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County reports 2 new COVID cases

After two weeks of no new COVID cases diagnosed within the county, two new cases were reported as of Monday, according to the Price County Public Health Department. One case had been confirmed in the previous 24 hours, bringing cumulative confirmed cases to 1,246 for the county. Statewide, 156 new cases of the virus had been reported in the last seven days, as of Monday, and 31 more were listed as probable.

The number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 still sits at seven for Price County. For the entire state, 7,373 deaths were confirmed to be due to the virus with another 838 probable. One death in the last seven days occurred and was attributed to COVID-19.

Residents statewide have received at least one dose of the vaccine at a rate of 51.1% while 48.7% have been fully vaccinated. This equates to 2,974,597 residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The number of residents who are fully vaccinated now sits at 2,837,909. In Price County 6,265 residents have received one dose of the vaccine, according to the DHS website. Just over 6,000 people, or 45.3%, have been fully vaccinated across the county.

For those aged 65 and older, 78.6% of residents have been vaccinated. Price County Public Health Manager Michelle Edwards said this statistic is reaching herd immunity status for the older residents of the county. Younger residents, though, who tend to travel and gather more, are not getting vaccinated at the same rate. Those ages 18-24 years old are only vaccinated at a rate of 27.5%. The age group of 25-34 has not fared much better with a vaccination rate at 29.0%. The age group that most recently became eligible for the vaccination, those aged 12-16, are vaccinated at a rate of 12.5% in the county.

The Price County Health Department offers some helpful tips to resident to help keep themselves and their families safe and healthy. Their first tip is to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccine is free and those looking to get vaccinated to not need an ID or insurance to receive their vaccination.

The department also advised those who don't feel well to stay home, and anyone who may have been exposed to a patient with the virus should postpone travel until they are vaccinated. The department also continued to recommend social distancing and mask-wearing for those who are unvaccinated.

Anyone with questions about COVID-19 or the vaccine can call the Price County Public Health Department at 715-339-3054.

Edwards said vaccine is available at the Price County Public Health Department, Marshfield Clinic in Park Falls, Park Pharmacy in Park Falls and Pick 'n Save Pharmacy in Phillips. Call ahead to any of the providers as appointments may be necessary.

Board funds Books by Mail for 2021

The Price County Board this month was faced with a decision about the Books by Mail program in the county. It is the last of its kind, sending paperback books to residents who are homebound or otherwise unable to travel to one of the county's libraries. The program serves 131 people now with a collection of popular paperback books that may be checked out from the library via an online platform.

The goal of the program is to mail books out within two days of each order. Postage is prepaid, but if users are able to provide return postage, it is appreciated, as it allows the program to mail more books to more readers.

The matter also came before the Park Falls Council, which tabled any decision on funding until the county made its decision. The program benefits the entire county, and council members felt the funding should come from the county.

Park Falls librarian Deb Hyde asked the County Board to grant $6,000 to carry the program through the end of the year. She said the library would look for grants and other funding for 2022 and beyond.

While 131 people may seem like a small number of people it helps, those users depend on the service and Hyde said she is committed to finding a way to continue it into the future.

The program, she said, did not duplicate the MORE system, which is a collection of popular books and other media also available. If a paperback book could not be had from the Books by Mail program, she said, it may be found on the MORE system. However, many of the books in the Books by Mail program, by design, were also available in large print. Understanding the needs of the users of the program, these books were provided purposely, she said.

Ultimately, the board agreed to continue the county's support for the program through the end of the year.

Expanded broadband

The board also took up a resolution to expand broadband service for the county. To draw new residents and to keep current residents, one of the main sticking points would be Internet service that would allow residents to work from home and children to learn from home when needed. With Price County being the fifth-mostrural county in the state, the board understood, there was a need to take advantage of the expanded broadband service that may be financed through grants.

Originally, the board approved $100,000 for the project on the authority of the Executive Committee of the county. Better understanding the total cost of a project such as this, and with more towns getting on board, an amendment upped that project cap to $250,000.

County Board Chairman Robert Kopisch said the program would be set up as a match, with the county matching funds put in by each town. Getting more towns involved would mean more matching funds and more partners. With broadband grants being competitive, more partners would mean a stronger chance to getting funds from the American Recovery Plan Act.

"It all comes down to, we have the funding sitting there," Koipsch said. "We can apply for the grant. We stand a really good chance to bring broadband to the towns of Price County."

County Administrator Nick Trimmer said he reviewed a proposal from Bug Tussel Wireless requiring the county to guarantee any debt the company would take on, with the county then owning the assets in place. Kopisch said he felt it was important to contribute to companies that are project ready. With Novardo already having a presence in the county and a track record of providing service, he felt the company could take care of the entire project, running down a given road and hooking up to those houses who opted to have broadband service. While some residents may not opt for the service, the board as a whole expressed understanding that this was a sticking point for many in the area as well as those looking to move into the area. The resolution passed with 10 in favor and one abstention.

"It all comes down to, we have the funding sitting there. We can apply for the grant. We stand a really good chance to bring broadband to the towns of Price County."

Robert Kopisch, County Board Chairman

Old-school farming

The Price County Antique Association hosted its annual Antique & Tractor Expo at the Price County Fairgrounds Friday and Saturday, offering visitors the chance to see antique tractors, machinery, tools and other artifacts that defined life in earlier times in Price County.

