Clay County Commissioners Jim Haney and Grant Weyland attended their last county commission meetings as their terms expired. The two men were lauded by fellow commissioners, current and past county administrators and Clay County Department heads. Their leadership, generosity of time spent in serving the county and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty were praised. County Administrator Stephen Larson said, “The public may see this job as just popping in on Tuesday morning for a meeting. They don’t see the days that start with a committee meeting at 7 AM, continue with other meetings through the day and finish with another committee meeting that finally ends at 9 PM.” Referring to the willingness of both men to hear from the public, Larson stated, “Sometimes you get phone calls and they aren’t happy with you.” The men received plaques honoring their service to the county presented by Sheriff Mark Empting on behalf of his department and County Administrator Stephen Larson on behalf of the commissioners and county departments. As a thank you to spouses who sacrifice family time to county needs, flowers were presented.
Clay County Public Health Director Kathy McKay and Kent Severson, Environmental Health Director and Manager of the Community Health Board, met with the commission. County business owners appeared before the commission on December 15 to appeal to commissioners for help for their businesses which were negatively impacted by the pandemic. At that meeting the Clay County commissioners stated their desire to assist local businesses trying to stay open and have actively pursued relief solutions.
Commissioners Mongeau and Campbell noted that the County CARES Act Committee met recently to discuss the plight of small businesses as well. Mongeau said, “Our CARES Act Committee reconvened last week to start discussing mitigation with some of the funds that were allocated at the state level. Commissioner Campbell and I have really had a lot of phone calls from restaurants that are really feeling the pinch.” Explaining that the food businesses are under orders to be closed right now, Mongeau continued, “We are trying to see whatever we can do to ease the strain on their business structure right now. Certainly, if a company is trying to keep people on the payroll and pay rent on a facility, the last thing we want to do as a county is pose a hardship on getting licensure or renewing it.”
Mongeau and McKay explained that easing or refunding licensure fees cannot be done directly by the Clay County Board of Commissioners. It needs to be done through a different board, the Community Health Board, made up of Clay Wilkin, Becker and Ottertail Counties. Commissioner Frank Gross serves on it representing Clay County. Commissioner Kevin Campbell added that licensure fees, due on a specific date at the end of the year would be or have been already collected from businesses that are barred from being open by executive order. He expressed his feeling that it wasn’t right to collect license fees for the period of time in which a business is barred from being open.
Severson pointed out that a range of licensure fees exists from as little as an annual $295 payment for a ‘mom and pop’ operation to as much as $3000 for a hotel with pool, restaurant and bar.
Severson explained that an individual county cannot act to change or refund licensure fees without the permission of all the counties on the county health board. The commission’s request for a Special meeting of the Community Health Board was approved. The Clay County Board requests that the Community Health board discuss potential adjustments to 2021 licensing fees in response to Covid-19.