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County officials meet and discuss COVID-19 related issues


Last updated 8/21/2020 at 11:39am

During the Hill County Officials Meeting Thursday, Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson discussed using possible COVID-19-related funding to make upgrades to the Hill County Courthouse while other officials also provided updates on their respective departments’ activities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peterson said he’s been in contact with other counties, and was particularly interested in what Blaine County did, putting a large TV on a cart with speakers and a microphone for letting rooms of people do virtual meetings more easily.

Peterson said they’re also looking into installing pass-coded wireless upgrades on some of the courthouse’s floors and rooms which don’t have immediately accessible internet access.

He said these discussions are still in their early stages and there are still other possibilities to explore.

“There’s no firm plan, but we want to look at it, and put some numbers together and possibly apply for some COVID funding,” he said.

Hill County Buildings Manager Daryl Anez also provided an update on the climate control system the courthouse is waiting on.

“That chiller that I talked about last time, hopefully it will be in by the beginning of August, and now it looks like hopefully it will be in by the beginning of September,” he said.

Anez said the chiller has been shipped and taking the delays into account installation should start next week.

He also said the new transfer switch for the courthouse’s generator has been installed and will be tested this weekend.

He said it shouldn’t affect any courthouse activities in the meantime.

Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland said there have been issues with the switch in the past than this should alleviate those issues.

Hill County Clerk and Recorder Sue Armstrong couldn’t be at the meeting, but Wendland said she is still looking for election judges for the upcoming election in November.

Disaster and Emergency Service Coordinaor Amanda Frickle said it’s been a busy fire month so far.

“We’ve had a couple of lightning fires, we’ve had three human fires, 14 totals with one that the fire marshals are still investigating,” she said.

Frickle also said the county has been very dry and in the midst of a drought that has contributed to the season.

She said the county is at a drought 0 status and will be moving into 1 next week and will likely be there for a while.

She also said her office has been getting calls with questions about masks and she has diverted some to Hill County Public Health Director Kim Larson.

Frickle said her department is still well-stocked with hand sanitizer and equipment for dealing with COVID-19, and they have been working on getting masks for polling judges and sanitizer for the voting booths.

She said the department has also been getting lots of calls about grasshopper infestations and has received reports of the insects wiping out quite a few crops. She said the the department has plans in the works to head off the problem in the coming years, but for now options for dealing with the insects are somewhat limited.

Larson could not attend the meeting, but Wendland read a brief report she provided which said the department has been working to keep people following and understanding the mask mandate and has been working with schools on re-opening plans.

Hill County Superintendent of Schools Marie Deegan said Cottonwood Schools opened Monday and still needed some new employees to help deal with the changes made in response to the pandemic and they are still looking for a part-time bus driver.

Hill County Extension Agent Jasmine Carbajal said her department has seen an uptick in phone traffic, with a lot of people asking about their gardens and food preservation.

She also said the extension office is almost out of masks.

Hill County Justice of the Peace Audrey Barger said crime has continued in the county at a steady rate since the pandemic and she’s had to get use some unusual solutions to problems when running her courtroom.

“As Karen says, crime doesn’t quit,” she said, “So we’ve had to be a little creative at jury trial.”

She said she’s had to hold trials in unusual place and the city court judge has been letting her use her courtroom when necessary.

Barger said she’s still having issues with recording in the courtroom and believes the county is still in need a court reporter.


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