A recent outbreak of COVID-19 at the Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center resulted in one death, according to information presented to Pierce County commissioners at their regularly scheduled Feb. 3 meeting.
Prison administrator Mike Graner told the board of commissioners that officer Tony Anderson, 55, died on January 26 after contracting the disease. Graner asked the board to approve donating 171 hours of sick leave to Anderson’s family. The board approved the request unanimously.
Graner added that the outbreak, which began Jan. 4, has forced staff to use about 434 hours of sick leave in total.
In other prison-related matters, Graner told the board that the number of inmates at the facility for January was 61. During the outbreak, the facility had asked other prisons to house inmates which would normally be reserved for the HACTC. Graner said 77 inmates were housed at the facility as of Feb. 1. The high number of inmates in January was 81, with 24 bookings and 23 releases. The prison recorded a deficit of $20,994.95 for December. Graner reported that 21 of 24 officer positions have been filled at the prison, with one resigning and one candidate being interviewed.
Graner also attended a discussion by commissioners on the use of U.S. Federal Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address the impact of COVID on the county. The commissioners decided to discuss the subject at their regular meeting in March.
Graner asked the board to consider purchasing a medical-grade air purification system for the prison from HA Thompson and Sons, a maintenance service the facility already uses. The board approved a regular maintenance agreement with the company for $6,780. Graner also asked the board to consider upgrading 18 cellblock cameras at the facility at a cost of $18,332. Graner updated the board on work being done on a fire control panel at the jail and the purchase of a new transport vehicle.
In other matters, the council voted to reduce the value of Pierce County farmland by 1.4% on the recommendation of Kelsey Siegler, the county’s tax manager. Siegler added that she had received new information from the USDA about soil types in the Pierce County townships of Hurricane Lake, Rush Lake, Wolford and Union. Soil types determine the taxable value of farmland, according to Siegler.
Council has approved one of two tax abatement applications submitted by residents of Pierce County.
The board also approved the financial reports for December and January. Commissioners approved transfers of $4,000 from the County General Fund to the Community Service Fund and $100,000 from the Highways Distribution Fund to the County Roads and Bridges Fund.
After approving January’s expenses and financial statements, commissioners reviewed information from Don Wolf, chief financial officer of the North Dakota Supreme Court. The council voted unanimously to maintain an agreement to receive a 0.57% reimbursement for providing the services of the district court clerk in the 2023-25 legislative biennium.
The council also voted to increase the rating for blade and snow removal services in Pierce County townships from $205 per certified mile to $215 per certified mile.
The Pierce County Board of Commissioners holds regular meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Its meeting scheduled for February 1 had been postponed to February 3 due to a snow storm. The council’s next regular is scheduled for March 1 at 8 a.m. at the Pierce County Courthouse.