In an emergency meeting held via Zoom May 1, after lengthy discussion and by a vote of 9-5, the Polk County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging freedom to open business more quickly than May 26.

 New County Board Chair, Chris Nelson opened by saying, “There was an auction in Milltown Township the other day that had 70 farmers bidding on a cow, that is allowed. I had a cousin die a week and a half ago and we couldn’t have a funeral. We have 1000’s of people walking into Menards and Walmart everday and we have local businesses that are falling off and people are losing everything they had.”

He felt the County Board needed to take some leadership on the matter and show County staff some directive. “I don’t think we can kick the can much longer,” he said.

There were concerns from several Supervisors that until more testing is done, we are not really sure what COVID-19 numbers in Polk County truly are. 

Supervisor Fran Duncanson brought up several points. “When you talk about emergency and tragedy of people losing a business, there is also the personal tragedy of people losing their lives,” said Duncanson. Nelson responded, “It hasn’t happened yet. There is no one in Polk County that has died from this.” Duncanson said, “That doesn’t mean we are immune.” 

Supervisor Brian Masters motioned the board adopt the same resolution the City of Rice Lake passed last week, opening up business. There was no second. 

A motion was made by Masters and seconded by Doug Route to suspend Rules of Order to bring Resolution 12-20 to debate, which carried.

The original resolution did ultimately pass by a majority vote with 10 in favor and 4 opposed. Opposing the vote were Duncanson, Amy Middleton, Jay Luke Tracy LaBlanc and Michael Prichard.

The resolution, which passed is as follows:

RESOLUTION CONCERNING THE COUNTY'S RESPONSE TO THE ECONOMIC EMERGENCY THAT HAS RESULTED FROM GOVERNOR EVERS' SAFER-AT-HOME ORDERS

TO THE HONORABLE CHAIRPERSON AND SUPERVISORS OF THE COUNTY BOARD OF THE COUNTY OF POLK:

WHEREAS, the Polk County Board recognizes the need for enhanced safety precautions to protect the public during this public health emergency; and

WHEREAS, the Polk County Board cares deeply for the physical health of everyone who works, lives or recreates in Polk County; and

WHEREAS the Polk County Board believes individuals and businesses have been, and will continue to, self-regulate by following physical distancing and increased attention to personal and area sanitation measures; and

WHEREAS, Polk County has only had four COVID-19 positive tests and three of them have fully recovered and three are no hospitalizations regarding COVID-19 currently; and WHEREAS, Polk County is now experiencing a healthcare crisis because hospitals are laying off and furloughing employees; and

WHEREAS, without immediate action, Polk County, its businesses and taxpayers will suffer catastrophic economic harm; and

WHEREAS, it is the Polk County Board's belief that the County should begin supporting the opening of business in a safe manner and that any business in Polk County complying with the appropriate safety measures to protect employees and customers should not be subject to any action by Polk County or its staff relating to Governor Evers' Orders; and 

WHEREAS, the Governor's Orders have been ambiguous and difficult to interpret with any measure of consistency and this has led to absurd and haphazard enforcement measures taken by various communities and officials; and WHEREAS, rural Polk County is closer to the Twin Cities metropolitan area, that is loosening restrictions on businesses, than it is to the affected areas in Wisconsin, such as Milwaukee; and

WHEREAS, local communities in this rural area in the best position to determine for themselves, with the input of experts, how to safely and methodically allow businesses to reopen while keeping safety as a priority; and

WHEREAS, many local businesses are at a high risk of shutting down completely or suffering irreparable economic damage that will have a lasting and negative impact on the livelihoods of many Polk County residents; and

 WHEREAS, many of these same businesses were not able to obtain the much needed economic stimulus money through the various federal programs and will simply not survive until the current anticipated end to the closures on May 26, 2020.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Polk County Board of Supervisors vehemently urges the Governor to allow regions within the State to determine for themselves the best and safest way to allow businesses to slowly reopen; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Polk County Board of Supervisors encourages local officials to exercise their discretion on enforcement of the Governor's Orders in a manner that is reasonable, especially when businesses are voluntarily following physical distancing and other recommended safety measures.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Polk County Board of Supervisors directs the County to work with local health experts to educate businesses on best practices regarding physical distancing and other safety measures to keep our community safe.

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