Itasca County Commissioners authorized the abolishment of its interim COVID policy on Tuesday, eliminating emergency paid sick leaves for county employees.

In order to minimize the spread of the virus associated with COVID-19, Itasca County applied up to two weeks (80 hours) of emergency paid sick leave based on the eligibility requirements established under the American Rescue Plan Act with supporting documentation. Employees who were unable to work or telework because of quarantine or isolation orders, employees who have been advised by a health care provider to quarantine, employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, obtaining immunization, and recovering from immunization were eligible for paid leaves.

Since Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency executive order related to COVID-19 is no longer in effect, Itasca County’s interim COVID-19 program for employees is no longer needed. The employee leaves are no longer necessary because employees who wanted to get a vaccine have now had the opportunity to get vaccinated and this policy was set to expire on July 30, 2021.

Itasca County, however, still has an obligation to continue to protect employees from COVID-19 and must comply with Minnesota OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Therefore, the county updated the Itasca County COVID-19 Preparedness Plan to reflect those requirements.

“The paid leaves are no longer necessary for employees,” Human Resource Director Lynn Hart said. “We still want to continue to protect our employees. We still want to have the preparedness plan guidelines in place, so we’ve updated that preparedness plan to reflect the most recent information regarding COVID.”

Federal OSHA standards address the following: hygiene and respiratory etiquette; engineering and administrative controls for social distancing; cleaning, disinfecting, decontamination; prompt identification and isolation of sick persons; and communications provided to workers.

Employees will continue to monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Per Gov. Walz’s executive order, masks are no longer required in indoor and outdoor spaces.

“Basically, we are getting back to whatever normal was before COVID hit us,” County Administrator Brett Skyles said. “...we are going to get folks back in the office unless they had something in place beforehand.”

Request for HD Lidar Acquisition

Commissioners approved a request for $75,000 from Recorder’s Compliance Fund for acquisition of HD Lidar of the county.

This request is for the county’s cost share as part of the Minnesota Geospatial Advisory Council’s (MGAC) grant application to the USGS 3DEP BAA program for HD Lidar acquisition of the Upper Mississippi River area of Minnesota which includes Itasca County. 

Total estimated cost of the Upper Mississippi River area acquisition is $3,629,670, and the MGAC grant application goal is requesting $155,557 from Itasca County. The Land Department proposed 2022 budget has $25,000 for the acquisition which when combined with the $75,000 from RCF would total $100,000 for Itasca County’s contribution for the project.

An improved LIDAR acquisition can provide several benefits to Itasca County departments and citizens. LIDAR data can be used for a wide variety of environment, transportation, planning and analysis applications, such as:

• Detailed contours and elevation models may be useful for the Transportation Department planning. Uses may include stormwater modeling, drainage analysis, cut and fill analysis, erosion control and preliminary roadway design.

• Detailed building footprints can be derived from LIDAR. Building footprints will assist the Environment Services, Emergency Management and Assessor Departments.

• With more detailed LIDAR data, river and lake shoreline can be represented more accurately in the County’s parcel map.

• Steep slopes and potential bluff areas can be identified more accurately for the Assessor and Environmental Services department.

• Locating trails and access points that are not visible on aerial imagery.

COVID-19 Update

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 www.co.itasca.mn.us or contact First Call for Help/211 at (218) 326-8565.

Social worker positions reallocated

The county will reallocate the Social Worker QDDP job descriptions to the public health job description of Social Worker, Home and Community Based. Current social workers providing the same service are allocated the same.This reallocation has no effect on the budget and the positions are at the same pay grade. 

County Staff Appreciation Day Proclamation

The board acknowledged Tuesday  as County Staff Appreciation Day, as proclaimed by Governor Tim Walz, and adopted the Proclamation of County Staff Appreciation Day.

County Administrator Skyles read the official proclamation. 

“We, the Itasca County Board of Commissioners, proclaim July 27, 2021 as County Staff Appreciation Day and extend our thanks to the staff of our county and express deep gratitude for their for their commitment to excellence in public service during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Skyles said.

Grant Application

Commissioners approved a grant application to IRRRB for $50,000 for development of the Len Hardy Memorial ATV Trail and authorized acceptance of the grant upon notification from the Grantor.

Warrants

Commissioner Warrants with a check date of July 30, 2021 in the amount $2,015,298.75 were approved with a 4-0 vote.

Itasca County Health and Human Services (ICHHS) Department Warrants for July 2021, in the amount of $1,059,973.33 were approved by the board.

Recognition of County Employees

The county welcomes new employee Shannon Persons, Eligibility Specialist, Family Services Division, Health & Human Services Department effective July 19, 2021; new employee Rick Wrobel, Highway Maintenance Worker, Transportation Department effective July 19, 2021; and new employee Jaden Houwman, Assessor/Appraiser 1, Assessor’s Department effective July 26, 2021.

Shelley Kebart accepted a job change from Assessment Technician, Assessor/Appraiser Department to Administrative Support, Administrative Services Department effective July 25, 2021.

Consent agenda

1. Approved the IMCare Compliance Plan, Standards of Conduct and related policies and Procedures.

2. Approved final payment for Contract 59914; Phillips Rd. Bridge Replacement, and authorize the County Board Chairperson and Clerk to the County Board to sign the necessary documents.

3. Approved utility easement for construction, maintenance and operation of an underground primary telecommunication line over and across tax-forfeited trust lands in Section 20, Township 57, Range 26 and authorize necessary signatures.

4. Approved the lease agreement between the MN Timber Producers Inc. and Itasca County for the 2021 North Star Expo event at the Itasca County Fairgrounds, and authorize necessary signatures.

COMMISSIONER COMMENTS

Commissioner Ben DeNucci provided comment regarding the recently approved request for use of Recorder’s Compliance Fund for acquisition of HD Lidar.

Commissioner Burl Ives, County Administrator Skyles, and Environmental Services Coordinator Greg Stoltz provided comments regarding the July 26, 2021 storm and debris clean-up plans. Those with questions or concerns regarding storm debris clean-up may call the Itasca County Environmental Services Department at (218) 327-2857.

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