With the rapid spread of COVID-19, some local governments are working to conduct business while shutting their doors to the public.
Staff and officials at Crow Wing County, the city of Brainerd and other local entities urge residents to continue accessing services online and over the phone in an effort to limit face-to-face contact as cities and counties continue to run as efficiently as possible.
Crow Wing County
Based on new guidance from the federal government about limiting unnecessary person-to-person contact, Crow Wing County announced Monday, March 16, it will modify how it delivers services to the public effective Tuesday.
Crow Wing County will not allow public entry to county buildings through at least March 31. The county remains open to serving the public and will do so through telephone, email and an array of online services available at its website at crowwing.us.
“These are unprecedented times and it requires unprecedented measures,” Crow Wing County Board Chair Paul Koering stated in a news release. “We are doing everything we can to still provide vital county services to those who need them while also trying to limit person-to-person contact. We are still open for business, just not in the traditional way and helping to limit the spread of the coronavirus is paramount in our thinking.”
People may call the main county phone number of 218-824-1067 and be directed to the correct office or may contact their county commissioners to assist in navigating county government.
Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard announces the sheriff’s main office and jail lobby areas will be closed to the public through March 31.
“We will continue to serve our community with our focus on keeping our personnel safe and healthy so we can respond to calls for help in our community,” Goddard stated in a news release. “Closing our front lobby and jail will help limit the personal contact that we have with our public. We are looking for any and all ways we can limit our exposure while remaining ready to respond to help our people.
"I have been in law enforcement for a number of years, never before have I seen a local, state and national response to what we are currently facing. In times like this, we will show that we are Minnesota Nice and look out for all of those who live and visit where we are blessed to call home. Please take the time to call and check in on those you know who are in need of basic supplies or suffer from health issues and do your part to practice proper hygiene, maintain social distance guidelines and stay home if you are not feeling well. We will get through this and I pray that we find ourselves better for the challenges that we face."
The public is encouraged to call 911 for emergencies. For non-emergency related issues, please contact the sheriff's office by phone at 218-829-4749.
Community Corrections remains open to provide services, but access to the building and in-person services will not be available.
People may call community corrections at 218-824-1135 through March 31 or go online for more information.
Crow Wing County Community Services
Services will be accessible by phone or online only through March 31. Those who need assistance can call 218-824-1250, and the call will be directed to the appropriate service area. Completed applications and documentation may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off at the drop box located outside of the Community Services Building at 204 Laurel St., Brainerd.
Crow Wing County WIC
Crow Wing County will offer limited Women, Infant and Children — or WIC — services through March 31. WIC staff will contact those with upcoming appointments, which will be conducted over the phone. All benefit pickup (eWIC card re-loading) will also take place over the phone. WIC nutritionists will be available via phone to answer nutrition and breastfeeding questions.
For any questions about accessing services, call 218-824-1073 or email WIC@crowwing.us.
Highway Department services update
The highway department remains committed to providing a safe and efficient transportation system, the release stated. The public will still see highway staff performing roadway maintenance activities and major construction projects are planned to move forward as promised.
Visit crowwing.us/113/highway to continue receiving needed services. All permit applications can be accessed, filled out and submitted online. There is the ability to submit a maintenance request related to the county highway system through the website as well.
People may call 218-824-1110 or go online for more information.
City government offices in Brainerd are among those closing their doors to limit face-to-face contact.
City staff will work to continue providing public services online and via phone as city hall, parks and recreation offices, police and fire stations, and the street maintenance garage will close their doors to the public beginning Tuesday.
City council members agreed to the temporary closure and several other measures during their meeting Monday.
City Administrator Jennifer Bergman also brought forth the following recommendations, which the council approved:
Suspend rental license inspections, unless in the case of an emergency. Building inspections will continue, as long as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deems it is safe to do so.
Cancel all special events for the next eight weeks, based on CDC recommendations.
Call all advisory and ad hoc committee and commission meetings, unless an issue needs emergency attention — essentially all groups except city council.
Restrict face-to-face city employee business meetings and cancel all travel, conferences, etc.
The restrictions will be in place at least until the council’s regular April 6 meeting, when council members will determine how to move forward.
With changes in state and federal recommendations coming almost constantly, the council scheduled a tentative meeting for 6 p.m. March 19 to discuss any new developments that arise. The location of that meeting has yet to be determined.
The council still plans to meet at 6 p.m. March 23 to appoint a new mayor before Mayor Ed Menk’s resignation March 31.
“I think we are best to err on the side of caution and plan for the worst but hope for the best,” Bergman told council members.
City hall will still be staffed, and those with questions or who need to do business can call 218-828-2307. Licenses, permits, transit tickets and many other services can be done online at ci.brainerd.mn.us.
“This is an interesting time for everyone,” council member Dave Badeaux said at the end of the meeting. “It’s kind of uncharted for most of us, and I just want to make sure that we are allowing people to know that it’s OK to question what’s happening and to have concerns about where things are headed, but in the end we will be OK.”
Council member Dave Pritschet added: “Everybody should do their best to remain calm. But remember we are a community, and as a community we will get through this. So watch out for yourself, watch out for your neighbors. … We shouldn’t be isolated communication-wise and community-wise.”
Brainerd Public Utilities
Brainerd Public Utilities will be closed to in-person traffic beginning Tuesday. The organization announced on its Facebook page Monday it will also restrict interactions in the field to emergency situations only.
Customers are encouraged to use the automated pay system, web-based payments, BPU dropboxes or the service center drive-through.
These changes will be in place until further notice.
For questions or concerns, call 218-825-3200.
The city of Crosby announced Monday its plans to suspend all nonessential city services beginning Tuesday.
City Administrator Lisa Sova said the city council had a special meeting Monday morning and ultimately made the decision to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The city council took this action to protect the public, limit exposure and prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Sova said.
Beginning Tuesday, Crosby City Hall, the Hallett Community Center, the library and the Department of Motor Vehicles will be closed through March 29, though the reopening date is subject to change.
City employees will still come to work, with the majority of business continuing as normal, Sova said, just without face-to-face contact with the public.
Utility customers are asked to make payments online or drop payments off at the dropbox at city hall. Permits are available on the city’s website and can be submitted via email.
“The services that they typically would come in the front door for, they are going to be able to access on our website, so we should be able to continue to provide that service,” Sova said.
The Deerwood City Council met Monday and voted to close the Deerwood Auditorium, which means no open gym or any activities, Mayor Mike Aulie said.
Deerwood City Hall also will be closed to the public. Citizens may still call, email or go online with any questions as city staff would continue to work.
Aulie said police, fire and public service workers will continue normally.
Aulie said council members will also discuss how they will conduct future meetings, such as possibly hosting meetings via teleconferencing. The council plans to look into what the rules and regulations are with the League of Minnesota Cities.
Nisswa Community Center
Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max said business will continue as usual in Nisswa, with the exception of the community center.
“We will be kind of monitoring daily and probably have some kind of council directive action taken at our Wednesday meeting, which is still scheduled as of right now,” Max said. “But … we’re kind of taking it by the hour.”
The Nisswa Community Center will be closed through the end of March.
Crosslake City Council to meet
The Crosslake City Council will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at city hall for a special meeting to discuss the closure of certain city departments in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
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