Wyoming City Council reviewed the results of a survey on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city as part of its meeting held Tuesday, April 21.
At that meeting Kelly Dumais, Wyoming’s assistant city administrator, presented the data from surveys created by a Madison, Wisconsin, company called Polco. The company has a software platform that allows government officials to solicit input and gauge sentiment about public policy from area residents.
“As we are navigating the city’s response to COVID-19, one of the critical questions we wanted to know is how this pandemic is affecting our citizens and our businesses,” Dumais said. “We didn’t want to guess or assume – we wanted to have data.”
Wyoming delivered two surveys through its social media channels, using emails and links from the city website. One survey focused on COVID-19’s impact on residents, and the other focused on the impact felt by businesses.
Dumais said 39 residents and nine businesses responded to the surveys. She added that, while the surveys may not be a scientifically representative sample of the entire community, they do provide an opportunity to receive feedback on these topics.
“One of the biggest issues faced by residents is concern over how long [the pandemic] will last, and what the world will look like as we navigate through this,” Dumais said. “Businesses are concerned about employees potentially being exposed to COVID-19, and when they will open again.”
She said that the data will be used to shape future communications and programming by the city.
“One of the things we have seen from this data is that people have mental health concerns,” Dumais said. “We can emphasize messaging in that area; that’s an example of how our actions can be shaped by the data.”
Council also dealt with two policies brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first explained the city’s response to first responders who are exposed to virus, and the second was in response to the federal government’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which sets the standards by which employees receive leave.
“Our first prior is to protect not only the staff member, but also residents and other members of the staff,” Dumais said of the first policy. “This policy presents three different ways the exposure could be classified, and it gives supervisors direction on whether the responder should quarantine or continue working.”
The second looks at the two levels by which employees can take leave: through a doctor’s recommendation to be quarantined, or because of the need to take care of children or loved ones. If an employee is quarantined by a doctor, they will receive full pay from the federal government. If an employee is taking care of someone else, they will received two-thirds pay, also subsidized by the federal government.
Council member Linda Nanko-Yeager asked how employees determine that patients are COVID-19 positive or display symptoms.
“Self-reporting is the most reliable,” said Police Chief Paul Hoppe. “Recently, the governor enacted an executive order to share addresses of people determined to be COVID-19 positive – not the name of the person, but the address. The theory is that the public health officials will report addresses, and that information will be relayed to officers prearrival. That gives us some reliable information to determine the level of risk.”
Both policies were approved unanimously.
Hoppe said the city also is adding mental health decals on the rear window of its police cars.
“As we face COVID-19, one of my concerns is that, as people are social distancing, it reduces their interaction with core support groups,” he said. “One of the things that we anticipate is that we will see more mental health issues. … So to be proactive, we decided to add the Suicide Lifeline number to the back window of our squad cars.”
The suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.
Housing project moves forward
The Minnetonka-based Roers Company has approached the city of Wyoming and Chisago County regarding a 66-unit housing project. The land for the project, located on First Avenue just to the west of Forest Boulevard, is jointly owned by the city of Wyoming and the Chisago County HRA/EDA and is known as the Bingham Property.
Last year Roers approached the city regarding a smaller project on the Bingham Property site, but the project did not move forward when it did not receive a 9% affordable housing tax credit grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
“Last year’s project was approximately 49 units, and this one is 66,” City Administrator Robb Linwood said. “They feel this better fits the needs of the community and also improves their chances to receive the MHFA grant.”
To receive the grant, the company needs a completed option purchase agreement and a resolution that would support the use of tax increment financing for the project.
“The council isn’t making any decision on this,” Linwood said. “We want the council to have full information to move forward and make an informed decision on the project.”
Mayor Lisa Iverson and all three board members in attendance – Yeager, Claire Luger and Dennis Schilling – each approved the project moving forward.