June 17, 2020 – Dodge Co., WI – More than 250 people turned out Tuesday night, June 16, 2020 in a call to action regarding a draft proposal co-sponsored by the Dodge County Health & Human Services Committee. According to Dodge County Supervisor Mary Bobholz the purpose of the ordinance was to give the county a guideline on public health and safety. Members of the community felt the guidelines were an overreach.
According to reports from the scene:
-There were over 200 people at the meeting. It was a very respectful group that chanted “Please vote no” and “toss in the trash” as the representatives/committee member walked into the building.
-About 100 people were allowed in different rooms and the hallway of the building to maintaining social distancing. The rest were instructed to go on the south lawn and speakers were getting set up so we could hear.
-It was awesome at points we all cheered and clapped. It was a great feeling all our calls and presence was noticed and made a difference.
According to Dodge County Administrator James Mielke
-Mielke said the issue was “not tabled.” The item was on the agenda for informational purposes only so there would not be a vote. There was never the intent to have a vote.
-“There was discussion at the board meeting and the county board chair said the Wisconsin County Association (WCA) has a work group established that is reviewing an ordinance template of how to address this issue.
-“Dodge County does not have a legal template in place to issue an order, if that would ever be necessary. This is not directly related to COVID; it is looking long term at what would happen if there’s another type of virus or disease that would threaten public health and how that would be handled.”
-“This issue has generated the most emails and phone calls of any issue the county has had in recent memory,” according to Mielke.
-“The biggest negative is the understanding by the public that this decision would solely rest upon one individual; the appointed public health officer. What is clear in the draft ordinance is if an order needs to be written it would need to be cosigned by the county board chair and then ratified by the county board of supervisors. There was considerable discussion about whether the board would call an emergency meeting to address whether any order would be issued.”
-Questioned whether the ratification by the board during an emergency meeting would need approval by a simple majority of 17 or by a super majority of 26 of the 33 board members. Mielke said there was nothing discussed regarding a vote. “This is a draft and that can be addressed.”’
-“Is there a mandate that Dodge County adopt the recommendations by the WCA, the answer is no. But is it prudent to have that legal framework, the answer is yes.”
-“The recent State Supreme Court decision has led to counties realizing there are some limitations and to address that hole in our ordinances and help us look long term moving forward.”
-“There is a major difference between what the Supreme Court struck down and what is in the proposed Dodge County ordinance. What the Supreme Court struck down was the general nature of some of the orders at the state level and what Dodge County wants with this draft is it would have to be specific, not general. The ordinance makes it specific and if there is an order it has to reasonably address the identified issue so having the specifics narrowly defined makes this different from what the State Supreme Court struck down.” Mielke then quoted the draft language below.
-“This language is designed to be specific and not general,” said Mielke. “The Dodge County public health officer would be the one who would make the determination and do the investigation and articulate the rational basis for the order and then have the cosignature of the county board chair in order to have the order countersigned. She would also have to articulate those to the county board to have those specifics ratified.”
-Mielke said the lockdown by the state had a negative impact on businesses in Dodge County. “It definitely had a devastating and negative impact and there is a concern nobody wants to return to that state but that’s not the goal either; this is designed to provide a specific legal framework rather than the general outline provided by the State.”
-Mielke said the WCA is a statewide committee. He confirmed various communities were affected differently by the recent COVID outbreak regarding the number of people affected.
-Dodge County Corporation Council Kim Kass is on the WCA committee drafting a template. A full list of members is posted below.
The county board chair indicated the WCA has established a work group to work on a template. That first meeting was June 16, 2020. There are representatives from across the state meeting June 23, 2020 and hopefully the work will conclude in three to four weeks and recommendations could be made by mid-July.
“At that point it would go through the committee structure with the Health Association and the Executive Committee before it goes the county board,” said Mielke.
In neighboring Washington County a statement will be released in the next 24 hours regarding WCA and the recommended guidelines. Early word is Washington County government is expected to take a hard pass on the WCA guidelines.
Click HERE if you would like a directory to phone your Dodge County Supervisor.
The Dodge County Board Room is on the fourth floor of the Dodge County Courthouse, 127 E. Oak Street, Juneau, WI.