COVID cost to county $400,000 so far

by Emmitt Feldner
for The Beacon

SHEBOYGAN – The emergency declaration has expired, but the County Board Tuesday voted to keep some of its coronavrius crisis measures in place.

The board, meeting in the Wombat Room at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Sheboygan campus, continued authorization for remote meetings and for County Administrator Adam Payne to make necessary COVID-19 expenditures with the approval of the Executive Committee.

The ordinance was approved despite objections from Supervisor Michael Ogea, Sheboygan resident Judi Pool and several other citizens attending the meeting who did not address the board.

Ogea, along with Supervisor Henry Nelson, objected to the ordinance being acted on immediately by the board, instead of being referred to a second committee for more study as is the usual procedure.

“I don’t want pulling motions to become common,” Nelson commented. Though he voted against pulling the ordinance for immediate action, as did Ogea, he did say he would be voting for the “very important ordinance.”

Pool decried what she called a lack of communication with the public over where and when the board is meeting, noting that she did not learn until the day before the meeting that the board would meet in person in the Wombat Room.

“I think there can be a lot better communication between us and the people who represent us,” Pool told the board. “First we had a lockdown and now we feel locked out.”

Ogea expressed concern with both remote meetings and the authorization for emergency spending by Payne.

“I don’t object to having remote meetings, but remote meetings don’t work well,” for many people, including himself, Ogea stated.

There should be some provision for public access to all board and committee meetings, he stressed.

“Public meetings should be public, not me sitting in my living room and you sitting in your kitchen,” Ogea commented.

He also expressed concern with language in the ordinance continuing the administrator’s authority to “make expenditures outside of … the budget, reallocate resources, and hire staff as he … determines necessary for COVID-19 purposes … through April 19, 2022.”

“It gives him the ability to redraw the budget,” Ogea said of the provision.

Payne explained that the ordinance was being pulled for immediate action because the emergency declaration first passed by the board in March is expiring.

“Instead of using the emergency declaration language, which caused angst,” the ordinance before the board was proposed, Payne said.

“I hope we don’t have to spend another penny on COVID, but we all know that’s probably not going to happen,” he told the board.

He said the county has spent $400,000 to date on COVID-related expenses, including purchasing personal protective equipment and hiring contact tracers and other staff.

“We’re hopeful most if not all of that will be reimbursed by the federal government,” Payne added.

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Earlier in the meeting, the board adopted memorial resolutions for former Corporation Counsel Alexander Hopp and former Supervisor Valentine “Val” Schultz.

Hopp, who died June 18, served as corporation counsel from 1959 to 1995. He was recognized as “a great mentor with a reputation of dedication, integrity and character.”

Schultz, who died July 1, was a supervisor from the city of Sheboygan from 2006 to 2012. He was recognized for “his ability to pull together fellow supervisors with competing opinions to find common ground and consensus.”

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