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Buhmann writes House, Senate leaders in support of local government assistance

Wabasha County Administrator Brian Buhmann, at the request of the County Board, has sent a letter to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer asking that they include critical aid to local governments in the next COVID-19 relief package.

All commissioners were present for their regular meeting on May 5, in the county board room that was set up in the required distancing guidelines. Rich Hall attended by way of teleconferencing. Buhmann and County Attorney Karrie Kelly were also present.

In addressing the COVID-19 matter and the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, in his letter, Buhmann said that there could be a $144 billion hit for counties across the nation.

Speaking primarily for Congressional District 2, in his letter, Buhmann pointed out: “The new Coronavirus has had a tremendous impact on our local budgets as we deploy resources to fight the pandemic while at the same time, we face an unparalleled reduction in revenues.”

Buhmann went on to say, “Our first responders and communities have stepped up in incredible ways since the onset of this pandemic. Our citizens have shown their generosity to one another in countless ways, and many have been working on the front line as essential health workers in the fight against COVID-19. But at the same (time), our government institutions have been pushed to the brink. As we have expanded our health, education, and first responder capabilities to match novel needs, our revenue from local taxes and fees has dropped precipitously.”

Buhmann pointed out that the smaller localities do not meet the population threshold of 500,000 required under the CARES Act to receive direct aid, and small and mid-sized towns must be included to continue essential services to our residents. Buhmann added that without this aid, the smaller towns and counties will have to make drastic reductions in essential services and furlough local staff.

Buhmann urged the Legislators to “look at H.R.6467, The Coronavirus Relief Act, as a guide when they look at aid to local governments. This bipartisan bill provides $250 billion in targeted aid for communities with populations under 500,000.” Buhmann added, “without your support for this proposal, our communities will find it increasingly difficult to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to implement responsible economic recovery initiatives.”

Buhmann also discussed plans for re-opening the courthouse and the board room when they get the OK to be open again. At this point, re-opening was scheduled for May 18, but the opening date could be extended. Decisions and plans for re-opening will be discussed by Wabasha officials, department heads and Public Health.

Also during his administrator’s update, Buhmann congratulated two staff members on their employment anniversaries, and thanked both of them for their service to the county and to the highway department where both were employed. Mark Passe has worked for Wabasha County for 20 years; and Lee Toogood has been an employee for 30 years.

There were four items on the action/discussion agenda. The first was a property tax abatement application submitted by Michael Olson. The board unanimously approved his request with a change of language, changing the world “abatement” to “‘adjustment of clerical errors.” The problem was a typographical error regarding footage. Brian Goihl and Cheryl Key moved for the adjustment of clerical errors.

The second item was similar, with a 2020 Property Tax Abatement for WEW Partnership because of a clerical error. Goihl and Don Springer moved for approval of the change of language for the 2020 Property Tax for WEW Partnership. It passed unanimously.

The third item on the action agenda was the quarterly financial report by Finance Director Deb Koenig. It included investments, cash flow and the budget. Koenig said the county is in good shape at this time. The first quarter reports look good, she said.

The fourth item on the action/discussion agenda was for discussion of the Minnesota Extension. Director Adam Stevemer had reported that he has been working from home with no person-to-person contact until the end of June. The board discussed county fairs and the state fair, but no decisions have been made at this point. Freeborn County has cancelled their fair for this year.

During the public forum, Soil and Water Conservation District Director Terri Peters was present for an update. She said that spring is a busy time for them. There have been meetings with land owners, and the staff has been complying with COVID-19 requirements in the office and with contacts with people.

The next regularly scheduled County Board meeting is scheduled for May 19.

 

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