The Ottumwa Courier

August 27, 2013

Juvenile court office to add a position

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The blessing of an additional juvenile court officer also means that space in the Wapello County Court House is becoming an issue.

At the Wapello County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Michael Rempe, chief juvenile court officer for the 8th District out of Burlington, advised the board that while the new position will dramatically improve the case load in Wapello County, they're literally out of room.

Rempe said they received notification from the state judicial branch in late June that positions would be added across the state and the 8th District would be receiving one of those officers. The district's management team reviewed each of the counties and found where the officers were the busiest — in Ottumwa.

"We feel an additional full-time position in the Ottumwa office would better serve the community, both the clients and their families, as well as the general community," Rempe said.

There are 14 counties in the district, and Rempe says they looked at each one to determine which would benefit most from an additional employee. The case load in Wapello County is currently at 89, split between three officers.

"This office justified the new position," he said.

While this will be a much-needed addition to the staff, an expanded office space is needed, Rempe explained. The juvenile court office is located on the fifth floor of the courthouse, and improvements are needed to accommodate both staff and clients.

The two options presented to the supervisors are expanding one office farther into the waiting room or adding walls to the conference room to allow access to the offices behind it. Rempe says that in either case, modifications will need to be made to make sure all conversations can be made confidentially.

"Even if we close doors, you can still hear voices from the lobby," he explained. "Even if we used the conference room, we would have to add two walls and insulate it to deaden the sound, making sure it doesn't travel."

And traveling from the two offices behind the conference to the waiting area would possibly violate confidentiality as officers and clients come and go between appointments. Also, if the conference room was used as an additional office, another location in the building would have to be found for larger meetings.

"We'll review the office space and see what can be done to make it useable," Supervisor Greg Kenning told Rempe.

The review will be added to the agenda of an upcoming supervisors meeting. Rempe says they plan to advertise for the new position this week, interview in September and hopefully have the new officer begin in October.

In other business, the board approved the tax abatement for Last Days Ministries Church and approved the request to remove two cabins from the tax roll. The cabins had been removed from the properties following the 2008 flood, but they were never removed from the roll.