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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Seeks FEMA Aid For $175,000 Coronavirus Costs

Issue Date: May 13, 2020

Concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and Safer At Home orders issued by Gov. Tony Evers and Secretary of Health designee Andrea Palm occupied much of the discussion at the monthly meeting of Marinette County Board's Public Services Committee on Tuesday, May 5.

By mid-April, the COVID-19 epidemic had cost Marinette County approximately $175,000, Highway Commissioner/Emergency Management Administrator Eric Burmeister told the committee. He said an application seeking reimbursement of some of the costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief fund is being prepared.

Burmeister told the committee dealing with the pandemic required lots of planning and partnering with news media and medical people, and he and other county officials had spent a great deal of time on various impacts the pandemic, including compliance with state rules that set procedures for employees, handling public business and conducting public meetings.

Burmeister said the Emergency Management Department, with Kathy Frank as Emergency Management Coordinator, played a large role in coordinating response to requests for personal protective equipment and other supplies from county employees, local governments, emergency responders and medical personnel throughout the county.

The county had benefitted from numerous donations, and Highway Department personnel have been involved in distributing some of the donated antiseptics and personal protective equipment to those who need it, traveling as far as Antigo and Wausau to pick up and deliver supplies. He said there still is a county-wide shortage of some personal protective items.

"We don't know what the end date will be," Burmeister said, but added hopefully ""at some point this disaster has to come to an end and we have to be able to return to the new normal." Gov. Tony Evers has recently announced a slight loosening of some of the "Safer At Home" rules, but restrictions remain as to social gatherings, social distancing and the number of persons who can be in a business establishment at the same time. Take-out is acceptable, but for now at least, bars and restaurants remain closed for on-site drinking and dining, sports and other special events are cancelled, visitors to the county are encouraged to bring supplies with them and avoid shopping locally, and everyone is still being asked to leave home only when necessary, and social distancing (six feet apart) is required in public, and wearing masks when in public is recommended.

Supervisor Gail Wanek, a new member of the committee, asked if the county had enough personal protection supplies if there is a resurgence of the coronavirus after things start opening up, and Burmeister said by then the agencies should be able to find their own supplies.

He said the county has received donations which he has been trying to divide up as equally as possible, while keeping some in reserve. Burmeister said Facilities Director Marty Keyport also has been securing personal protective equipment and sanitizing supplies.

Burmeister said the county is trying to help get the number of tests done that Evers' has said are needed to keep his "Bounce Back" program moving forward to get the state open again. Burmeister said the state's goal is to 85,000 persons tested each week, averaging about 12,000 tests per day, and then do appropriate follow-up for those who test positive. The goal is to test 9 percent of Wisconsin's population.

Burmeister said County Health Officer Mollie Bonjean has been working with Exact Sciences of Madison, which manufactures the widely used "ColoGuard" test kits for colon issues, and converted operations to produce coronavirus test kits after the pandemic began. the firm has offered to provide the kits free of charge for use in Wisconsin, and will also process the results without charge, with a 48-hour turnaround.

Burmeister said regardless of where the tests are taken, test reports are recorded by home address of the person tested, not by where the test was taken.

According to the Marinette County Public Health web site, as of Monday evening, May 11 there had been 724 Marinette County residents tested for coronavirus, with 665 negative results, 21 positive, and 38 pending. There has been one death of a Marinette county resident and six of the individuals who tested positive have now recovered.

(Editor's Note: At the time of the meeting efforts were in progress to get testing don in Marinette County. Frank said late on Thursday, May 7 "everything fell into place," and plans were finalized for a free test site at the Highway Shop on County W at the east edge of Crivitz to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday, May 12 through Thursday, May 14 with testing to be done by Wisconsin National Guard and analysis by Exact Sciences. See related story on Page 1 of today's Peshtigo Times.)

Sheriff Jerry Sauve, who participated in the meeting via speakerphone, said his office has ben busy with preparations for the pandemic, and he worked with County administrator John LeFebvre to purchase an ultraviolet cleaning device for additional sanitation at the jail. Money in the Jail Assessment Fund will be used to pay for the machine.

Sauve said his department has also been working with the judges and district attorney to limit the number of prisoners in the jail, and the number of inmates housed there is currently as low as it has ever been. "Huber (work release) as we knew it, as been eliminated." All 13 of the current Huber Law prisoners are now out on electronic monitoring, and it has been working well, Sauve said. Formerly they occupied a separate "Huber Law" portion of the jail, from which they went to and from work.

His department also has adjusted its arrest policies to limit the number of people coming into the jail, Sauve said, but added, "We continue to be the police and enforce the law."

He said officers have been busy with drug enforcement, and commented, "It appears some of the stimulus money is being spent improperly." There have been a significant number of drug arrests in recent weeks, mainly for meth and amphetamines.

Sauve added that court cases too have been delayed, and now his office and the judges will need to plan how to deal with this once the coronavirus rules are lifted. "We're going to have to switch gears very quickly at the end of this," he commented.

Reducing jail population and getting more inmates out on electronic monitoring has long been a goal of the Sheriff's Office and the Public Services Committee. Committee Chair Ken Keller congratulated Sauve and his staff at having so many out now on electronic monitoring. Sauve said the Huber Officer checks on them regularly, "and to date we have not had any problems whatsoever."

Daily population at the jail averaged 111 in March and only 77 in April, and the official high "head count" was 117 in March and 89 in April.

Cost for overtime in March was $29,051.12, and in April was down to $6,906.46.

Accounts totaling $20,908.22 were written off and forwarded to the Finance Department for collections, and Payments for accounts perviously turned over to Finance Department came to $11,695. Paid invoices totaling $281,724 were reviewed.

Supervisor George Kloppenburg asked about a veterinarian's bill, and wondered which dog was hurt. Sauve said K-9 Officer Dasko had a leg injury, ""but has been very actively participating in the drug arrests."

Sauve also noted the week of May 3 through 9 was National Corrections Officers Week, and praised all the corrections department employees. "These dedicated employees do not have the option of working from home," he commented. "They come to work every day and do a marvelous job!"

The meeting was the first for the committee since the annual County Board Reorganization Meeting in April, and Supervisors Gail Wanek and Tom Buelteman were welcomed as new members. Wanek and returning Committee members Keller and Kloppenburg were present in person for the meeting, and supervisors Buelteman and returning members Gromala and Glenn Broderick participated via phone.

Others present for the meeting in person were County Clerk Kathy Brandt, LeFebvre, Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, County Board Chair John Guarisco, Burmeister, District Attorney DeShea Morrow and members of the news media. Sauve and others from his department and Medical Examiner Kalynn Van Ermen participated by phone.

Brandt called the meeting to order. First order of business was electing a new chair for the re-organized committee. Kloppenburg, with a second from Gromala, nominated incumbent chair Keller. There were no other nominations, and Keller was returned to his position with no negative votes.

Keller then took over as chair, called for vice-chair nominations, and nominated Kloppenburg. There were no other nominations and Kloppenburg was elected with no negative votes.

After brief committee discussion, Keller recommended outside committee appointments to be presented for County Board and County Administrator approval for terms ending on April 20 of 2022. They are Gromala to the 911 User Committee, Keller and Kloppenburg to the Chapter 5 Grievance Committee, and Wanek to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.

The next meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9.


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