JUNEAU — The Dodge County Executive Committee Monday recommended terminating its emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a decision as much about meeting procedures and supervisor stipends as it was about public health.
The declaration has been on its agendas for much of the past year, but in previous months has routinely looked at what Dodge County Chairman Russell Kottke deemed “status quo.”
With the number of COVID-19 test positives dropping, the issue gained additional momentum, even as most executive committee members wore facemarks Monday.
Dodge County Public Health Officer Abby Sauer was not at the meeting. The department’s website urges citizens to continue to wear face masks, to maintain social distance and to wash hands frequently, in accordance with state and national COVID-19 safety guidelines.
County supervisor Jeff Schmitt of Beaver Dam has been outspoken against the emergency declaration.
“We need to end this nonsense,” he said. “It’s time to move on. To me, it’s ridiculous.”
Schmitt expressed his displeasure with some county supervisors using the declared emergency to attend meetings virtually rather than in-person.
Supervisor Dan Hilbert of Beaver Dam said video works well for meetings, but agreed with Schmitt, saying telephone conversations with a committee or county board does not provide the same “feel” as being in-person at the meeting.
“If you can’t physically do it,” Schmitt said, “You need to pass the torch.”
Supervisor Kira Sheahan-Malloy of Waupun agreed with Schmitt.
“Accommodations have been made for those who can’t make a committee or county board meeting (because of an underlying condition), but our rules are very clear,” she said. “We have far surpassed the need for an emergency declaration now. Either we end it or we don’t. If you can make it to the bank or the grocery store, you certainly can make it to the job you asked for.”
Sheahan-Malloy said she recalled what Hilbert said at a previous meeting.
“I remember Dan Hilbert said, ‘What does it hurt?’ It does hurt. It dilutes the process,” she said. “We signed up for the job. We have constituents to represent.”
Schmitt said it’s up to the individual to make a decision to successfully represent their constituents.
“At the end of the day, you have to look in the mirror and if you can’t do the job, you need to step away,” Schmitt said.
Supervisor Joe Marsik of Columbus said countries like Italy and Spain and neighboring states like Michigan are spiking in their COVID-19 cases.
“It’s deja vu all over again,” Marsik said. “We’re not isolated. We don’t live in some fish bowl. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not there yet. I’m afraid we’re sending the wrong message.”
Schmitt said the emergency declaration is about conducting county business.
“If cases begin to increase, we will enact an emergency declaration,” Schmitt said.
Dodge County Corporation Counsel Kim Nass said the motion to terminate the emergency declaration will now go before the full county board for a vote at its April 20 meeting. She said if county supervisors want to take part in a meeting by telephone or video they can do so, but the individual will not be paid a per diem, mileage or counted as being in attendance.