The Polk County Board of Commissioners officially declared a State of Emergency and adopted a resolution restricting public access to county buildings during the novel coronavirus outbreak of 2020 at this week’s meeting. The resolution restricting public access to county buildings was noted effective as of March 20, 2020.
Emergency Manager Jody Beauchane told the board he’s been communicating with cities and county health services daily so they can all keep the same message, and they’re treating the pandemic like a flood or tornado event. He added that they’re all keeping track of costs and hope to recoup a “large share of this.”
When asked about the potential of spring flooding in the county and the need for shelter, Beauchane said they are doing a “ton” of preplanning.
The State of Emergency resolution (2020-34) reads as follows:
WHEREAS, The COVID-19 pandemic event will impact the population of Polk County and its cities due to the disruption of services, to include the closure of schools, childcare services and other services that will negatively impact day to day life; and
WHEREAS, The Polk County Emergency Management Director requests the Polk County Board declare Polk County in a STATE OF EMERGENCY for the COVID019 pandemic event of March 2020.
NOW THEREFORE IT IS RESOLVED, That the Polk County Board of Commissioners declares Polk County in a State of Emergency for conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic event of March 2020.
The resolution (2020-35) restricting public access to county buildings during the novel coronavirus outbreak of 2020 reads as follows:
WHEREAS, On March 13, 2020, the Governor of the State of Minnesota declared a peacetime emergency related to the transmission of the novel coronavirus and its resulting illness, which is designated as COVID-19;
WHEREAS, COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus, which is potentially fatal and know to spread rapidly among populations without preventative measures and rapid action by local authorities;
WHEREAS, Public health authorities have recommended that action be taken to reduce likelihood of novel coronavirus transmission in public places and in order to slow down “community transmission” of the virus;
WHEREAS, The Polk County Board of Commissioners has a responsibility to manage operations within its facilities in a way that best protects Polk County employees from becoming ill and best prevents or slows the transmission of the novel coronavirus;
WHEREAS, Many cities and counties in Minnesota are restricting public access to city and county buildings in light of the state of emergency and the COVID-19 outbreak;
WHEREAS, On March 17, 2020, the Polk County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution authorizing the Polk County Administrator and the Board Chair to limit the public’s access to Polk County buildings if deemed necessary due to the COVID-19 outbreak; and
WHEREAS, On Friday March 20, 2020, The County Administrator, in consultation with the Board Chair, closed Polk County offices to the general public pending response to mitigation efforts against the COVID-19 virus; and
WHEREAS, Minn. Stat. 373.052, subd.1b, authorized the County Board to close offices if there is an emergency situation, public business is transacted at other reasonable times and places, and the public interest is served. That statute also authorizes the County Board to retroactively approve an emergency closing at its next succeeding meeting; and
WHEREAS, The Polk County Board of Commissioners believes that the public interest will be served by limiting public access to county buildings in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
1. Effective as of noon, Friday, March 20, 2020, all county buildings are closed to physical public access until further notice except all followed by the County’s modified procedures for access to county services referred to above.
2. The County Administrator is directed to work with county department heads to develop and institute procedures and policies for the provision of essential county services without the requirement of entry into county buildings; primarily by phone, email, and other means, without unnecessary face-to-face contact between members of the public and county employees.
3. Any procedures shall be consistent with the Orders issued by the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota on March 13, 2020, and March 20, 2020.
4. Any procedures shall be consistent with Open Meeting Law (providing access of the public to public meetings of public bodies), Government Data Practices Law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or any other state or federal law.
5. Closure of Polk County buildings will continue until further resolution of the County Board or until others directed by the County Administrator.