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Vilas County board passes state of emergency resolution

April 17, 2020 by Brian Jopek


The Vilas County board Tuesday approved two resolutions critical to county operations during the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

One resolution was for a state of emergency, which Vilas County board chairman Ron DeBruyne said was prompted “by the declarations of the governor of the state of Wisconsin and the President of The United States.”

“Vilas County must pass certain resolutions in order to position ourselves not only to continue running Vilas County government as quickly as possible and making decisions as quickly as possible but to qualify Vilas County for programs or funds that may become available in the future,” he said.

Counties in Wisconsin have adopted the resolution, developed by the Wisconsin Counties Association, as meetings of their respective county boards have met this month, the Oneida County board doing so at its March 17 meeting.

The other resolution dealt with suspending a portion of the county board standing rules pertaining to attendance at county board meetings as well as committee meetings. 

Included in the resolution is a temporary amendment to the standing rules that states attendance at all county board and committee meetings is mandatory and “may be enforced by the Executive and Legislative Committee as allowed by law.”

Under provisions of the amendment, supervisors have the option of attending in person or by telephone during the COVID-19 emergency. 

“During this emergency,” the second item for the amendment reads, “County Board Committees shall only meet for purposes of deliberating upon actionable items.”

That provision applies to all of the county board’s standing committees as well as its commissions, such as the Veterans Service Commission, Civil Service Commission and the Traffic Safety Commission. 

Vilas County clerk Dave Alleman said instructions for a committee member to link up and attend a meeting via phone will be on each meeting agenda. 

“Open meeting laws have not been waived,” he stressed. “We still have to allow an open meeting. I’ve talked to a couple of supervisors and they said they may exercise their ability to come here.”

“Here” is the Vilas County Courthouse that Alleman said has been excluded from the temporary 10 person gathering restriction in effect. 

“Obviously, we have way more than 10 here,” he said. “A number have also expressed a desire to meet by phone.”

Alleman said one of the reasons attempts were being made to streamline meetings by phone is because “you’re gonna find out it’s not as easy as it sounds” and to just hold meetings for the purposes of, essentially, just to meet with no really important actionable items at this time was something that shouldn’t be done. 

“Once this is over, the committee chairs can go back to operating how they want (within established parameters),” Alleman said. 

He clarified there would still need to be a quorum to hold a meeting, whether participants were physically at the meeting location or attending via telephone. 

“We’ll get through this,” DeBruyne said. “We’ve been pulling stuff out of the box here for the last two weeks. I don’t know how else to say it.”

He mentioned Vilas County Sheriff Joe Fath has an emergency operations center (EOC) set up. 

“We’ve been making changes even as we’ve run down this path,” DeBruyne said.

In brief comments to the board following the state of emergency resolution vote, Fath said those staffing the EOC meet every other day in a primarily video status to make sure “we’re all on the same page with information as things change.”

“We’re using the EOC to put out one message,” he said. “We’ve got a public information officer to discuss what information we need to get out to the public and we do so in a coordinated effort which I think has helped keep people focused on what our message is.”

Later, prior to the end of the meeting and during the chairman’s report, DeBruyne once again alluded to what’s been done the past couple of weeks to deal with COVID-19 at the county government level. 

“Everyone has been very cooperative,” he said. “It’s been a very difficult time because the ball keeps moving. It’s not like normal where you pick a red one or a blue one and just go about your business. I don’t care what color you pick. They change the colors everyday.”

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


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