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Delta County jail goes into lockdown as precaution

ESCANABA — In its first virtual meeting, the Delta County Board of Commissioners addressed multiple issues related to COVID-19 — including an ongoing lockdown of the Delta County Correctional Facility.

County Administrator Emily DeSalvo said Sheriff Ed Oswald has been concerned about the possibility of COVID-19 spreading throughout the correctional facility. In the hopes of preventing this scenario, he and Undersheriff Phil Griebel developed a plan to have several corrections officers stay at the facility 24 hours a day. The lockdown started last Sunday and is set to continue for the next two weeks.

“This (lockdown) is consisting of these officers, who all volunteered to be a part of this program and living at the jail, and they each have a 12-hour shift,” DeSalvo said.

Accommodations for the officers have been set up at the sheriff’s department. DeSalvo said having these officers stay at the correctional facility has lowered the risk of them carrying COVID-19 into the facility from the outside world or vice-versa.

DeSalvo also spoke about the costs of putting the correctional facility on lockdown.

“The sheriff and I looked at his budget to make sure that we had money within the budget to cover costs. There’s costs related to overtime costs, obviously,” she said.

While an exact cost for the lockdown was not available, the estimated cost of continuing it for two weeks was roughly $134,000. It was determined the department would be able to fund the lockdown for at least that long.

Oswald and Griebel have put together new schedules meant to limit contact between road patrol officers, as well.

“We’re looking ahead. We don’t want to run into a scenario where we run out of road patrol officers for the county,” DeSalvo said.

DeSalvo also spoke about changes made in the county’s housekeeping department in response to COVID-19.

“We’ve taken one of our housekeepers and placed her strictly out at the airport and that’s been working out really well,” she said.

DeSalvo asked the board about the possibility of having the courthouse professionally cleaned in the near future.

“We’re trying to get ahead of the game as far as cleaning goes for our employees as well as the public,” she said.

The courthouse would be completely closed and fumigated on Friday.

SERVPRO of The Upper Peninsula, based in Ishpeming, submitted a quote to do this work on all three levels of the courthouse at a cost of $24,031.49. Due to the urgency of the request and the lack of local companies qualified to do the work, the county did not get multiple quotes for the cleaning. However, it has had positive experiences with SERVPRO in the past.

“It’s the same company that we used when we had the sewer problem on the first floor of the courthouse,” DeSalvo said.

DeSalvo believed costs associated with the courthouse cleaning, along with other costs related to the county’s COVID-19 response, could potentially be reimbursed with federal funding distributed through the state government.

“We’re hoping that any of these added expenses that we’re doing due to COVID-19 all would be something that we could get reimbursement on,” she said.

In another courthouse-related item, DeSalvo requested the board approve the extension of the facility’s closure to the public. The board’s initial decision to close the facility was set to expire Tuesday.

“I was hoping that our governor would come out with how she’s going to move forward as far as an extension on her Executive Order 21,” DeSalvo said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had not released details on her plans for this as of Tuesday’s county board meeting.

The extension of the courthouse closure by another week was approved by the board. The closure will be reviewed at the board’s statutory meeting next Tuesday.

DeSalvo also relayed information from Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Geyer. Geyer has been attempting to request personal protective equipment through a system known as MISIMS.

“It’s an ongoing thing that he’s been checking into daily,” DeSalvo said, noting the system has been overloaded recently.

According to DeSalvo, representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met with Geyer and a group of local healthcare workers to discuss local buildings that could be used for hospital overflow.

“We do have that plan in place to make sure that we have the equipment and the facility necessary in case we do come to that with patients at the hospital,” she said.

In other business, the board:

– extended Delta County’s previous declaration of a state of emergency due to coronavirus indefinitely.

– voted to uphold the county’s denial of a Freedom of Information Act request made by Ron Beauchamp, acting on the advice of the prosecuting attorney.

– moved discussion on the possible construction of a car wash at the airport to a meeting of the finance committee. The car wash would be built by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which is seeking a loan from the county.

– renewed a service agreement with Trane Building Services.

– agreed to contact the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress to set up mediation services between the county and Pinecrest Medical Care Facility regarding the use of space at Pinecrest for Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties board meetings

– approved a two-week extension to a request for qualified attorney services for the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission after receiving no responses to the request.

– authorized a letter of agreement between the sheriff’s department and the local Teamsters union.

– supported a resolution made by the Marquette County Board of Commissioners requesting that the Great Lakes shoreline be declared a disaster area due to high water levels. The board also agreed to write a similar resolution for Delta County, which will be voted on by the board at its statutory meeting.

– agreed to write a letter in support of the Delta Conservation District’s efforts to clean up the Escanaba River.

– tabled discussion on a request to build an additional wall in Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties’ space at the Delta County Service Center.

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