research on how other counties handle this issue and on case law concerning liability.

Board chair John Muir said, “We have to set policy clearly. We’re going to set a policy.”
In the meantime, the board agreed on “no art, ever” on county property and “no advertising for art” by the board, as in contests or time-limited displays for events. This ban would begin in November since current art on the grounds was permitted previously.

GreeneCountyNewsOnline asked about music on county property since music selection denotes free speech, original music is free speech, and music events have potential for damage to grounds, buildings, or accidents. There was no definitive answer to the issue of music.

Laehn will research the issues and write a policy for the board to consider.

Peg Raney, program director of Jefferson Matters: Main Street, reported Greene County Development Corporation’s application for Greene County to become an Iowa Great Place has been approved.

The next level of the application is a site visit next week. GCDC plans to take the visitors to the observation deck of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower to showcase the panoramic view.

Raney requested supervisors attend the site visit scheduled for Monday, June 3. The Raccoon River Valley Trail has already earned the designation as an Iowa Great Place.
Engineer Wade Weiss reported the bell tower roof has been completed but the windows on the observation deck need to be resealed. The tower windows are scheduled to be cleaned May 31.

Rudolph reported on House File 698, Children’s Mental Health. In keeping within the new law, Central Iowa  Community Services (CICS, to which Greene County belongs), will create  an advisory board.

Supervisor Mick Burkett reported on his attendance at a meeting of the county Pioneer Cemetery Commission. He asked about upkeep of the Pioneer Cemeteries. The board generally agreed the townships are responsible.

Chuck Wenthold, environmental department, submitted a draft outline for the management of the North Raccoon Watershed.

Alan Robinson and Angie Jones of the Grand Junction 150 committee described plans for a three-day Sesquicentennial celebration in August, including a parade, live entertainment, historical presentations, classic car show, box lunches, vintage quilts, ice cream social, barbershop quartet, and carnival. The group has had fundraisers and the city of Grand Junction has contributed $2,500. The group wants to hire a code enforcement officer for the events.

Robinson and Jones submitted an application to the board for Dreyfus funding in the amount of $2,500.

Muir said the board “tries to stay with brick and mortar type” projects for Dreyfus funding. Supervisor Tom Contner said, “This will get people to come to Grand Junction and they’ll like it.” After discussion, the board approved the application in 4-1 vote. Rudolph cast the dissenting vote. She is involved in planning the Scranton sesquicentennial June 28-30. That organizing committee did not request Dreyfus funds.

The board agreed to limit Dreyfus funding of this type of project to one time only and each community in the county will have the same opportunity for Dreyfus funds if each makes application for it.

Attorney Laehn reported on results of the policy of seeking jail time for law-breakers rather than prison. He said, “The county is becoming tougher on crime, but it puts strain on the county jail.”

Length of stay of inmates in county jail is longer than in prison since prison sentences are often shortened and probation is granted sooner.

Drainage issues continue to be addressed. Michelle Fields, drainage clerk, submitted a proposed drainage district assessment schedule. Teleconferences with the boards of supervisors in Carroll, Webster, Guthrie, and Calhoun counties were then held for joint approval of drainage assessments for DD150-86, 18-35, 104-8, and 8-55. All boards agreed unanimously and agreed to pay the assessments made by Greene County.

The board of supervisors acts as drainage trustee for the larger drainage districts that overlap county borders. Counties are assessed on May 28 and start paying 6 percent interest 30 days after that if the assessments are not paid.

The board also discussed a request from Kirk Citurs to improve drainage in DD-106. No action was taken.

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