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Second COVID death in county

A second person has died from COVID-19. Barron County Public Health announced the death on Tuesday.

"Our hearts go out to all who are grieving," said Health Officer Laura Sauve. "We would like to express our deepest condolences to everyone impacted by this loss."

The county has had 80 people test positive for the coronavirus. Twenty-nine of those are active cases, all of which are isolating at home.

Nearly half, 39, of those positive tests have been reported in the last 12 days, according to Public Health releases.

Barron County has administered 4,483 negative tests.

Statewide testing resulted in a record 1,117 new cases being reported on Tuesday. It was the third highest total of tests administered in one day in Wisconsin.

The statewide percentage of positive tests was 7.7% for Tuesday.

Seven-day averages for the percent of positive cases are:

July 15-21: 7.83%.

July 8-14: 7.19%.

July 1-7: 6.93%.

June 24-30: 5.3%.

June 17-23: 3.36%.

A total of 44,135 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for the coronavirus, which includes 9,369 active cases, according to the Department of Health Services, and 859 people have died.

Public Health encourages everyone to frequently and thoroughly wash their hands, stay home when sick, practice social distancing, avoid gatherings and crowds, and wear a face covering/mask.

"These are simple things everyone can do to protect themselves and others. The more things we can all do to lessen our risk of exposure, the better off we all are," said Sauve.


Rollbacks helping build bridges

Barron County Highway Commissioner Mark Servi and State Rep. Romaine Quinn visited the White House on July 16 to hear President Donald Trump deliver a speech on the administration's regulatory rollbacks. The rollback of federal infrastructure and environmental regulations has allowed the Barron County Highway Department to complete projects more quickly and under cost.

"We applaud the Administration's continued efforts to enable local infrastructure projects to be undertaken in an expedient yet responsible manner," Servi said in a Highway Department press release.

When contacted through email, Servi explained that the repeal of Waters of the US and an Executive Order expediting infrastructure benefited the county.

Another program that the county has taken advantage of is Wisconsin's Local Bridge Pilot Program.

"The Local Bridge Pilot Program substituted state dollars for federal dollars," Servi said. "This allowed us to expedite the project time lines substantially."

The program is funded 80% by the state and 20% through local funding. The program is used for projects with little to no environmental impact and saves time by excluding some reports and surveys.

Four bridges will be built in a span of 5 months, instead of the typical 18-24 months, Servi said.

Two already have been completed, he said, and the third will be done by the end of July. The fourth bridge, on Hwy. D over Four-Mile Creek is scheduled for construction later this fall.

Servi said that the bridges had been scheduled for construction in fiscal year 2022, but were able to be moved to fiscal year 2020.

Gun rights 'sanctuary' rejected by county

The Board of Supervisors voted 25-2 against a resolution that would declare Barron County to be a "constitutional county" at its July 20 meeting.

Before the board's discussion and vote, resident Susan Brooks of Almena reminded the supervisors that they had already taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and said there would be "great confusion among citizens of the county if supervisors felt the need to make a statement on something they have already sworn to uphold."

Former county supervisor Keith Hardie said there is more to the U.S. Constitution than the first two amendments, including lots of checks and balances assuring legislators do their jobs correctly. He urged the supervisors not to pass the resolution.

In a discussion by the supervisors before the vote, Chairman Louie Okey said he has had several calls on why the County Board is taking up a national issue. He explained that the request, with 4,011 signatures of county residents, was respectfully submitted and the board was asked to take action on it

Part of the petition read, "In light of legislative action in the State of Virginia threatening Second Amendment rights, as well as the views supported by the current Wisconsin governor, we feel that passing a resolution proclaiming Barron County as a Second Amendment sanctuary is both appropriate and timely. We would like to work toward ensuring that our freedoms are protected and we are asking for your support."

"They were respectful and followed the procedures," Okey said.

Supervisor Terry Lee said if they pass it, they are doing what the Constitution says they cannot do. He said the county has neither the right nor authority to change nor amend

what they have already sworn to uphold.

Supervisor Bob Rogers noted if the County Board starts "playing games with the Constitution," it has an excellent Corporation Counsel to advise them and set them straight. "I urge my compatriots to vote no," he said.

Supervisor Gary Taxdahl wondered why it was presented to the County Board in the first place. "I wish someone would have been here, or those who signed the petition," he commented. "It'd be nice to hear the argument to pass it from those who petitioned it."

Supervisor Bill Schradle said, "I'm a strict constitutionalist, and I'm very much opposed to it."

Supervisors Bill Effertz and Steve Johnson voted for the idea, though neither spoke during discussion of the motion.

Supervisors Pam Fall and Don Horstman were absent.


A July 9 article "Local banks loaned millions in PPP funds " incorrectly identified the Barron County business awarded the largest loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. Rice Lake Weighing Systems was awarded between $5-10 million, and Mastercraft Industries was awarded between $2-5 million. It was also incorrectly stated that CCF Bank made the loan to Mastercraft. The loan was provided by BMO Harris Bank National Assn.

The correct information was included in a related article titled, "PPP of $33 million to local biz."

Tiny homes project still on hold

An organization looking to guard against local homelessness is hoping third time is the charm for a 'tiny homes' proposal in Rice Lake.

For the second time in recent months, Rice Lake City Council turned down ordinance changes that would allow for 8-by-12-foot to 8-by-20-foot tiny homes in the city. Aldermen expressed a desire to move the project forward, but not before working out more of the details.

A motion passed 6-2 to direct city legal counsel to help define the differences between tiny homes and standard RVs, limit the tiny homes to church or fraternal organization properties and get more building standards from project originator Benjamin's House Emergency Shelter. The project will be considered again at a future meeting.

"We're tailoring this to Lori's project," said Alderman Dan Schwab, referring to Benjamin's House director Lori Zahrbock.

An earlier motion to approve the homes made by Todd

Larson and Doug Edwardsen failed 6-2.

"Let's not make it so restrictive that it doesn't get done," said Edwardsen.

Zahrbock said the tiny homes are intended as a middle step between moving people from the shelter to permanent housing. She said people would ideally be placed in a tiny home for 3-6 months and no more than a year.

"It's really giving someone the opportunity to get back on their feet, get that job, deal with some issues that might be barriers and then find some permanent housing," she said.

Homes would be built by volunteers, including Rice Lake high school and tech school classes, she said. Indoor amenities include a bed, air conditioner, heat, microwave, fridge, writing area, shelving, coffee maker and a small bathroom with a chemical toilet. There would be no plumbing—rather inhabitants would get water, as well as electricity, from a nearby church, for example.

Current city ordinances do not allow dwellings under 900 square feet, except in mobile home parks. Tiny homes could be permitted through a conditional use ordinance on a caseby-case basis.

Zahrbock said the shelter hopes to build two tiny homes in Rice Lake initially, and has plans for homes in Cumberland and Barron as well.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)