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Wabasha County Board talks COVID-19 plans

At the opening of the regular meeting of the Wabasha County Board on March 17 County Administrator Brian Buhmann outlined some of the measures that have been taken, or are in process, to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has found its way into the state of Minnesota.

Buhmann pointed out that the chairs in the Board Room had been placed six feet apart, following state guidelines

There were several people present for the public forum, and Buhmann asked that they watch the meeting from a TV in an adjoining room, except for the person addressing the board about their particular concern.

“We are trying to keep everyone as healthy as possible,” Buhmann said.

He felt that the public should be informed concerning the Minnesota Statute in regard to emergency meetings and read the statue.

Four of the five Commissioners were present. Rich Hall was present by telephone, participating in the proceedings and this offering his comments and vote.

There were two action items on the board agenda.

The first was a highway item, and County Engineer Dietrich Flesch was present to set the date for a public hearing regarding the designation of County State Aid Highway 81 as a Natural Preservation Route. This highway is known as the Narrow Gauge.

There is a process set by statute to designate a County State Aid Highway as a Natural Preservation Route. These designated routes are those that have particular scenic or environmental features, such as along rivers, through forests, along wetlands or flood plains.

Flesch said project information will be given to property owners. The public meeting would consist of reviewing design and construction alternatives.

Flesch explained, “The proposed designation as a Natural Preservation Route would reduce the clear zone width the county would otherwise need to achieve in its reconstruction design from typical 15 feet to 9 feet, which reduces impacts to adjacent properties and makes the project more feasible in consideration of the terrain. The “clear zone” is the flattened area adjacent to the traffic lane. Currently, County 81’s clear zone width is minimal to non-existent.

“The width of the road itself (lane and shoulder) would be proposed to be wider than currently on County 81.”

Flesch suggested the date for the required public hearing be May 19 at 9:15 a.m., unless a date change might be needed due to COVID-19 concerns. The board voted unanimously to approve setting the date of May 19 for the public hearing on the County Road 81 Natural Preservation Route designation.

The second action item was a Social Services AFSCME Step 3 grievance. According to terms of the bargaining agreement with AFSCME Courthouse Agreement (Social Services), any disagreement or dispute regarding the contents of the contract can be grieved. If the grievance is denied at Steps 1 and 2, the Step 3 can be brought to the board. This grievance had to do with an employee that claimed she was not paid for the entire time she was “on the clock”. The first two steps had been denied and this matter came to the County Board in Step 3. The grievance was denied at the board level in a unanimous vote. Brian Goihl and Hall moved.

In other action, the board unanimously approved the consent agenda, which included a donation to the Veterans Service Office from Cathy Campbell in memory of Lester Burgdorf - $30, a donation to Veterans Service Office from Scott and Kathy Rohlik in memory of Lester Burgdorf - $25, a donation to Veterans Service Office from Deborah and James Klavetter - $50, a donation to Veterans Service Office from Marian Burgdorf in memory of Lester Burgdorf - $195, and a donation to Veterans Service Office from Arthur and Linda Squires -$300.

In the administrator’s update, Buhmann said they had been “extremely busy” the past several days with matters pertaining to Covid-19 – rearranging the board room for 6 foot spaces, setting up recommendations and other matters. The Human Services Board had met just ahead of the board meeting and approved several measures. He said there were numerous phone calls from the state. Buhmann said, too, that the Wabasha County Court Administrator Julie Welt had resigned to take a similar position in Washington County.

There was one speaker for the Public Forum, Jason Risch, who was concerned about protecting his rights to carry firearms. He said he had come before the County Board to protect his rights.

Commissioner Don Springer said there is one opening on the Extension Committee. Candidates can be from any part of the county. There are four meetings a year, with the next meeting to be at the county fair. During this meeting they discussed the Farm Family of the Year. 4-H numbers are down but are expected to come up as summer arrives.

Wobbe attended a DAC meeting where they are faced with decisions regarding whether to send clients out for their jobs because of the COVID-19 problem.


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