A difference of opinion led to a heated discussion during the Baldwin Village Board meeting May 13.
Trustee Matt Knegendorf had been leading the debate among board members the last couple of months in the case of COVID-19, or another pandemic, or a natural disaster, Village employees could work from home. Knegendorf also questioned why, for example, the Police Department has a different IT guy from the Administration Department.
The fireworks started when Knegendorf got to Tracy Carlson, Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer. Carlson explained with two elections in the last two months and the increase in demand for absentee ballots that came from those elections and the steps Village officials have to do with each ballot, it was easier to do that work from the office and not establish a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Furthermore, she added she didn’t want to send Steve Perry, Deputy Treasurer home to do payroll and bills during that time. In addition, she thought she could save the Village $600, which would be the cost for the creation.
Those answers didn’t sit well with Knegendorf, who said it was “a request that needed to be done”, especially after hearing EMS and Public Works can answer emails from home and Police Chief Darren Krueger saying he was working on getting a new VPN before the Board request. As for the $600, Knegendorf called it a “drop in the bucket”.
Carlson explained she meant no disrespect intended by her actions; with the election madness the last two months, one of the last things she thought of was working from home, even though, she stated her and her husband spent nights stuffing ballots.
Knegendorf understood the stress level with the first election, but asked about the second election, especially since the Village Office was closed. Carlson and Jodi Peterson, Deputy Clerk, replied with over 400 absentee ballots for the May 12 election, the work didn’t stop.
Board President WIlly Zevenbergen tried to play peacemaker as he and fellow member Lance Van Damme echoed both sides have to start working together and he understood where both sides were coming from.
“This whole pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone,” Zevenbergen said.
The request for the VPN will be done the next day, Carlson said.
When it came to IT networks, Police Chief Darren Krueger said, there IT guy is also Hammond Police’s IT guy and “he’s become very familiar with our stuff,” he continued.
“It’s not easy to learn,” Krueger said. “The knowledge of our systems is irreplacable.”
As for other COVID news, with the news the Safer at Home order was lifted before the Board meeting started, it was approved to reopen the Village Hall May 14 with the exception of the library. Library Director Rebecca Dixen said she’s participated in multiple meetings with fellow library directors and the frustrations level is rising on how to handle safety precautions upon opening.
“Do we stand at the door and squirt sanitizer for everyone that comes in or do we limit it to 10 people in a room at a time?” she said were among some of the options floated about.
Board members were in favor of having plexiglass in the windows for the Clerk’s Office and Police Department, but the employees weren’t on board.
Peterson, whose desk is the closest to the window, wasn’t in favor, as she felt it wasn’t a barrier and it wasn’t as welcoming to the public. Krueger said if the Police Department was going to have some form of protection, they would prefer a professionally installed bulletproof window.
The final piece of action that was COVID related was Board members approving a $50 fee for Class B and Class C alcohol licenses, starting June 1, 2020 through July 30, 2021. The move was seen as a goodwill gesture, Board officials said.
Matt Dougherty from the Taste of the Windmill Days celebration spoke to give the Board the latest updates.
Scheduled for June 3-7, ‘big ticket items’ such as at the parade and Laser Light Show have been cancelled. Dougherty explained there will be eight food trucks stationed throughout the Village and believes social distancing guidelines could be followed. Other events include a coloring contest, virtual bike tour and sidewalk/chalk art.
“We’re going to try to get together as a community without getting together as a community,” Dougherty said, which drew laughs from nearly all those in attendance.
The Board approved the following items:
— Brad Boldt as the new Public Works Director, effective July 15.
— Committee assignments for the upcoming year with the only change being Austin Van Someren replacing Lisa Knutson as he replaced her on the Board.
—Chip sealing Energy Street from US Highway 63 to Alreich Avenue.
—The Clerk’s Office to issue operator’s license instead of board approval. Trustee Doug Newton was the lone no vote.
— The appointment of Kathy Jo Brihn as Municipal Court Clerk. At the same time, they thanked Tammi Hovde for her 12 years of service as municipal judge.
— Subway’s request to exceed the sign ordinance for its new building. It was stated during the meeting both the size and the number of signs were the issues.
— The Board acknowledged the plaque from St. Croix Economic Development Corporation for its 25 years of service
— Heard from Krueger who stated National Night Out will likely be moving from August to October.
—EMS Chief Tom Boyer stated a recent transport included a positive COVID-19 patient. No employees had to miss work and the Village PPE’s equipment was fine as of the meeting.
— Carlson provided the voting results from the May 12 special election for the 7th Congressional District seat. Four hundred ninety-seven absentee ballots were issued with 361 returning. Two hundred ninety-four people came into Village Hall and voted May 12. She also stated the Farmers Market will open June 6 as it was already deemed an “essential business”.
— The Board of Review was set for 5-7 p.m., Tuesday, May 26. Zevenbergen, Van Damme and Knegendorf were the Board members selected.