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May 5th, 2020

Commissioner Proceedings

May 5, 2020

The Lake of the Woods County Board of Commissioners met for a special meeting on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at Lake of the Woods County Government Center in the Commissioners’ Room. 


Chair Jon Waibel called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited with the following members present: Commissioners: Jon Waibel, Buck Nordlof, Cody Hasbargen, Ed Arnesen and Joe Grund.  Also present were: County Auditor/Treasurer Lorene Hanson, Emergency Management Director Jill Hasbargen-Olson.


Motion was made by Commissioner Buck Nordlof, seconded by Commissioner Ed Arnesen and carried unanimously to approve the agenda.


Emergency Management Update  

Jill Hasbargen-Olson, Emergency Management Director, provided a COVID-19 update.  Hasbargen-Olson said that there was nothing new to report and that there were no confirmed cases in Lake of the Woods County.  She shared that during the stakeholders meeting last week, Ryan Zemek from Lake of the Woods Economic Development Authority talked about what businesses would need to reopen. Todd Farris, from ANI Pharmaceuticals, Inc., also spoke about policies and procedures in place there.  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will attend the stakeholders meeting this Thursday at 4:00 p.m.  

There will be a Tornado Drill on Wednesday, May 6th for the Government Center and Highway Department.

Discussion with Department Heads: Creating a plan for reopening the county buildings and services

Hasbargen-Olson recommended a committee approach for creating a plan and long-term strategy to reopen county buildings and services, to include the Building and Safety Committee and Human Resources.  Hasbargen-Olson has policy templates to provide to departments.  The committee can work on a main policy and then departments can adjust for their needs. The group should discuss signage, mask policy, and sanitizer stations.

Hasbargen-Olson did pick up a supply of sanitizer from ANI Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

A communication was sent to the Governor’s Office asking for clarification regarding reopening county and state offices.

Kay M. Schell, CHI LakeWood Public Health Manager, talked about the symptoms that were added to the COVID-19 symptom list.

Commissioner Ed Arnesen, asked about testing.  Schell said that the Minnesota Department of Health is working on a quick test option to be available within the next month.  Schell will get an update on the timeline and the number of tests that will be available to our area and will report her findings at the Thursday stakeholders meeting.  CHI LakeWood Health is also working on getting a testing unit in-house, late summer, through CommonSpirit Health.  This unit would test for COVID-19 as well as other things.

The Highway Department will be planning to go full-staff on Monday, May 11th to get started on road and drainage projects.  They will be staggering shift start times.  The Public Works Office will be keeping the doors closed to the public for now, they can provide needed documents by email or meet customers at the door to provide forms if needed.

The process to reopen license center services to the public included a discussion of starting in stages, possibly by appointment. The Department of Driver and Vehicle Services requires a plan to be submitted before reopening the doors to the public.  Commissioner Jon Waibel would like to test run having customers call for appointments.

Several departments are currently using a drop box in the social services lobby and it is causing increased interaction between departments. A larger drop box will be installed outside to accommodate Social Services.  The smaller lock box that is currently available outside the government center, will continue to be used for dropping off items for other departments.

Hasbargen-Olson recommends not to continue with drivers testing in the Commissioners’ Room when the Government Center opens to the public – Bemidji or Roseau can accommodate testers with a larger space.

In general, the County should be working towards getting staff back to full capacity with COVID-19 guidelines, working from home can still be part of the plan.

An update on the Courts from County Attorney, James Austad – with very few exceptions, there are no in-person hearings at this time.

Other Areas of Concern

County Attorney, James Austad, mentioned a lack of high-speed internet in the area.

County Engineer, AJ Pirkl, asked if there was a plan in place if the county were to go from zero to 15 cases after this weekend.  Schell commented that a worry would be if there is a surge and Bemidji or Grand Forks are full.  She said that Bemidji is our first call, COVID-19 patients would be transported there.  There is also a COVID-19 hospital in Saint Paul.  The infrastructure of our local hospital was built for critical care, the facility would not have the oxygen supply for multiple patients needing oxygen for a long period of time.  As a facility, LakeWood, is working on the lead time for oxygen delivery.  Commissioner Ed Arnesen asked about Sanford in Thief River Falls and their ventilator capacity.

Hasbargen-Olson is working on a document to help prepare for the influx of people due to tourism.

Mike Hovde, from the Northern Light Region, had a question for the Commissioners who represent the resorts.  From what Hovde has heard, resorts are not seeing the traffic or reservations that are typical of May and June.  Commissioner Ed Arnesen said that he is seeing the same in his own business, they are getting some cancelations and group sizes are shrinking.  

The Lake of the Woods Economic Development Authority will continue to meet by phone/web.

Individuals that are part of the Buildings and Safety Committee and Human Resources will stay to have a work session after this meeting to start on the plan for reopening County buildings and services.


With no further business before the Board, Chairman Jon Waibel called the meeting to recess at 9:58 a.m.

Attest: May 12, 2020

__________________________________ _________________________________

County Auditor/Treasurer, Lorene Hanson Chairman of the Board, Jon Waibel