BEMIDJI -- Overtime policies for county employees were adjusted Tuesday to accommodate those who're working more hours than usual, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

During a meeting held by teleconference on Tuesday, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners expanded the amount of employees eligible to receive overtime pay. According to County Administrator Kay Mack, the overtime rules are set through contracts.

"We have contracts for most of our employees that govern when and how they take overtime," Mack said. "We have employees who are designated as exempt employees, and for those exempt employees, there are specific rules we have to follow."

Mack said exempt employees in normal circumstances aren't eligible for overtime. However, on Tuesday the board chose to make an exception.

"These are extraordinary times and we have people putting in extraordinary efforts and time," Mack said. "So, the county board did allow for an exception to be made for those exempt employees to be eligible for overtime. We're also going to do everything we can to get that reimbursed where possible, particularly through FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency)."

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Another finance-related discussion that took place during the meeting was about the due date for the first half of real estate property taxes, which is May 15.

"County Auditor JoDee Treat made a report about the county's financial position, and where we are in terms of meeting our cash needs until the end of May," Mack said. "The county has a need for property taxes to come in, but we also understand that businesses are particularly in a difficult situation, since they have little to no revenue coming in right now."

Because other counties are facing the same situation, Mack said Beltrami officials are turning the subject to the state for a decision.

"We're hoping the Legislature would address that on a state-wide level, especially because there are a lot of people who own property in more than one county," Mack said. "The due date is still over five weeks away, so we're going to see what the Legislature chooses to do. If they don't address that, we'll take it up no later than the meeting on May 5."

Mack said a county can't extend the due date. However, Beltrami officials could consider altering its abatement policy and whether or not to apply a penalty.

COVID-19 cases

As of Friday afternoon, there were five total cases reported by the Minnesota Department of Health. The number is an adjustment down from six that was reported earlier this week.

"It's a situation where an individual who was living in another community, according to the information from the MDH," said Beltrami County Public Health Director Cynthia Borgen. "With what they had, they had attributed them to Beltrami County, but the person was later able to provide information that shows they live in a different county."

Of the five, Borgen said one case had international travel and the other four had gone out-of-state. According to Borgen, the MDH is working on a new system for collecting and sharing data that should be ready for counties next week.

"One of the things we want to track is when individuals are out of isolation. I haven't been able to get that updated data yet, so I'm hoping next week we'll have that," Borgen said. "We do know that the first case is past the isolation period. However, we can't just look at the 14 days, because some people have an illness, and even if it's mild, it might last for a month. It just depends on how hard it hits somebody."

In counties surrounding Beltrami, the current number of cases are:

  • Cass with three.
  • Clearwater with two.
  • Itasca with two.
  • Koochiching with one.
  • Roseau with one.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 33,894 completed tests in Minnesota, with 1,336 positive cases, 57 deaths and 732 no longer needing isolation. There are currently 143 people hospitalized in Minnesota and a total of 317 people have been hospitalized since the first illness was reported in the state.

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