News in the County during COVID-19: Regional Crisis Center, Property Tax, Parks, Services, County Financials and the Census

Southeast Regional Crisis Center 

The SERCC will serve a 10 County Region for Mental Health Treatment.  (Olmsted, Fillmore, Goodhue, Mower, Wabasha, Houston, Winona, Dodge, Steele and Waseca).

The 10 counties will contribute to the operation costs. Olmsted will be the fiscal agent.    Mayo will be providing some of the staffing and psychiatric services.  The Legislature bonding package included $5,000,000 for the SERCC.  I voted to approve the $3,728,000 contract for building the center (This is part of the bonding money).  This will be built on land near the current Public Health building.  Construction will begin this Spring.

Property Tax Extension

The County Board met on April 7 by distance.  I participated from home by using Skype.  Property tax due date extension was discussed.  The County will collect more information on a possible due date extension and the process of how it would be implemented.  The county must also be certain that it has the statutory authority to implement such an action.  I agreed that we should take the time to collect more information and then make a decision at the next Board meeting on April 21.  A potential plan would be that the Due Date of May 15 for the first half of property taxes will not be changed but no late fee will be assessed for those who do not pay on the 15th.  To avoid a late fee, the property taxes would have to be paid by July 15th.  This will provide a two month “grace” period for people to pay their first half property taxes.  The County Board will depend on the good will of county residents to meet the May 15th deadline if they are able.

COVID 19 Preparations

To insure that Olmsted County will be able to deal with the medical needs of our population when the predicted COVID 19 peak occurs, the Army Corps of Engineering will be assessing the Mayo Civic Center as an overflow medical facility.  The County is also assessing sites for a potential triage center.

Social Distancing Appears to Be Working

The preliminary data indicates that Minnesota’s Social Distancing efforts and Stay At Home strategy is working.  The worst-case scenario of numbers of deaths and hospitalizations may not be realized.  Minnesotans have done a better job of observing the Stay at Home strategy than people in other states.  This has resulted in fewer cases.  Olmsted appears to have more cases than other counties; this can be attributed to number the number of COVID 19 tests at our drive through facilities.  Olmsted County has done more tests than other counties which have identifies more cases than other counties.  Please remember that we are not past the first wave of the virus.  There is still no vaccine to protect us from this virus; social distancing is still regarded as the best practice to avoid infection.

The County Is Still Attending to the Needs of County Residents

  • The homeless are being sheltered and fed.  Mayo Civic Center is being used during the Day and Night for shelter.  Catholic Social Services are still providing the management of overnight shelter.  Permanent and stable housing is still the county’s goal.
  • High Risk Infants are still being supported and their need for special baby formula is still being met.
  • Families who are clients of Social Services are still being cared for.
  • Behavior Health (mental health) is being provided to families in need.  The County is expanding these services by moving employees from other areas to assist the social workers.
  • Domestic Abuse victims are being protected.  The Dorothy Day House and Women’s Shelter have been closed so the County is picking up the housing needs.  For this at risk population, the county is expending about $50,000 per month for alternative housing.
  • Community Corrections is still attending to clients on probation.
  • The Sheriff’s Department is carrying out its duties.
  • County Public Works and Planning is still operating.

The Parks Have Hired about 60 Seasonal Workers

See Video: Goats

The Friends of Chesterwoods have provided money to employ the Goat Dispatch to control invasive species such as buckthorn.  This saves a lot of time for the volunteers who would have to do this by hand.  Thank you to the Friends of Chesterwoods for their contribution.

Planning To Put it all Back Together

The Court System has delayed and postponed many court services.  This has created a huge backlog of cases.  The County Attorney is planning a process to deal with the backlog when court services can resume.  As with other areas of the county, restarting services will present challenges.  Current needs will have to be met while reducing the backlog that continue to be built up during the COVID time.

Being Responsible with County Finances

The uncertainty of Federal and State aid is cause for being cautious with County Finances.  I support a very financially conservative approach to the county finances.  There are some planned projects that may have to be delayed.  In addition, the county currently has about 40 positions that have not been filled; filling these positions may have to be delayed longer.  Until some sense of normality returns and we can once again have a clearer picture of the financial future, I will continue to support a very conservative approach to county’s finances.

The County Parks are Open!

The County Parks are open.  People have been out walking the trails, getting exercise, and experiencing the calming effect of nature.  On the trails you can still practice social distancing well being enjoying the natural surroundings our parks provide.  Soon you will be able to see the early spring flowers blooming.  Pussytoes, buttercups, Dutchman britches, and phlox are some the flowers that will bloom in April.

The Zoo is not open.  The campsites are not open; we are waiting for DNR to make a decision on opening the campsites.

I Continue to Work at Home

Through this difficult time of Staying at Home and doing my part to keep the county safe from the COVID 19 virus, I continue to work at home by community with the county administration through electronic means.  The county must continue to run efficiently and smoothly.  The public needs must continue to be met.  And, our finances must continue to be sound.  I continue to act in the best interest of those whom I represent.  In Olmsted we are fortunate to have employees who have risen to the challenge of extra duties and have invented alternative strategies to provide services.  I am appreciative of those employees who cannot work from home, who continue to meet with the public when no other options are available.  These employees put themselves at risk as they continue to provide essential services.

2020 Census

Please complete your census information.  By completing your 2020 census you will be helping the county and the state.  Every person counted means about $2,800 per person per year in Federal funds that comes to the State.

Thank You

We all look forward to returning to a sense of normality.  Thank you for your support.