by Emmitt Feldner
for The Beacon
SHEBOYGAN — The County Board’s extension of the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic continued to draw criticism one month after it was adopted and nearly one month before it is set to expire.
Two county residents — Judith Pool of Sheboygan and Patrick Johnson of Kohler — spoke during the public addresses segment of the teleconference meeting to express their opposition to and concerns about the emergency declaration.
“Why are we still being denied our Constitutional freedoms,” Pool asked in urging the board to revoke the declaration “immediately.”
Johnson, an unsuccessful County Board candidate in the 20th district in the February primary, expressed concern over the language of the county’s state of emergency ordinance and the powers it confers on the county administrator.
“I’m sorry for being skeptical,” Johnson said of County Administrator Adam Payne. “You could be Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln combined and I still wouldn’t trust you.”
He specifically referred to the authority to seize property if necessary under the county’s emergency ordinance as a major concern.
Pool questioned the need for the declaration of a state of emergency, which she termed unwarranted. She noted that other counties are facing legal action for declaring states of emergency and urged the board to end the state in Sheboygan County before it becomes part of a lawsuit.
“You have to consider the other hardships facing Sheboygan County residents,” as a result of the coronavirus shutdown and safety measures, Pool added.
“COVID-19 continues to be a cold, wet blanket for us, but I think you’re naive if you don’t think this is serious,” Payne responded in his report to the board. “For those who say the sky is falling, it’s not.”
He said he hoped the emergency declaration would be able to expire in 30 days.
“The community support (for the coronavirus measures) has certainly been heartwarming,” Payne added.
He said the county is looking at up to a $5 million hit in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with $1.2 million or so in additional expenses.
The county has taken steps to meet that budgetary impact, Payne said. They include a hiring freeze, cancelling or suspending some purchases, limiting travel and training expenses and more.
Starrlene Grossman, public health division manager for the county, updated the board on the COVID-19 situation in the county.
“We did see quite a bit of positivity last week and over the weekend, but hopefully that’s slowing down now,” Grossman said of new cases of the disease.
The board voted to waive the penalty for delinquent payment of second installments of property taxes for the last half of the year.
For those who pay their taxes in two installments, in January and in July, there will be no one-half percent a month penalty added to their tax bill if it is not paid by July 31.
Interest will still be charged on any delinquent amount and, if the bill is not paid by Dec. 31, the penalty will be reinstated until the bill is paid.