Sheriff Vic Williams and members of the Committee on Aging spoke about the negative effects of isolation in the county’s senior population during the Itasca County Board of Commissioners regular session on Tuesday.

Williams was joined by Secretary for the Committee on Aging Barb Matanich and ElderCircle Executive Director Renee Bymark.

When lockdowns went into effect, people were encouraged to isolate themselves. Doing so removed many traditional forms of communication, greatly affecting senior citizens who may not have access or knowledge of new communication tools, such as video chat. 

“They have not had the technology or the understanding to initiate this communication,” Williams said. It’s very important that we supply them with educational needs… the digital gap seems to be most impactful, according to studies.”

Commissioner Terry Snyder joked that he was unable to figure out the QR Scanning system at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which frustrated many people simply trying to book an appointment.

Although senior populations are generally more resilient to anxiety and depression, studies have shown that isolation and long-term lack of communication was one of the most impactful stressors on the senior community. 

Many seniors had a difficult time during quarantines as they were unable to communicate with friends and family. When quarantines loosened up and regular activities resumed, many found out that their friends had passed away in isolation and it wasn’t communicated to them. 

“We realized that there was a spotlight put on a very vulnerable population during COVID,” Bymark said. “Older adults were very isolated, kept at home, and limited in some abilities to connect with people.”

Bymark also said that ElderCircle has taken steps to build programs for older adults that would help them come together and stay connected. ElderCircle has hired a new community outreach coordinator to help teach technology classes that will help seniors learn how to use computers or smartphones to stay connected to friends and family.

Other ideas include open houses for senior centers, making technology accessible, and offering health and wellness classes. 

Board members agreed that keeping seniors connected is an important part of their well-being. 

“Our senior community is such a valuable piece of our community,” Snyder said. “We respect your opinions and your voices and you’re always welcome to come before the board and share those with us.”

Commissions recommended senior groups come up with a list of equipment that would improve senior connectivity in the county, which could include technology such as smart TVs, computers, and tablets, to present to the board at a future meeting. Commissioners said they were willing to help seniors in the county maintain their well-being and stay connected. 

Body-worn camera policy

Sheriff Vic Williams informed commissioners that the body-worn camera policy has been posted on the public website for the past week. Public comments were welcome at the work session earlier in the month and at Tuesday’s regular session. No public comments had been received. 

Later in the meeting, commissioners adopted the body-worn camera policy for the Itasca County Sheriff’s Department with a 4-0 vote. 

Commissioner warrants

The board approved commissioner warrants with a check date of Sept. 17, 2021, in the amount of $1,959,769.45.

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 http://www.co.itasca.mn.us/798/COVID-19-

Coronavirus-Information, or contact First Call for Help/211 at (218) 326-8565.

Recorder update

County Recorder Nicolle Zuehlke provided a Recorder’s Office update, including information regarding iDoc Market. 

Land replacement acquisition

Commissioners approved a purchase agreement for acquisition of approximately 554 acres of forest land at the cost of $415,642.50. The purchase will be paid out of the Land Replacement Trust Fund. 

According to Kory Cease, the acquisition would meet the county’s overarching goal of land asset management goals of consolidating ownership, reducing fragmentation of the working force, improves access to existing working forest lands, and helps create recreational trails. 

Details about the land acquisition can be found on Itasca County’s website.

Tax-forfeited land sale to adjoining landowners

The board also adopted a resolution authorizing and fixing the notice and terms of tax-forfeited land sales to adjoining landowners. 

Tax-forfeited and direct county land sale

Commissioners then adopted the amended resolution authorizing and fixing the terms of sale for the 2021 tax-forfeited and direct county land sale on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 at 10 a.m. in the boardroom of the Itasca County Courthouse. 

Legislative report

Itasca County Lobbyist Loren Solberg provided a 2021 Legislative Session Report. The 2021 Legislative Session Report is available for review online at Itasca County’s website. 

Recognition of County Employees

The following employees were recognized:

Welcome new employee, Dakota Flohaug, Public Health Nurse, Health & Human Services department effective Aug. 30, 2021. Welcome new employee, Robin Jackson, Assessor/Appraiser I, Assessor department effective Aug. 30, 2021. Welcome new employee, Chelsea Rabey, Corrections Agent - Career, Probation department effective Aug. 30, 2021.

Congratulations to Walker Maasch who was promoted from Administrative Support, Environmental Services Department to Assessment Technician, Assessor Department effective Sept. 5, 2021.

Farewell to Dida Foster whose last day as a Victim Assistance Program Coordinator, Attorney Department, was Sept. 7, 2021 after 21+ years.

Consent agenda

The Consent Agenda gives the County Board a means of handling routine non-controversial actions and motions that can be grouped together and handled in one motion. If, at the Board meeting, any Commissioner so requests, an item shall be removed from the Consent Agenda and considered separately.

• Approved and authorized necessary signatures on the determination of need application to allow Itasca Life Options (ILO) to move locations for day services. 

• Approved the final payment for Contract 202107, a crushing, hauling and placement of aggregate surfacing project on various unorganized township and county roads, and authorized the county board chairperson and clerk to the county board to sign the necessary documents.

• Approved highway easement from Blandin Paper Company over and across northeast quarter of the southeast quarter, section 13, township 57, range 24 to access tax-forfeit lands described as the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter and government Lot 1, section 13, township 57, range 24 and authorize necessary signatures.

• Authorized the transportation department to indicate to MnDOT that Itasca County intends to use our portion of CRRSAA funds for the purchase of equipment.

• Adopted the resolution approving Laws of Minnesota Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 121 as required under Minnesota Statute Chapter 645.021 and authorized signatures on certificate of approval.

• Authorized signatures needed to execute master customer agreement, equipment purchase and software license addendum along with the subscription software addendum between Itasca County Sheriff and Motorola Solutions Inc.

• Approval and authorization for county attorney to sign Thomson Reuters contract for Westlaw on-line legal research services for the Itasca County Attorney’s Office.

Up next

The Itasca County Board of Commissioners will meet for a work session at the Itasca County Courthouse on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 2:30 p.m.

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