MENOMINEE — The Menominee County Board of Commissioners Tuesday granted the county administrator the authority to make changes to county policies as needed during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was one of among several decisions the county board made in regard to handling the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which has forced Menominee County to make several decisions in the past few weeks, including shutting the county library and allowing some employees to work from home.

County Administrator Jason Carviou requested the county board formally grant him the authority to make changes to county policy and operations “on the fly” as new executive orders continue to come in from the State of Michigan.

“Simply for the fact that it’s not feasible to have you guys (the county board) meet every other day, it seems like now,” he said.

“I’m very good at understanding where the board stands and this would give me the ability to move much faster,” Carviou said.

This discussion item was moved forward to an action item and then approved unanimously.

Carviou also gave a brief update on the county’s recent response to the situation and some decisions he has made that will financially impact Menominee County.

He has authorized Menominee County Emergency Manager Tom Phillips as many overtime hours as he needs during the duration of the pandemic, as well as authorized some overtime for the IT person who is needed to set up VPNs for county employees authorized to work at home.

Several county employees have been authorized to work from home, Carviou said. Each employee has been designated “essential” and “not essential,” in accordance with an Executive Order passed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday.

The executive order issued a stay-home order that requires Menominee County to close all operations that “are not necessary to sustain or protect life or to support business and operations necessary to sustain or protect life,” Carviou explained.

Law enforcement, public safety and first responders, as well as staff deemed essential to continue basic operations of the government, are all exempt from the stay-home order and may continue operations.

Essential employees will remain at the courthouse to continue working on their every day work and operations, while non-essential employees are either authorized to work from home or are given a paid-furlough.

Menominee County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to continue paying staff sent home during the pandemic.

Department heads, elected and appointed officials are all considered essential. Each department also consists of one secondary employee to help the department head to continue operations.

“This does create some extra compacity in those departments as well. If the virus does get into the courthouse and we need to send an employee home because they have gotten sick, we can then call on someone who was sent home and hopefully they didn’t get sick,” Carviou said.

Essential staff are required to continue to work from work sites or from home.

Essential staff who work from home are required to stay at their residence during business hours to remain available via phone or email during this time.

Carviou said not only are staff required to continue working as paid, but they must also follow the quarantining and social distancing guidelines provided by the state government.

Some departments, including the buildings and grounds department are now alternating its staff on a weekly basis to help promote social distancing and to ensure there is always a healthy staff member to continue operations, he added.

Staff members who are designated non-essential and are sent home must also remain at their residences and be available via phone or email as much as possible. These employees are “on call” in case they need to be called in to complete their work.

In other business, the board also extended its local state of emergency declaration until April 14. The initial declaration, declared by Chairperson Gerald Piche, only lasted seven days. Tuesday was the seventh day.