News Flash

Wright County News

Posted on: April 28, 2020

County Board Continues Today's Board Meeting to 10 A.M. Thursday

For the last month-plus, the Wright County Board of Commissioners has met in special session outside of its standard Tuesday board meeting three times – all dealing with the response and reaction to the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

Those meetings have included the county declaration of a state of emergency, the closure to public facing counters in all departments and offices, sending as many employees as possible home to work remotely, requiring employees who don’t work their full schedules to use paid time off/sick pay or voluntarily take a leave without pay and responding to Executive Orders coming from Gov. Tim Walz.

The board added a fourth such meeting, voting unanimously to continue its meeting from today (April 28) to Thursday (April 30). By then, it is hoped that Walz will have announced whether or not his stay at home order – which is scheduled to expire Monday, May 4 – will be allowed to expire and open up more businesses to return to pre-emergency levels, phase in certain areas like he did last week or extend the current shelter in place order.

“We’re in an odd predicament right now,” Commissioner Darek Vetsch said. “I really thought by now that the governor would have given us some more direction as to what we will be allowed and not allowed to do by next Monday. That’s kind of just been put on hold.”

Because of the requirements for posting a scheduled meeting, Commissioner Charlie Borrell suggested continuing Tuesday morning’s meeting to Thursday, instead of convening at the end of today’s meeting. Under statute, a continuation of a board meeting is allowed if it is continued to a specific time, date and location. The board approved making the continuation to 10 a.m. Thursday.

The growing frustration with how the situation has been handled at the state level came though with some of the comments made by commissioners at today’s meeting. Commissioner Mike Potter said many of the decisions – and even the current delay in determining whether to extend the stay at home order or to let it lapse – have become politicized more than he would like.

“I’m surprised he (Walz) hasn’t made an announcement to extend it or stop it by this point,” Potter said. “He and his group – his war room – have been contemplating what to do. It’s been about reaction from the public. It’s too bad they can’t take the politics out of it, but they’re not going to. I’m hoping by Thursday, Governor Walz will have some kind of direction – either let it expire naturally or extend it.”

Wright County Administrator Lee Kelly said he would like to get a definitive answer – one way or the other – because it will impact the county if suddenly the doors are opened up to the public with very little warning.

He also cautioned that he doesn’t anticipate a full reopening of public counters and believes measures will still need to be taken similar to what has happened over the last month as maintenance staff has been making changes on the fly to adapt work stations and setting up drop boxes to keep the flow of services moving.

“There have been a lot of discussion over the past weeks about knowing if the 4th (of May) is in fact the date,” Kelly said. “We’ve had a lot of work put in by our facilities staff, building some different work arrangements where we have some protective barriers between the public and staff. As we start to open up, I think we want to be cautious about the amount of face-to-face contact.”

Commissioner Mark Daleiden expressed his concerns as well, adding that, while he expects some restrictions to be lifted, he doesn’t anticipate the public counters to be allowed to open May 4.

Either way, not knowing just days before the stay at home order is slated to expire left Daleiden uncertain as to why there has been such a delay in making a final decision.

“I really wish the governor would have given us a little more notice,” Daleiden said. “My guess is that he’s going to keep public (facing counters) closed for a couple of more weeks. But, we need to figure out going forward what we’re going to do.”

It is expected Governor Walz will make an announcement soon, perhaps as early as his 2 p.m. press briefing today. However, until that happens, the county remains in limbo as to how proceed until that decision is made public.

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