By Rich Palzewic
HOWARD – With the spread of COVID-19 causing cancellations around the area, the Howard village board conducted its Monday, March 23, meeting remotely via computer and phone.
“This was a good option for everyone,” said Village of Howard President Burt McIntyre. “At the very least, I think everyone would rather see us conduct our monthly meeting this way instead of canceling it altogether.”
The next scheduled meeting is Monday, April 13.
Ed Janke, Howard fire chief, gave an update from the fire department on COVID-19.
“All current staff has been getting daily updates on the situation,” Janke said. “We are fully engaged in this, and we have several initiatives we are working with Brown County on. Speaking to my colleagues across the state, Brown County is far and away ahead of every other county in the state in terms of the handle we have. Given the situation we are in, Brown County Health is doing a great job of keeping everyone safe. It’s too early to congratulate anyone, but I think we will experience a much better outcome than other counties thanks to the efforts of the county.”
Trustee Craig McAllister asked Janke if there was any end in sight.
“There will be a period of community outbreak,” Janke said. “As that grows, it grows on an exponential curve. If we exceed what the hospitals can handle by two or three times, then we will have problems. The idea behind the lockdown is slowing down the curve. It might last longer, but the healthcare system in Brown County can manage the care needed.”
With elections taking place April 7 in Howard, the board gave an update on the procedures in place and how residents are being encouraged to vote.
“A few weeks ago, we mailed out the absentee ballots to our permanent absentee-voter list,” said Chris Haltom, director of administrative services. “As other requests come in, we mail out the ballots. It was looking like your typical election when we first started mailing out the ballots, but that changed Monday, March 16. We started getting bombarded with requests for absentee ballots, which is good because we’d like people to vote by mail to minimize people-to-people contact.”
Haltom said there are roughly 400 people on the permanent absentee list, but the village received approximately 1,800 other requests last week alone.
“It’s hard to predict how many people will vote this election,” he said. “Four years ago, we had about 6,400 of the 12,000 registered voters cast ballots. Eight years ago, it was a much lower turnout of roughly 3,000. I don’t know where we will fall this year, especially with what’s going on with COVID-19.”
Haltom said he is also concerned the village won’t have all its election workers show up.
“We have been contacted by a few of them saying they feel they are high risk, and they don’t want to work the election,” he said. “It will be difficult to put any type of barriers up at the polling places – it’s just not conducive in many locations. Again, we are trying to encourage as many people as possible to vote absentee by mail.”
Village Administrator Paul Evert said Janke indicated he will be able to provide masks for the election workers.