Crow Wing County Board Chairman Paul Koering issued a declaration of a local emergency effective Saturday, March 21, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A declaration of a local emergency invokes necessary parts of the county’s emergency response and recovery plan to authorize aid and assistance under those plans. This allows the county to act quickly without compliance with potentially time-consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law pertaining to the performance of public work, entering into contracts, incurring of obligations, employment of temporary workers, rental of equipment, purchase of supplies and materials, and the appropriation and expenditure of public funds to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Crow Wing County.

Paul Koering
Paul Koering

“The significant community, organizational, institutional and business responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to compromise the provision of essential public services, including a reduction in the size of the workforce due to school closures, isolation, or quarantine,” the declaration states. “The necessary resources to respond to and recover from this pandemic, as well as to mitigate the significant business disruption experienced within the County, will exceed existing resources available within the County, and additional resources will be needed from Crow Wing County, and state and federal sources.”

By law, county board chairs can declare a local emergency for up to three days, at which time a majority of the full county board must agree to extend such local emergency or allow it to expire. Extending the emergency declaration is on the county board’s agenda at their meeting on Tuesday March 24.

“I do not take making such a declaration lightly,” Koering stated in a news release. “...I believe this declaration is necessary at this time to ensure that county government can cut through the red tape faster than some of the normal, more cumbersome requirements in order to better protect the citizens of Crow Wing County and limit the impacts of the COVID-19 virus in our local community. The economic impacts of this emergency are already being felt by a lot of people in our community and we need to be able to do what we can do to try to minimize it despite knowing we could never do enough.”

Koering continued, “One of the things this will allow us to do is to purchase as much as we can locally to help support our local business community as much as we can. We work with your money and, now more than ever, we need that money circulating and recirculating through our own community to keep our own people employed as much as we can. These are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. We simply must stick together.”

The declaration also provides authority for the county board to limit the size of public gatherings at county board meetings in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in such circumstances. This same limitation is also being extended to the county’s planning commission/board of adjustment as well as the Crow Wing County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. It also allows for meetings of these two bodies to happen via video-conferencing or telephone conferencing should that become necessary.

To continue to provide maximum public transparency, the declaration also includes a requirement to livestream county board and planning commission/board of adjustment meetings on the county’s website. The county already routinely stores videos of every county board and planning commission meeting on its website. Visit https://bit.ly/3a8MQcP to view the livestream or past meeting recordings. Full access to county board meetings for media outlets within Crow Wing County will also continue to be allowed at their discretion. Members of the public wishing to comment can write in to coadmin@crowwing.us.

“This is an unprecedented time for all of us. It is OK to be worried, but it is not OK to panic,” Koering stated. “I am already impressed by the many efforts going on in our community, our schools, and our hospitals to help support those in need and those in crisis. Pulling together, even from a safe social distance, will make this community come out the other end of this crisis, and there will be an end, even stronger than we were before.

“Let’s support each other more in this time of need. Buy locally whenever you can to keep our money circulating in our community. Buy take-out more often than you need to so those workers can keep getting a paycheck. Supply meals or gasoline to your neighbors who you know may have been laid off. This is a time for compassion and for taking care of each other. This is Minnesota’s favorite place. When this is over, let’s make sure it stays that way.”

Brainerd council to have electronic meetings

Beginning April 6, the Brainerd City Council will conduct meetings electronically.

Staff is researching a variety of conferencing services to host the meetings. An announcement about how the public can access the meetings will be published on the city’s website and Facebook page no later than the Friday before the meeting.

“This is new to us, so we hope the public is patient with the city as we venture into conducting business differently for a while,” City Administrator Jennifer Bergman stated in a news release Friday, March 20.

The council canceled its special meeting March 23 to appoint a new mayor. The item will instead be conducted at the regularly scheduled meeting April 6.

Mayor Ed Menk will resign, effective March 31. Per the city charter, in the absence of a mayor, the city council president will act as mayor. In this case, that is Gabe Johnson.

Applications for mayor were accepted up until March 18, with four received.

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