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Minocqua Town Board briefly discusses COVID-19 situation

Status quo remains through ‘Stay At Home’ order from Evers

April 19, 2020 by Brian Jopek

The Minocqua Town Board, meeting in special session Wednesday morning, dealt with a few issues related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the time of the meeting, it was anticipated Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers was going to extend his “Safer At Home” order, originally put in place March 24, at least one more month. 

As a result of action at the meeting, starting Monday, April 20, in addition to provisions and protocols already in place that address other town employees and the police department, the town’s public works employees, listed as “non-essential” in the Evers order, will head back to full time work. 

The consensus of the town board was there will be plenty of “essential” work to be done to get the town ready for summer. 

That’s even though no one really knows what sort of summer 2020 will bring in the wake of the current COVID-19 situation. 

The town board also gave approval to holding a quick meeting on April 23 that’s required by state statute to push the town’s annual meeting to Thursday, May 21. 

It was also decided until further notice, regular town board meetings would be held in the third floor meeting room of the community center, as normal, with appropriate precautions taken that would allow for items such as social distancing. 

Town supervisor Bill Stengl said if there was an item on a meeting agenda it was felt might result in a large audience, a meeting could be held in the building’s gymnasium. 

All this is with the knowledge that governing bodies like the Minocqua Town Board are exempt from the “Safer At Home” directive there be no more than 10 people in attendance. 

It was near the end of the open session portion of the meeting — a closed session lasting a couple hours and dealing with consideration of discipline of a town employee followed — when town chairman Mark Hartzheim was answering a question from town supervisor Billy Fried about the town library’s operations and that of the town office that town supervisor John Thompson, who had been relatively silent, let known his feelings about what he believes the COVID-19 shutdown is doing to people and to Minocqua area businesses. 

“That’s ridiculous,” he said, referring to a possible extension by Evers of his “Stay At Home Order.”

“There’s government mandates and then there’s what people are gonna do,” Stengl said. 

“They should just open the doors back up,” Thompson said. “Another month ... there’s no way that they could take it here. Evers couldn’t come up with his own thoughts ... he can’t even read. If you’ve watched any of his press conferences. Jesus Christ. Businesses up here ... I don’t care what happens in Madison or Milwaukee. As far as I’m concerned, they made their bed, they can sleep in it. But we’re totally different.”

Minocqua police chief Dave Jaeger said until he gets the call from the town, then his department would have to “keep doing what we’re doing” in regard to the Evers order. 

“I seriously think ... if he (Evers) throws on another month, we need to have a serious sit-down and not necessarily just with our board,” Thompson said. “There’s no way these people can handle that. Two months. Are you kiddin’ me? Mortgages, the restaurants ... we’re not gonna have anything, nobody’s gonna come up here because there isn’t gonna be anything open. They’re gonna all be out of business.”

“For now, we know it’s through the 24th so it’s status quo until then,” Stengl said, redirecting the discussion. 

Hartzheim, indicating overall, the COVID-19 situation seems to be pointing to things not being nearly as dire as had initially been forecasted, said from this point forward and until the “Stay At Home Order” is either revised or rescinded, COVID-19 related items for town operations would remain on meeting agendas. 

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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