While a lot of activity in St. Ansgar has come to a halt as the novel 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the state, the town is still hard at work to protect their neighbors and maintain a sense of normalcy.
Brenda Esdohr is one of almost a dozen local women donating their time, materials and other resources to helping soften the blow of personal protection equipment (PPE) shortages in surrounding healthcare facilities. She, joined by others, have been tirelessly cutting and sewing homemade N95 masks for nurses on a local level, as well as in faraway states like California and Georgia.
Masks featuring fun racecar patterns have also been made for local kids with health problems. Almost a hundred masks have currently been requested.
Esdohr said that the team is currently working on 15 orders for masks, with more seamstresses pitching in as th movement gains momentum.
Meanwhile, St. Ansgar businesses and households are rallying to keep children displaced from their classrooms occupied. Families are hitting the pavement to spot four-leaf clovers, teddy bears and other themed scavenger hunt items in windows.
On a county level, the Mitchell County board of supervisors are working to identify a way to funnel aid money back into the community and give St. Ansgar families and small businesses a crutch to stand on until the COVID-19 storm passes.
Supervisor Stan Walk said that the board is considering the possibility of using tax increment financing (TIF) money to boost Mitchell County’s economy. While the conversations in the courthouse are still in their early stages, and depend on movement at the state and federal level, Walk said that the community aid action could be written into a new urban renewal plan that, pending many complex components fall into place, could be finalized in six to eight weeks.
Currently, new construction of housing or commercial industrial buildings are the only projects eligible for TIF funding. The urban renewal plan rewrite would open up the restrictions to better assist local families and businesses.
“We don’t want to lose our main street businesses,” Walk said. “Including something in the urban renewal plan may allow us to help. We want to make sure that we keep all of our options open. We are very concerned that everyone in the county survives this thing.”
Board Chairwoman Barb Francis said that the county is working to get updated information organized from the Department of Public Health.
While the supervisors haven’t delayed in getting the conversations about helping the community during this crisis started, there are still a lot of boxes to check before anything official can be rolled out.
“We will need a bonding attorney to write up the urban renewal plan addition, then we will have to publish a notice of public hearing. […] All in all, this will take six to eight weeks at minimum,” Walk continued, “in order to utilize this money to help everyone.”
As of Wednesday, March 25. there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mitchell County. Refer to last week’s edition of the Enterprise Journal, or the Department of Public Health, for information on symptoms and prevention.