Phillips modifies campsite reservations

The Phillips City Council convened July 13 to discuss a number of matters in quick order. No one offered a public comment to the full board in attendance so the meeting kicked off with two easy motions. First the June minutes and then the payment of vouchers owed were both approved with unanimous votes.

The third order of business was the lease of a used grader from the town of Worchester. The city, being in need of a different machine, approached the town to inquire about use of a grader which the town used infrequently. Worchester took the matter to its board and approved a contract in which Worcester agreed to establish a five-year loan for $60,000. Providing background to the council, Director of Public Works Jeff Williams called it an "awesome machine" and "a major upgrade on the grader we have." The city would replace tires on the leased machine and sell its current vehicle.

As he made a motion to approve the lease, Alderman Richard Heitkemper said, "When you look what the needs were recently [for maintenance on the current machine], we need something. This helps both municipalities." Alderman John Klimowski seconded. A roll call vote with everyone in favor passed the motion.

The city campground was the next order of business. City Clerk Shelby Prochnow explained an issue with the reservation process, asking the city to consider scrapping reservations. Prochnow said she worked each Monday to have city staff place reserved signs on campsites that were booked through the office for the following weekend. When they attempted to deliver this news to occupied campsites they were often met with frustration when campers, hoping to stay longer, had to move to honor the next person's reservation. Meanwhile, tags often disappeared when placed so soon on empty sites.

Prochnow said this is the second year the city has used the process. She asked the council to change to all reservations or none.

"I like to guarantee people a spot but it's a big hassle and some people are not nice," she said. Williams agreed. He also said, "Sites sit empty all week when tags are up for the weekend so the city doesn't make any money during the week."

Klimowski made a motion to honor current reservations for the season but to discontinue new reservations effective immediately and to post a sign at the campsite to inform people of the change. All sites would be first-come, first-serve. Bill Elliot seconded the motion and all approved it on a voice vote. Some post-vote banter followed with Klimowski indicating the policy could change again if a better process were discovered. Alderman Marty Stephen mused the possibility of hiring a camp host.

The next item of business concerned Fayette Street. Property owner Tony Wudi was on hand to explain his current ownership of three lots at the end of Fayette Street and his interest in selling them to a third party. Wudi had thought an easement existed for the city to access a storm sewer that had been updated in 1994, but after speaking with Williams, was informed there was no existing documentation of one. In order to complete the sale, Wudi requested the paperwork be formalized. Mayor Charles Peterson said this item was not up for action but would follow the process of having a hearing within the next 40 days.

The last order of business drew the most attention with Peterson explaining a memo made available at the meeting that had been sent to Prochnow from City Attorney Bruce Marshall regarding a potential review and update of the city's strategic recreation plan.

Price County resident Lyn Ludwig recently approached the council with the request to do so. Peterson indicated the plans were created 17 or 18 years ago. Ludwig has been spearheading an effort to survey the surrounding community on their recreational interests and needs. In the memo Marshall suggestd engaging with the Northwest Regional Planning Commission as a resource in the process.

Peterson said, "A group like Northwest has the resources to come up with a plan." Prochnow said she contacted it for information on cost and how the planning process works, but that she did not have that answer at the meeting because her contact had been on vacation.

Peterson mentioned that much of the conversation Ludwig had shared about other community plans had come from places like London and New York City but that he would like to know what towns of 1,300 to 1,700 might have done in their planning process. He added the unique situation Phillips has of being set up against lake frontage. This answer would be known by an organization in this line of work. Klimowski said he would be interested in knowing what similar companies might offer for planning services, naming Ayers and Associates, Town and Country Engineering and MSA Professional Services. Peterson agreed it made sense to shop around.

Klimowski asked to table discussion on a comprehensive plan until more information could be received regarding professional services. Heitkemper added that Ludwig's survey results would possibly be available with more time as well. Peterson agreed and thanked Ludwig for getting the ball rolling on the project.

The community survey is ongoing through the end of the month and can be accessed at www.surveylegend.com/s/3b8b.

Finally, a number of committee reports were made. Heitkemper shared the ambulance report. Ambulance staff have received automated external defibrillator (AED) training and will continue online testing over the next few weeks. Corner Connection raised $1,200 through a meat raffle for the service on July 5. There is an upcoming training session in August for anyone interested in becoming a first responder for the community. There is a high need for new recruits. Heitkemper said no one was available on call in Prentice over the Fourth of July weekend causing Phillips service to double down. If anyone is interested in being trained they should reach out. Library Director Rebecca Puhl said the summer reading program is up and going strong, with programs last week well attended. The library will be remodeled starting Sept. 13, resulting in a closure until about mid-October. Ken's Carpet and Furniture Center, JR Painting LLC, and Yerges Van Liners will be contracted to complete carpet, painting and relocation efforts, respectively. Staff will not be off at this time as there will continue to be needs with the online catalogue and Puhl indicated other services are still being determined.

Elliot offered the Chamber update. Girls Night Out was well attended with 240 passports returned to the chamber. The Fourth of July was a huge success. With 50 entries in the parade, this was a bit shorter than typical, but the craft fair had around 25 booths and indicated it was one of the best ever. All the Fourth activities were well-attended, including the rodeo which was sold out both nights. The chamber asked for special recognition of the city road crews who were a huge help in setting up traffic and garbage pick up. They felt this had been a great collaboration between city and chamber.

The next meeting is Aug. 10th.


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