March 16, 2020
March 16, 2020
Commissioners Scott Blain and Bill Bullock; Justice Court Judge Kevin Nichols; Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) Coordinator Tom Kohley; Deputy DES Coordinator Annie Gillespie; Sanitarian Cortney Lynde; Weed Coordinator Brian Ostwald; Clerk and Recorder Christine Stovall; Sheriff Josh McQuillan; and Commissioners’ Secretary Barbara Daniel were present in-person. Attending via tele-conference were Administrative Officer Angela Newell; Montana State University Extension Agent Nicki Bailey; Clerk of District Court Rochelle Loyning; Treasurer Lori Lynde; Deputy Treasurer Leah Niemi; and County Attorney Alex Nixon.
1:30 A special meeting was held with County Department Heads to discuss continuity of services and staffing with regard to COVID-19.
Stovall reported that the Clerk and Recorder’s office is required to provide services 8am-5pm Monday through Friday; she plans to stagger staff hours and encourage work-from-home where practicable.
Ostwald reported that he would come into the office on an on-call basis and other staff would work-from-home. His weed crew doesn’t come back until the 1st of May which he can postpone.
Loyning reported that none of her District Court duties could be done from home. Per Nixon, District Court Judge Matthew Wald is postponing all non-essential hearings and is investigating the availability of video. At this time, it is unclear what the impacts will be on transporting jail inmates. Judge Wald will not limit outsiders from hearings yet, but may at some point. Deputy County Attorney Mike Ellinghouse is working from Billings.
Judge Nichols stated that while he has received many citations recently, he will postpone the hearings until at least early May. He has 20 people scheduled for hearings tomorrow, but will try to call and spread them out. Because his office is short-staffed, he asked whether Lynn Schwend could return from her recent retirement. Per Newell, retirement benefits are complicated with a return within 90-days of retirement.
Sheriff McQuillan reported that his office is adequately staffed with administration and deputies. Contracted jails are no longer taking inmates (except in cases of Partner Family Member Assault or violent felony). He is unclear whether the County can take inmates out for hearings and get them back in, and some counties have migrated to video-only arraignments.
C. Lynde stated she is fully mobile and functioning with her laptop as her septic applications are submitted on-line and she has a full year to complete inspections.
L. Lynde stated that while many Treasurer services are available on-line, her office can’t close to in-person transactions. She will explore fixing the drive-up window.
Bailey reported that the MSU Extension office can conduct their work from home. She has canceled all meetings and outreach.
Newell will arrange to increase capacity for virtual/remote connections to the County computer server for more employees to work from home. MXIE phone system can forward calls to cell phones and computers.
Commissioners Bullock and Blain approved working from home for anyone whose duties enable them to. Commissioner Bullock discussed staffing and compensation for “at-risk” personnel, who will be home being paid, stating that they are to keep separate accounting within TimeClock, and that the Commissioners’ decision will be re-visited on a week-to-week basis. These “at-risk” employees must be available by phone and to report to work. Nichols asked about a flexible schedule for his staff in order to reduce contact with public but keep up with work load; Commissioners were in support.
Discussion about work-related travel; there will be no further government travel for the time being.
Kohley inquired about building sanitization. Newell has spoken with the Maintenance Crew about focus spots and has provided Clorox wipes for departments to sanitize their personal work spaces at end of every day.
Commissioner Blain asked about the County’s jail population. Nixon will look at the population and determine whether anyone with a lesser crime could be released.
Newell inquired whether any County processes had the ability to be digitized and put on-line. Commissioners stated that the key is the availability of services and that it’s up for departments to decide how to accomplish those services.
Respectfully submitted: Barbara Daniel, Commissioners’ Secretary