By Steve Woodhouse
The Marion County Board of Supervisors returned to the discussion Tuesday morning of whether or not to close the courthouse on July 24, the date the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI®) is scheduled to overnight in Knoxville. Ultimately, the board voted to close the courthouse that date.
A past discussion held about this raised issues of access to the courthouse for employees and the general public on that date. The approximate 30,000 people participating in RAGBRAI® and its festivities in Knoxville are expected to be downtown for entertainment. Streets will be closed and vehicle traffic will not be able to reach the courthouse.
“Operationally, I don't know how we can function,” Supervisor Mark Raymie said. Board Chairman Jim Kingery was concerned whether or not giving most County employees, who work at the courthouse, an extra day off, would be fair. Employees in many other departments, including Conservation, the Sheriff's Office, Maintenance, Public Health and Secondary Roads, will be working that day.
Raymie suggested that the “fairness” in compensating those who work, as opposed to those who will not, should be left to department heads. He made a motion to close the courthouse, with payroll for employees affected, to utilize the County's “snow day” policy in the employee handbook. The motion passed, with Supervisor Craig Agan voting against.
Sheriff Jason Sandholdt also informed the supervisors that a meeting was held and traffic is expected to flow as usual on Highway 14 over the Mile Long Bridge on July 24. Riders will be coming to Knoxville, south on 14, from Monroe. Sandholdt said the Department of Transportation determined that would be safe, instead of adding an extra lane specifically for bicycles. Drivers may want to consider an alternate route that day.
Sandholdt also indicated that T-17 will be utilized on July 25 as RAGBRAI® travels to Oskaloosa. This is the road that leads to the South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency (SCISWA), which will still need to have garbage trucks rolling in. Communication is expected to be shared with SCISWA's partner counties, and waste management agencies, about the bicycle traffic on that day.
The route to Oskaloosa is expected to go through Pella. Pella Police Chief Robert Bokinsky said discussions and preparation have begun. His department is working with others to pool resources to ensure that the route is covered.
“I think we're going to be just fine here in Pella,” Bokinsky said. Though Pella is considered a “pass-through” town by RAGBRAI®, Pella is preparing to have visitors stay.
“We figure it will be more than just 'pass through,'” Bokinsky said.