Space Wanted for Public Defender’s Office | News, Sports, Jobs

WEBSTER CITY — An official with the state public defender’s office on Tuesday asked the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors to help provide office space for a soon-to-be-based public defender in Webster City.

Kurt Swaim, the state’s first deputy public defender, said the Legislature in its last session recognized that it had become increasingly difficult to hire private attorneys to serve as public defenders. in rural parts of the state.

“What lawmakers did was appropriated money, or in fact, reallocated funds so that we could hire 10 public defenders to live in rural Iowa who would take some of the cases to places where we had struggling to find private lawyers to handle indigent defense cases”, he said.

Hamilton County has been identified as one of the rural counties to have one of the public defenders, Swaim added. Public defenders have been hired in nine of the 10 counties, with Hamilton County the latest county to receive a public defender.

Swaim said that while the legislature had allocated funds to hire the lawyers, it had not earmarked funds for the offices.

“We went around the counties and they were very generous in helping us find (offices) for the public defenders,” he said. “These people will be full-time state employees with full benefits living in the community.”

Usually counties have provided free or low-cost space in the courthouse or an ancillary building for the public defender to meet with clients privately,” Swaim said.

“That’s what we would ask of Hamilton County,” he said.

Chairman Rick Young said it was likely there would be space available in an annex building and the board would contact Swaim before the end of the week with rental details and cost.

Swaim said his office’s policy is to locate office space before hiring the public

defender.

Charles Kenville of Webster City, who is an assistant public defender for the state in the Mason City office, was also present at the meeting and made some comments to council.

“I wanted to impress upon you the benefits to the county,” he said. “If you have a full-time public defender in the county, it will save the county money in the long run, especially in terms of the impact on the sheriff and the jail.”

He said without a public defender in the county, the responsiveness and level of service would not be the same.

“It would be a benefit to the county to have someone who is in the county and able to respond to things quickly and move cases forward more quickly and efficiently,” he told the council.

COVID update

Supervisor Jerry Kloberdanz offered a COVID-19 update.

Pam Harklau, clinical manager for the health department, provided Kloberdanz with a written update, which he took back to the meeting.

“Eighty percent of reported positive COVID-19 cases are the omicron variant,” he said. “Transmission remains high and is rapidly increasing across the state.”

He said the health department expected cases in Iowa to peak in February.

“Other parts of the country have already seen this peak and are starting to slow down,” he said.

Hamilton County Public Health will continue to test area residents with symptoms of COVID-19 on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, Kloberdanz said, adding that the tests are the PCR variety that are sent to the hygiene lab at the county. ‘ Status for testing with results in 48-72 hours. .

Testing is also available at pharmacies and doctors’ offices and all residents can sign up for free at-home COVID-19 testing at covidtest.gov.

“Rapid test supplies continue to be very limited. People are trying to get these tests, and they are not readily available,” he said.

Kloberdanz said the health department continues to encourage frequent hand washing, wearing a mask and staying home if people feel sick.

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