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By Cara L. Dempski
HUDSON – The Saint Croix County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved appointing interim finance director Leah Simington to the position of county finance director during its March 2 meeting. The appointment was part of a wide variety of items discussed during the meeting. The Board also heard from public health officials regarding the county’s progress toward vaccinating the population, and mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus known as Covid-19.
Kelli Engen and Ellie Klassen explained the number of positive cases reported to the county recently are closer to the numbers they were seeing in mid-September 2020. The two informed the Board that 12,000 county residents have received their first shot of the vaccinations, and another 9,000 have completed the full vaccination.
The information presented also indicated 19% of individuals tested for the virus are positive. Engen explained the tests are used as a metric to determine community spread, and for capturing it. Klassen said the Public Health Department would like to see the number of positive tests under 5%. The testing recommendation from Public Health is that an individual be tested for the virus if he or she believes they have had contact with someone infected. The Board moved on to other items after hearing the update from the Public Health officials.
Ellen Denzer introduced a county resolution supporting the state’s reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Information in the accompanying agenda packet indicates the program resulted when, “the Wisconsin Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 1989 to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water qualities and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation. Under Wisconsin statutes the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is set to expire in 2022.” Over the last 10 years, a range of $33.25 million to $86 million has been awarded in the form of grants.
After the Board concluded its previous business, it moved on to other items including Simington’s appointment. County Administrator Ken Witt explained Simington had been doing the job since October 2019. He also said she has a degree in accounting and 20-year’s experience, seven of which have been at the county level.
The Board also approved a resolution making epidemiologist Ellie Klassen’s position full-time and permanent instead of for a limited term.
The Board also learned the National Association of Counties has estimated St. Croix County will receive approximately $17 million as a part of the proposed $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package.
After the Board heard about the potential stimulus funds, Human Resources Director Tarra Davies -Fox reported there had been 71 resignations in the county during the prior year. She indicated many of those resignations were likely due to employees finding positions where they could move up and learn more, or even earn more. She reported she would like her department to focus more on diversity, equity, and inclusivity efforts during 2021.
The board adjourned the meeting after Davies-Fox concluded her report.
The Board of Supervisors will meet next on April 6 at 5 p.m.