Tourism increases in Jefferson CountyCounty board of supervisors sees changes with new year.
Tourism in Jefferson County increased 6 percent in the past year compared to the previous year, Rustin Lippincott, director of Fairfield Iowa Convention & Visitors Bureau told the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Monday.
“That means an increase in hotel/motel tax and our local option sales taxes,” he said.
The convention and visitors bureau created a training program for area employees who have contact with out-of-town visitors.
“We held a class for convenience store and gas station clerks, food service workers, hotel and bed and breakfast personnel, and others to help familiarize them with points of interest, events and opportunities for experiences to share with visitors,” said Lippincott. “We had 65 people involved with ‘Fairfield First’ because whoever interacts with visitors, those local people become an ambassador to the region.
“If someone asks a local person what’s there to do, we want those people working and living here to be able to recommend restaurants, the trails, our library, our stores, the theater and events to those who ask,” he said.
“We created binders that are placed at restaurants and hotels for staff to look through or reference or even make a copy of a page for visitors.”
Lippincott said CVB plans to hold the training again in the future and will update its website.
“We’re doing more partnering with regional attractions,” he said. “As an example, we want to tell Fairfield visitors about Eldon’s American Gothic Center, and people there can tell visitors about things to do in Fairfield.”
CVB has partnered with Jefferson County at Maasdam Barns, an historical site on the south edge of Fairfield open to the public.
An audio tour of the barns complex was created this past year so visitors can learn about the barns, ways of farming and contributions to agriculture made by Fairfield Louden Machinery Co. in the past century without needing a person on-site for guidance and explanation.
“And we used a local production company, a Jefferson County business, to create the audio tour,” said Lippincott.
Hedquist Productions produced the audio tour that includes period-appropriate music, sounds of horses and of course, history and information about the nearly 8-acre Maasdam Barns site.
“I recommend one of you [Lippincott or CVB assistant director Terry Baker] have a seat on the barns’ committee,” said supervisor Dick Reed, who is a member of Maasdam Barns Preservation Committee.
Radon Action Month
The supervisors proclaimed January Radon Action Month, as requested by county environmental health administrator Dan Miller, as he has done the past four years.
“Last year, I had 100 test kits to give out free and 98 were returned, with 43 percent having a radon level above acceptable, ” he said. “One-third of that 43 percent had mitigation work done.
“The only way to know if a building has radon is to test for it,” said Miller.
He applied for and received another $2,000 grant this year and will use the funds to purchase more home radon test kits and to work with local schools.
Miller said he’d have 125 radon test kits to distribute free this month, from 9 a.m. to noon at his office at the Jefferson County Roads Department on Ninth Street.
“Last year, the test kits were gone in five days,” he said.
The same types of test kits are available in stores for $10 to $30, Miller said.
Board changes with new year
Monday, Reed noted it was the last supervisors’ meeting for chairman Steve Burgmeier, who has served 12 years on the board.
“Thank you for your service,” said Reed. “You worked hard, which is appreciated. I knew you always came to the table prepared.”
Wednesday, county supervisors Lee Dimmitt and Becky Schmitz were sworn-in for four-year terms.
Dimmitt, who has served one term on the board and was vice chairman this past year, was selected chairman of the board of supervisors for 2013. Reed will serve as vice chairman.
The supervisors agreed to leave the regular meeting time at 9 a.m. each Monday in the Jefferson County Courthouse.
“I know during elections, it was talked about having meetings in the evening,” said Reed. “The most important thing is to have meetings at a consistent, set time and place, so people know what to expect.
“That’s not saying we can’t set a special meeting for a different time and place. But I have talked about this the 10 years I’ve been in office, and I have never received comments to have meetings at a different time or place,” said Reed. “We have held public hearings at other times and places. And we can return to this issue if needed.
Schmitz, beginning her first term as a supervisor, said it was fine to leave the schedule as it stands, and agreed it might warrant further discussion in the future.
Each supervisor also hosts office hours outside the meeting times. Since it is a three-member board, when two supervisors are together it constitutes a quorum and violates open meeting laws for supervisors to discuss any board business together outside of a public meeting. So each supervisor has different office hours in the supervisors’ meeting room on the first floor of the courthouse. They agreed to leave that schedule in place, with Schmitz taking Burgmeier’s office hours.
“My cell number is posted on the wall alongside my office hours,” said Reed. “I am basically available 24/7. If someone wants to talk in person, we can meet. Having office hours does not necessarily mean I’m here all those times. The intent is to be here, but if not, I’m a phone call away.”
Supervisors’ office hours are posted on the county website www.jeffersoncountyiowa.com/supervisors.htm and are:
• Reed – 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday; 1-4:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
• Dimmitt – 8 a.m. to noon Thursday; 1-4:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
• Schmitz – 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Friday; 1-4:30 p.m. Friday.
In other action, the supervisors selected assignments to the 39 other boards or committees they are required to serve on; named The Fairfield Ledger and the Clarion-Plainsman as official newspapers for legal notices; approved the county’s participation in the Master Matrix process; approved yearly authorizations; appointed compensation commission members and a weed commissioner.