Blue Earth Council holds an emergency meeting
Members of the Blue Earth city staff met on Tuesday morning, March 17, to discuss personnel concerns with the COVID-19 procedures set by the state of Minnesota. Later in the day, Blue Earth’s City Council had an emergency meeting to discuss what went on earlier that morning.
In attendance at the morning personnel committee meeting were Mayor Rick Scholtes, city administrator Kim Moore, deputy city clerk Echo Roggenkamp, office specialist Tammy Davis, Chief of Police Tom Fletcher, Public Works director Jamie Holland, councilwoman Wendy Cole, and EDA chair Ann Hanna.
All council members were present during the afternoon emergency City Council meeting.
From the direction of Mayor Scholtes, members of the city staff and council were informed that the city’s fitness center, senior center, and library would be closed for a 14 day period. After the 14 day period, the full time employees will have an evaluation to see if they will have enough work to do if a further shut down period is needed.
The mayor stated all board meetings, besides the emergency City Council meeting, will be suspended for 14 days, in accordance with Governor Tim Walz’ emergency measures. City Hall will remain open, with minimal staff, until direction is made otherwise.
Scholtes also made the difficult decision to temporarily lay off all part-time employees tied to the fitness center, library and senior center for 14 days, while keeping full-time staff on, though all three city entities will be closed to the public.
“The reason we are doing this is not only for the safety of these staff members, but to help those part time staff file for unemployment benefits right away,” said Scholtes.
Holland reported to the group that public works will also be following the 14-day measure, and stated to the group that all Waste Water operators are level-two necessity to the city at this time and will remain on the job to keep operations running, unless members are sick or on vacation.
Chief Fletcher shared he and his staff are putting a memo together for the community as the Blue Earth Police will be changing the way they respond to emergencies. He stated the police will do as much as they can via phone call, and will not be responding to EMS?calls like they have in the past to limit person-to-person contact.
“The CDC says it is only a matter of time before everyone is 100 percent affected,” said Fletcher. “I think if we lose one of our officers on a 14-day layoff hiatus, we will be in trouble. Two officers, we are in deep water. I would consider asking the council for a temporary pay increase during this 14-day period to alleviate any police shortages.”
Fletcher also reported that he is recommending the office be closed. Mayor Scholtes indicated he would work with the city attorney to make sure that union contracts have language that allows for temporary emergency wages to be paid to furloughed part-time police officers if there is a need to cover shifts. Chief Fletcher also reported that he has spoken with other police agencies in the county and will be working cooperatively with all other police departments.
It was also agreed that if Governor Tim Walz extends the quarantine period and emergency practices, the city of Blue Earth will follow suit.
“If a city employee becomes sick or has a fever, that employee will be placed on immediate quarantine and will not be allowed back to work for 14 days or until they are fever and symptom-free,” said Scholtes. “The employee is also quarantined for 14 days if a member of the employee’s family has a fever. They must stay home.”
City administrator Kim Moore was directed to speak with economic development specialist Mary Kennedy to talk with area restaurants to see what their plans are during the COVID-19 procedures. Kennedy also informed the council she will be working from home and will be available by phone, email, or online conference.
Councilman Glenn Gaylord made a motion in the council meeting to approve these emergency city responses, while John Huisman seconded the motion, with the full council carrying the changes.
If there are changes, the Blue Earth City Council tentatively scheduled emergency council meetings every Monday at 5 p.m. to discuss changes, and while the meeting remain open to the public, the city requests all non-essential peoples refrain from attending said meetings.