A policy requiring Itasca County employees to either be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19 has been put on hold. 

On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its sweeping vaccine-or-test requirements for companies with more than 100 employees. The court, however, did allow a vaccine mandate to stand for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.

At its regular session on Tuesday, the Itasca County Board of Commissioners approved an Itasca County Vaccination, Testing, and Face Covering Policy, as required by Federal and State  Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA mandates. Commissioners voted 3-1 to approve the policy, but County Administrator Brett Skyles said there was an option to put the policy on hold if the Supreme Court made a decision later in the week.

“If they come out tomorrow and say ‘we’re putting a stay on this,’ I would let all staff and employees know we’re going to put a stay on that and bring it back to the board,” Skyles said. “If a decision is made tomorrow, we can stop it tomorrow and wait for the final decision.”

Commissioners Davin Tinquist, Leo Trunt, and Ben Denucci voted for the policy while Commissioner Burl Ives voted against it. Board Chair Terry Snyder was absent from the meeting. 

Commissioners discussed repercussions of the policy, including length of the mandate, who would provide testing kits, and options available to employees.

Skyles said that Itasca County had two options: Implement a testing and face-covering policy or a policy that would mandate vaccines for all employees. Not implementing any policy would leave Itasca County at risk of being fined up to $10,000 a day.

“We don’t want to force this on our employees. We want to provide as much leniency or options as the policies will allow,” Skyles said. 

Commissioner Tinquist expressed reluctance to move the policy forward with support from Commissioner DeNucci.

“We are not left with a lot of recourse after going through our options here,” DeNucci said. “I don’t know that it’s in our best interest to knowingly violate an OSHA mandate, which is the law of the land here in the state.”

Commissioners Ives opposed the adoption of the policy. 

“I don’t think that it’s right that OSHA mandates an employee of a company to have an extra burden on them for a test or vaccine that they might not want to get or have to pay for… ,” Ives said. “I understand what Mr. DeNucci just said and I agree with him that it is law at this point in time. That law can change tomorrow if the Supreme Court finally makes a decision. I’m not going to vote for this. It’s against my morals. It’s not right.” 

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Skyles wrote an email to county employees on Thursday stating that the Vaccination, Testing, and Face Covering Policy was put on hold. 

Veterans Service Officer

Commissioners approved the re-appointment of Luke St. Germain to the position of Veterans

Service Officer for a four-year term effective Jan. 22, 2022 through January 21, 2026.

“I really appreciate the support for the veterans,” St. Germain said. “Thank you to all the other departments within the county. It’s a great place to work and I’m fortunate to be able to represent the veterans here in Itasca County.”

Other items

• The board approved commissioner warrants with a check date of Jan. 14, 2022, in the amount of $1,046,836.13.

• The board approved the Itasca County Health and Human Services (ICHHS) Department Warrants for Dec. 2021, in the amount of $2,635,013.78.

Public Health Division Manager Kelly Chandler provided a situational and informational update regarding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in Itasca County, including information regarding vaccination roll-out. If you have questions or concerns regarding COVID-19, please call the Public Health Hotline at (218) 327-6784, visit http://www.co.itasca.mn.us/798/COVID-19- Coronavirus-Information, or contact First Call for Help/211 at (218) 326-8565.

Commissioners recommended the following items on the consent agenda. 

•Approve and authorize necessary signatures for the 2022-2024 Labor Contract for Itasca County Confidential Employee Association (ICCEA) which represents Human Resources and the Accounting Manager.

•Authorize IMCare Director and County Board Chair to sign the contract between IMCare and Todd Newman, chiropractor.

• Approve a revocable license for use of property by and between Itasca County and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and authorize necessary signatures.

• Approve the cooperative construction agreement between Itasca County and the City of Taconite and authorize the County Board Chair and Clerk to sign the agreement.

•Adopt the resolution of repurchase of Lot Six (6), Block Two (2), Keewatin, by Patrick Winkleblack. 

• Adopt the resolution of repurchase of the North One Thousand One Hundred Feet (N. 1100’) of the East Four Hundred Feet (E. 400’) of the Northwest Quarter of the Northeast Quarter (NW NE), Section Seventeen (17), Township One Hundred Forty-nine (149) North, Range Twentynine (29) West of the Fifth Principal Meridian by Rosita J. Tupper.

Adopt the resolution for the Northwest Quarter of the Southeast Quarter (NW SE) and the Southwest Quarter of the Southeast Quarter (SW SE), Less the South 214.5 feet of the West 214.5 feet thereof, Section Two (2), Township Sixty-two (62), Range Twenty-five (25) by Cary J. Rondeau

Adopt the resolution for the withdrawal of tax-forfeited property described as the North 510 feet of the East 461.16 feet of the Northwest Quarter of the Southwest Quarter (NW SW), Section Eight (8), Township Fifty-eight (58), Range Twenty-four (24) from the Dunn-Stephens Memorial Forest.

Approve recommended classifications for Tracts 8 from Itasca County Land Classification Committee meeting held Sept. 21, 2021.

Adopt the resolution authorizing execution of agreement, which authorizes the Itasca County Attorney to execute agreements and amendments to the Crime Victim Services Grant.

Recognition

The following Itasca County employees were recognized:

Welcome new employees David Jacobson, Sara Procopio, Ryan Dowell, Roxann Stewart, Ken Lipscy and Lindsey Wall; farewell to Tina Huffman, Sam Imbleau, and Cari Burgess; congratulations to Marcie Witkofsky and Tina Holets; condolences to the team and family of Jayme Williams, Deputy Sheriff/Road Deputy, Sheriff Department who passed away on Dec. 27, 2021. The county acknowledged with sincere sympathy the significant loss to the entire Itasca County community.

 

 

 

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