City of Greenbush declares emergency to coronavirus pandemic

Due to the Coronavirus-19 epidemic, deserted and in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness best describes Greenbush’s Main Street appearance. Shown is the south half of Main Street on the afternoon of March 20, 2020. (photo by Mavis Gonshorowski)

During a March 23 special meeting over Zoom— a video conferencing service— the City of Greenbush took official action to the COVID-19 outbreak. It unanimously approved extending its Declaration of Emergency beyond the customary three days until a time yet to be determined.

This city declaration comes after national and state action on March 13, including President Donald Trump declaring the COVID-19 outbreak as a National Emergency and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declaring a Peacetime State of Emergency to provide “all necessary resources” to support a response to COVID-19.

Greenbush and Roseau County have not yet had any confirmed cases of CO-VID-19, also known as the coronavirus, but, according to its declaration, the city is preparing for its “inevitable spread” to this region. According to its declaration, the city personnel started preparing for this virus weeks ago, including working with local, state, and federal partners. On March 23, Greenbush Mayor Brenda Sather and City Clerk Anita Locken sat in on meetings with the county and League of Minnesota Cities.

Starting on March 23, all city facilities were closed until a time yet to be determined, including the city office, community center, fire station, skating rink, and public works shop.

As for the community center, during the March 16 regular city meeting, Locken said all but two meetings had been canceled in the community center at that point. According to notice provided by the city, those still scheduled to use the center will be left on the calendar just in case the center would open on time for their event.

As for the city office, Locken will work from home, but people can still reach her at her city office phone number (218-782-2570) and email ([email protected]). Every Monday and Friday, Locken will pick up mail and bills and do necessary banking.

People can still drop off their payments at the utility drop box outside the city office. They can also mail in their payments to PO Box 98, or sign up for online payments through the city website. People also can contact the city to make a credit card payment or to switch to automatic payments through their bank.

For those individuals and businesses experiencing difficulties paying their utility bill during this time, they should contact the city office. The city will not enforce any late utility fees for these businesses or individuals. Also, Locken will credit individuals for high water usage due to a water meter issue and the city won’t check on water meters until the pandemic ends.

The Fire Department will continue to respond to calls and Public Works will continue to work, but in a limited capacity to provide “essential services.”

The city also approved some temporary policies for its employees. It wants its employees to watch for the following symptoms (persistent cough, runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath, fever, vomiting, diarrhea) and if they have these symptoms to stay home. The city also is asking its employees to notify them immediately if they contact someone with COVID-19.

Several of these policies impact the Public Works Department specifically. For example, unless one is experiencing a utility emergency, the city is recommending that city employees do not enter personal residences. People are encouraged to contact the city shop by phone (218-782-2941), email ([email protected]), or through the “citizen engagement” on the city website.

Public Works is also being asked to have one person in a vehicle, as part of the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health’s social distancing recommendation of six feet.

In case the Public Works is unable to perform its duties, several council members would be able to assist, including Shaun Walsh and Eric Etherington. These two council members met with City Public Works Technician Shaun Jevne to get the necessary info related to the city’s public works, including tool locations, lift station daily routines, water treatment testing, water main break protocols, and contact info for contractors. Jevne also contacted local Bernard Gonshorowski, a former City Public Works Technician, just in case.

As for another service provided through the city, senior meals will continue to be served on a take-out basis through Rockin 50’s Cafe. While the city office and library will be closed to providing senior meal tickets, people can purchase them at KC’s Country Market in Greenbush until these buildings reopen.

“It’s something we have may have to amend in future meetings,” Mayor Sather said at the March 23 meeting in relation to the city’s COVID-19 policies.

To see the complete story, read the March 25 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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