Mercer approves COVID-19 plan


March 21, 2020

Screen capture by Daily Globe

Each square in this grid represents a participant in an electronic board meeting of the town of Mercer Board of Supervisors on Friday. Using the GoToMeeting app, board members, city staff and community members called in or went to a link online to participate visually or audibly in the meeting to discuss the town's coronavirus pandemic emergency plan. The individuals with the red microphone symbol and a line running through it have muted themselves to listen and watch the meeting only. The persons with the green microphones are able to speak. The boxes with images are the participants who chose to participate visually, while the blank boxes are people participating audibly. The Caller boxes are participants who did not enter their name when signing in. The boxes would be surrounded by a white border when the participant spoke, such as with board member Mike Lambert in this photo. From left, top, Tom Laventure of the Daily Globe, town clerk Debbie Hohner, board member Michael Lambert and resident Hank Joustra; second row, board members Charles Schroepfer, Opal Roberts and Eric Snow, and Caller 3, an unidentified town resident; third row, town road crew foreman Jake Saarnio, Mercer Fire Department Chief Adam Kussard, resident Scott Lundquist, and Caller 1 who was township attorney Fritz Schellgell; and fourth row, Caller 2, who was board member John Sendra and head of Mercer Area Ambulance and Rescue Steve Altman.

MERCER, Wis. - The town of Mercer Board of Supervisors on Friday approved its COVID-19 emergency plan during a special meeting on Friday, to include additional support for first responders.

The board held its first electronic meeting after determining on Thursday that an electronic meeting that provides public notification and access via phone or computer is compliant with open meeting laws during for the duration of the COVID-19 state and national emergency.

The board 4-0 approved the Mercer COVID-19 Plan, which is modeled after the Iron County COVID-19 Plan recently approved along with additional provisions. Board chair John Sendra and members Charles Schroepfer, Michael Lambert and Eric Snow approved the plan. Opal Roberts, the fifth member, appeared to be present at the electronic conference but was not able to vote without an audio connection.

On Thursday the board approved a resolution for the proclamation of declaring an emergency pursuant to state statute. The action gives the town board chair, John Sendra, discretion to exercise temporary closures or access to facilities, roads or other actions necessary to protect the public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday the board approved the Snow as the backup should Sendra not be able to perform the duty. The board then approved Roberts as the third person in the hierarchy of command.

The board then approved May 23 as the sunset termination date for the emergency powers resolution. This is the same sunset date as the Iron County

The board revised a section of the emergency plan to authorize Jake Saarnio, the town road crew foreman; Steve Altman, the fire department chief, and Adam Kussard, head of Mercer Area Ambulance & Rescue Inc., to exercise discretion for purchasing equipment and supplies and making personnel decisions, followed by board notification within 48 hours.

"This is so they can make decision regarding sourcing, supplies, staff payroll and anything of that nature," Sendra said in the meeting.

The action waives administrative policies that require posting job opening notices should an immediate hire be necessary due to loss of existing volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

After lengthy discussion the board acted to fill a potential gap in COVID-19 support for volunteer first responders. The board adopted a provision of the emergency plan that incorporates guidelines under Division E of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act enacted on March 18.

Division E is the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020, which in the township's plan will clarify the potential COVID-19 support for full time, part-time and volunteer part-time employees.

The action was to express that volunteer fire and emergency medical service personnel are included in the town's emergency plan in regard to additional support and coverage.

If an employee or someone in an employee household contracts COVID-19, or requires a quarantine period for symptoms, Division E insurance would cover the first 80 hours of lost wages. The full time employer would be responsible for the next 80 hours, followed by any accrued sick leave or vacation times accrued by the employee.


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