Branscom provides county reopening data

Gale Rose
Pratt County Emergency Manager Tim Branscom updated the Pratt County Commissioners on the re--opening status of Pratt County businesses, activities and facilities at their May 16 Board meeting.

The level of re-opening state after the shut down for COVID-19 is now in the hands of the individual counties. While the governor recommends counties follow her plan, the counties now have the final say what will happen and when.

Pratt County Emergency Manager Tim Branscom updated the Pratt County Commissioners on the re--opening status at their May 16 Board meeting.

Decisions on what and when things open will come after meetings among the county health department, city and county commissioners and their legal counsels and Dr. Gene Cannata. The governor continues to recommend that counties follower her re-open schedule but it isn't required, said Darci Van Der Vyver, county director of public health.

"It's up to each county. We can still follow the guidelines or do away with everything," Branscom said.

Decisions on what action the county takes will be announced at commission meetings.

Tyson Eisenhauer, county counselor, said there could be potential legal problems if a decision by the health department or local departments is challenged in court. So each decision will have to be carefully considered. The governor's recommendations are just that, recommendations, and there are no "teeth" if the plan is not followed. Like so many aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, there are many unknowns.

Counties will be paying close attention to the State Legislature when they had back into session May 3. Currently, a disaster declaration is in place but that is set to expire on June 10. Without that disaster declaration, the state will not be able to request assistance from the federal government. Every county would be on their own, Branscom said.

During the disaster declaration, counties were able to get personal protection equipment from the state and federal government. So far, Pratt County has received from state and federal government supplies: 1,250 COVID-19 test kits for the health department and hospital 6,000 plus N95 masks; 11,000 three ply non-surgical masks; 1,000 surgical masks; 500 cloth masks for critical infrastructure personnel; 500 face shields including over 50 re-usable face shields; 150 surgical gowns including 100 gowns that can be re-used up to five times each, easing the need for individual disposable gowns; 475 Tyvek suits (coveralls); disinfectants.

The state also received 1.2 million food packs. With so many businesses shut down, these packs are needed for families in need.

"This (disaster declaration) is vital to smaller communities," Branscom said. "If this disaster declaration is null and void, it will hurt us."

While coronavirus requires a lot of attention, county business is still being conducted. Commissioners reviewed bills from Terracon for a geology report and Landmark Architecture for the Public Safety Building project.

Commissioner Glenna Borho said she would be checking on numbers on how much the county owes them and report at a later commission meeting.

Heather Morgan, county economic development director, continues to work on a federal grant for the proposed Public Safety Center. The proposed grant would be 75-25 with 25 percent being paid by Pratt County. The exact details of the grant are still being processed and results will be announced at a future commission meeting.

Bids for replacing windows and doors and for repairs to the roof at the Law Enforcement Center were opened May 25. Hershberger Contracting out of Hutchinson and A&R Roofing submitted bids for the roof repairs. Commissioners approved the A&R bid for $89,836 but approval is subject to A&R providing a surety bond and a public works bond before the Commissioners will sign the contract, Eisenhauer said.

Hopper Glass of Wichita and Hershberger submitted bids for LEC window and door replacement. Some clarification on everything the bids covered was needed so the companies will be contacted. No decision on the bids will be made until all elements are clarified.