by Emmitt B. Feldner
for The Beacon
SHEBOYGAN — The number of cases of COVID-19 in the county are going in the right direction, but the number of vaccines available to the general public in the county is not following suit yet.
That was the message County Administrator Adam Payne delivered to the County Board at their teleconference meeting Tuesday.
“I want to see less talk about plans and more fire in people’s bellies to get these vaccines out,” Payne stated in his report to the board.
“I know they’re working hard, but I do wish we had a little clearer and precise communication from the state,” on distributing vaccines, Payne continued.
“We have seen a decrease in the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19, which is encouraging, and we hope to see that number continue to go down,” Payne stated.
COVID-19 testing continues at the county’s Aging and Disability Resource Center in Sheboygan Falls with the aid of the National Guard, Payne said, but he added that there are no vaccines being given there yet.
The county is working through its 1A list of vaccine recipients, according to Payne, and the vaccine has been distributed to all nine nursing homes in the county as well as assisted living centers.
County Public Health Officer Starrlene Grossman thinks the county could see 7,000 vaccination appointments per week once the vaccine rolls out fully, Payne told the board.
The administrator praised Grossman and her staff for their efforts throughout the pandemic. “Our Public Health Department has been very engaged with our local health care providers, more so I think than in many other counties.”
Payne updated the fiscal impact of the pandemic on the county budget.
“None of you approved a 2020 budget that had any dollars in it for COVID,” Payne admitted.
Fortunately, sales tax and property tax revenues remained strong through the year, with the county half-percent sales tax bringing in roughly $10.6 million, above the budgeted projection of $10.5 million.
The county was able to offset some of the negative impacts and costs of the pandemic on its budget by instituting what Payne termed “a soft hiring freeze” as well as other spending cuts. “That has helped us with unexpected expenses.”
The county also received $4 million in aid from the Routes to Recovery grant program and other federal and state coronavirus aid programs to help offset unbudgeted costs.
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The board approved a three-year contract with the Law Enforcement Employees Association, which represents Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department deputies and other employees.
The contract, which runs through 2023, includes a 6 percent pay raise spread over the three years – 1.5 percent across the board in 2021, 2 percent in 2022 and 2.5 percent in 2023.