How to operate a government building during the COVID-19 crisis

Here are my thoughts on the operation of a government facility during the COVID-19 crisis. It’s time we start talking about living with the risks instead of avoiding them with Stay-At-Home orders. If you have a better process than local control, let me know. —-ReasonableCitizen

Living with COVID-19 is a reality. This operational plan doesn’t prevent all possible occurrences of public transmission of COVID-19; however, it reduces the risk that a mass outbreak will occur as a result of a single infected person.

Top government officials within a function or a facility should be responsible for establishing an Infection Control policy for employees and citizens it serves. In addition, an Infection Control Committee should be established in functions or facilities that have more than 30 employees. The size and scope of the Committee should also be determined by top government officials. The purpose of the Committee is to reduce the propensity for an outbreak infection when conducting government affairs. The purpose is not to prevent all possible infections; these infection risks occur naturally in our environment. The Committee is to reduce, not eliminate, the risks that one infected person may infect many others.

Infection Control Policy should include:

1. Developing a Function or Facility Sanitization Plan

Strike Zone Sanitization: Sanitize all horizontal surfaces in the Strike Zone that the public or employees may touch when entering, conducting their business, or exiting the building. The Strike Zone is between the knees and shoulders of an average height adult. Sanitize all Strike Zone areas of vertical surfaces like doors and windows and trim, which the public or employees may encounter.

Frequency of Strike Zone Sanitization: Door handles, customer windows, and public work counters/surfaces: every two hours. Trim and other Strike Zone areas before and after the work shift.

Equip all customer-facing personnel with disinfectant to clean as often as they feel it is necessary.

Establish a Sanitization Station at public entrances/exits for the public and employees to sanitize when entering and leaving a government building.

2. Reducing human-to-human (H2H) droplet transference:

Employ transparent plastic shielding between employees and the public at all public-facing windows and counters.

Employ masks and gloves where appropriate. Changing as needed throughout the day.

Implement a “No Sticky People” policy for employees and the public. People with runny noses, sneezy, coughing, drooling, or leaking bodily fluids are not permitted to enter unless they have an appointment. They should be escorted to and from the appointment area wearing appropriate PPE. A designated meeting area for Sticky People is preferred but not required.

3. Signage and Cautions: Deploying signage throughout the facility explaining the Sanitization Plan for the building and the No Sticky People Policy. The signage should remind everyone that personal responsibility to prevent infection is just as crucial as Sanitization Plans for the public-at-large. People should be told they are in control of themselves. They may choose to accept risks for themselves; however, they should also be mindful of risks to others. Because the nature of COVID-19 allows for asymptomatic transmission, all adults are encouraged to protect their mucosal areas from virus infiltration.

4. Protecting personnel:

  1. Government employees should be provided with the necessary PPE for the performance of their responsibilities. Such PPE is determined by top government officials in conjunction with the Infection Control Committee.
  2. Personnel may employ additional personal protection as they feel necessary to perform their responsibilities. If those additional protections interfere with other departmental employees or the departmental work, the department supervisor will provide coaching and set PPE standards for the ongoing performance of the department. The employee has the right to appeal those standards to Human Relations and Infection Control Committee for adjudication. A decision by HR and the Infection Control Committee is binding on the employee.
  3. Social distancing policy is to be utilized in areas where the public-at-large has access. Social distancing rules may be relaxed in non-public areas of the building, as determined by the Infection Control Committee and top government officials. Meeting rooms and conference rooms should have the sanitization schedule posted in a visible location.

5. Change the operational nature of government and citizen interaction:

  1. Provide phone assistance with e-form completion and provide web-based tutorials on the use and purpose of government services.
  2. Change the business hours for all governmental public-facing activities from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Retain the hours for non-public-facing activities as appropriate. These hours may assist employees in finding convenient and suitable childcare and provides greater opportunity for flexible work hour arrangements. This will also ensure citizens are able to fit government services into their daily schedule as many working Americans work 8-5 pm.

6. Special Conditions and Rules:

Cafeteria and restaurants: Within a government facility, cafeterias and restaurants are subject to the policies established by the Infection Control Committee and may include: sanitization efforts sufficient to prevent the transmission of surface-to-human infections, droplet protection for sanitized utensils and dinner ware, droplet protection for foods and condiments, and caution signage that advises and informs users of the risks in utilizing the food service, i.e., increased human contact and increased risk of infection.

Handling of money: It is the responsibility of government facilities to accept traditional monetary method of payment employed by citizens. Traditional methods are checks, money orders, cash, credit cards, and e-technologies that represent the traditional methods. The Infection Control Committee is charged with reducing the infection risk associated with each type of payment.

Childcare for Employees: It’s the responsibility of the employee to provide safe custody and care for his/her children during normal business hours. The supervisor of the department may grant, upon request and suitability, flexible hours and flexible work conditions to employees with safe-childcare obstacles.

Closure of childcare facilities present such an obstacle. Supervisors are not required to provide alternatives to childcare obstacles but are requested to be flexible where possible.

