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To: Board of Renville County Commissioners April 27, 2020

From: The Cities of Renville County


Subject: A Plea for Collaboration, Partnership, and Shared Participation

Honorable Chairman Fox and Renville County Commissioners,


First and foremost, we thank you for your time in reading this letter from the cities which comprise
Renville County. This is not the path we anticipated, nor wanted, to take as we exist in the COVID-19
pandemic. We all wish for collaboration and cooperation with streamlined and effective management. These
lend themselves to the betterment of our citizens and their lives; as is our sacred charge as public servants. To
such end, we, the cities of Renville County, find ourselves at an impasse with Renville County Emergency
Operations Command (EOC) management staff. To such end, we entreat your intercession on our behalf.
As you may be aware, the cities of Renville County have been frustrated by the lack of inclusion in
the County’s Emergency Management process. We have made requests to be included in the regular EOC
meetings. Our goal is to be kept abreast of the latest information and resources as well as contribute in a
meaningful way. We were initially invited to a handful of teleconference meetings with the Renville County
Hospital. The scope of the situation grew to a point where it was decided to end those and transition to EOC
led meetings. City representation and inclusion on the front line ended there. Requests were made to be
included but were rebuffed. Significant effort went forth into convincing the EOC to collaborate with us. The
result was an allowance to “listen” to one of the three EOC whole communities meeting this past week; the
proverbial ‘children’s table’, if you will. We were told we are not invited to the other 2 weekly meetings.
Given we cities are on the front-lines of the pandemic you can imagine our frustration at the lack of
cooperation. We have grave concerns over all of this.
Amidst a pandemic we should all be working together to implement the best solutions to ensure the
safety of our citizenry. Our structure of government is to serve the public; one of the people, by the people,
for the people. Collaboration and cooperation, working together and leveraging all of our resources together,
directing them in a fashion to suit the front-line needs for our citizens is our plea as the cities of Renville
County. We cannot accomplish this effectively through the existing structure of excluding us from the
conversation. We cities must be at the table with everyone else for a variety of reasons:
• The cities of Renville County make up 63% of the total population of the county. COVID-19 is a
people-only disaster event. Infrastructure is not being destroyed, as with a fire or tornado. The direct
and only target is people. Exclusion of the governmental entities closest to them, cities, from the
direct emergency management conversation is unacceptable.
• The services which cities provide are essential functions to society. We provide law enforcement, fire
protection, emergency services, and the basic utilities which make society life in a city possible.
While the County has similar or relative experience in some of these, cities comprise the expertise in
most. Our knowledge and perspective in the total conversation is elevated by bringing these to bear.
Exclusion of us aims to be willfully negligent of the impacts for our services on our citizenry.
• We have long standing relationships with the very individuals, businesses, and entities which the
EOC want to work with. Exclusion of us from the table excludes our ability to assist the EOC in
making these connections and facilitating greater communication and resource allocation. Impinged
communications and resource allocation create greater uncertainty for all of us.
• We are all talented professionals and elected officials, adept at running governmental organizations.
We are fully capable of participating in the efforts to provide communication, feedback, ideas, and
solutions to situations which may arise. We cities are acclimated to working with each other and
sharing information and ideas. Outside of a pandemic and in normal life it is commonplace for us to
have discussions with each other about other topics to seek out best practice solutions. Yet, we are
excluded.
• We cities are also accustomed to working with our colleagues at Renville County which makes the
current exclusion even more frustrating. Our local law enforcement works and assists the Sheriff’s
Office (our officers moonlight for the County and vice-versa). Our local administration works with
the Assessor, Auditor, Health and Human Services, and the EDA/HRA on a variety of items. Our
public works staff works with the Highway/Public Works Department.
• Minnesota State Statute 12.25 Subd. 2(b) clearly states that county emergency management activities
have no jurisdiction in cities and townships which have their own emergency management
organizations. As such, any unified regional emergency response to the current pandemic (or any
future emergency situation that may come our way) needs to be approached as a joint cooperation &
collaboration between separate local units of government; as peers united in common purpose and
mission.
We are not asking for control. We are not asking to be sole decision makers. We are asking to be
included so we may participate in the conversation to help and be helped. That is the ultimate purpose of
Emergency Management; to help our citizens in an emergency situation. The County EOC has barred us
from serving this important function as part of the combined and coordinated emergency management
efforts. We, the cities of Renville County, come to you, our County Commissioners, for resolution to this
impasse. We ask that you amend the present County Emergency Plan to allow officials from our respective
communities to serve as representatives to the County’s established Emergency Operations Command with
the right to both contribute and receive complete & timely information regarding emergency operations and
plans; with the shared goal of serving the health, safety and welfare needs of our citizens.

In appreciation of your consideration,

City of Sacred Heart: City of Renville: City of Olivia:


Randy Johnson, Councilor Janette Wertish, Mayor Sue Hilgert, Mayor
Shane Wohlman, City Admin. Dan Coughlin, City Administrator
City of Morton: Aaron Slagter, Emergency Mgr. Brian Stenholm, Emergency Mgr.
Pam Hopkins, Clerk
City of Hector: City of Franklin:
City of Fairfax : Janis Weikle, Mayor Todd Scherman, Mayor
Brad Augustin, Mayor Andrea Aukrust, City Admin. Wendy Pederson, Clerk
Nick Johnson, City Admin. Zach Pierce, Emergency Mgr.