The closure of schools does not present an obstacle to safe childcare. It is common for schools to close for three months of the year and to have specific dates in which schools are closed while a government facility is open. These are standard closures under normal conditions for parents to problem solve their childcare needs. The COVID-19 crisis does not require additional childcare mitigation.

The Battle for Local Control Needs You…

To Town Chairpersons

From: Rick Stadelman, Executive Director

Re: SB 349 Bill to preempt town authority to regulate nonmetallic mining using village power ordinances

Date of Memo: October 22, 2013

SB 349 has been introduced in the Wisconsin State Senate and will have a Committee hearing on Thursday, October 24, 2013 in Room 411 South of State Capitol starting at 9:30 a.m. This bill proposes to prohibit towns, villages, cities, and counties from enacting licensing ordinances to regulate nonmetallic mining operations (which for towns is an exercise of village powers to protect public health and safety). This prohibition includes industrial frac sand mines as well as traditional sand and gravel pits. The only power to regulate these types of operations would be through zoning ordinances.

Our Association Board of Directors on Monday, October 21, voted to oppose this bill as drafted for a number of reasons. This bill will overturn the unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Zwiefelhofer v. Town of Cooks Valley, 338 Wis. 2d 288 (2012), which upheld the right of the town to regulate a industrial frac sand mine by a licensing ordinance adopted using village powers. This bill would prevent towns without town zoning and towns with county, zoning which do not adequate regulate nonmetallic mining, especially industrial frac sand mines, from being able to require the nonmetallic mining owners and operators from obtaining permits and approvals from the town. Towns have used the licensing ordinances to reach agreements with mine owners to address concerns affecting neighboring property owners, such as hours of operation, diminution of property values, private well monitoring, blasting hours, hauls routes and days and times for hauling, and much more.

The loss of the licensing power will greatly reduce the ability of towns to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the their residents.SB 349 goes farther than just the preemption of local licensing authority, by giving exclusive control of all water quality, water quantity, and air quality issues to the state, presumably the DNR. Local governments would be precluded in attempting protect air and water in their town on activities beyond just nonmetallic mining. This exclusive control by the state for be for all activities including large farms, industrial activities, and much more….

SB 349 proposes to require that before a highway contract for reimbursement of damages could be entered by the local government for reimbursement for damage done on the local highways under an agreement authorized under Sec. 349.16 (1) (c) of Wis. Statutes, that an engineering study would have to be prepared at the mutual expense of the local government and the highway user. This provision as written would apply to all highway users, such as farmers, manure haulers, loggers, etc…, not just nonmetallic mining operations. SB 349 proposes to modify Sec. 86.02 of Wis. Statutes that if damage is alleged to have occurred on a local highway that the local government would have to prove before damages could be recovered there must be proof that the person willfully caused the damage or that the damage results from an unlawful act. This burden of proof would be very difficult to prove in many cases.

The Wisconsin Towns Association Board of Directors voted to oppose SB 349 as written. We ask your town officers to call your state legislators in both the Senate and Assembly as soon as possible to ask them to oppose SB 349 and not to pass it into law. Further we have enclosed a sample town board resolution for your consideration to adopt at the next town board meeting. We suggest you include this topic on your next agenda. If you adopt the resolution opposing SB 349 please send copies to your legislators and Wisconsin Towns Association.

This proposed bill (SB 349) strikes at the very heart of local control. It is being pushed by private industry groups to avoid working with the local governments and providing protections to neighbors that towns and counties have been attempting to provide for their residents.

Towns and counties should have the authority to adopt reasonable ordinances to regulate any activity that may threaten public health and safety of their community. Existing ordinances have not stopped industrial frac sand mines or typical sand and gravel pits in our state. In fact over 115 industrial frac sand mines and processing plants are in operation in our state at the present time, with many more permitted to open in the future.

This memo is being sent to all Town Chairpersons in the state, Please share it and the enclosed resolution with your fellow town officers, and call your legislators as soon as possible to ask them to oppose SB 349.

Barron County: Prayer before government meetings

Since 1957, the Barron County Board has prayed at the start of its meetings. Last year, the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened a lawsuit if it continued this practice. On January 21st, the County Board voted to continue its invocation. It had the support and the urging of 35 citizens to proceed with this longstanding practice.

All of this is common sense, isn’t it? It is one thing to prevent the Federal government from establishing a national religion and quite another to say that people should forego a common time for religious prayer because it offends someone else. Although I may not be able to explain why a government call to Muslim prayer five times a day is different than a County Board calling for voluntary prayer once a month, I know that others can.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation seeks to prevent a time for voluntary prayer so they are not offended by someone else’s beliefs, and yet they seek to offend every religious person by denying them a time to jointly pray to their Deity for guidance.

As noted by others, the Constitution grants ‘freedom of religion’ but not ‘freedom from religion’. While we need to be mindful that we do not force people to pray, there is no cause to prevent people from voluntary prayer if they so choose.

I support the Barron County Board in its decision… and the Devil take the hindmost if you believe in that, too.