Washington County will use a $360,000 grant from the State Emergency Operations Center to support COVID-19 testing.

The county board accepted the grant at its Tuesday Sept. 15 meeting.

The county has been actively involved in the COVID-19 response since March, according to a Tuesday, Sept. 15, press release from Washington County. Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 remains a barrier for residents and facilities in the county, due to supply shortages and access to labs. The county will work with the SEOC to coordinate additional COVID-19 testing in the county.

Testing services could include mobile delivery, as well as testing events, both small and large, at locations around the county. Events may be targeted to high-risk and high-need populations, with the emphasis on residents who may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The testing will be done at no cost to residents who are tested, and will be done regardless of symptoms.

Testing events will be coordinated between the county, the SEOC, and the City of Cottage Grove, which will provide trained testers/swabbers and other support. The County Board approved a contract with the city for an amount not to exceed $860,000, which will come from the $360,000 grant and $500,000 that Washington County received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The money will pay staff, such as nurses and community health workers, and for supplies for the clinics.

The testing will be done in addition to the testing by Bluestone Physicians under a county contract. The primary focus of the work of Bluestone will be targeting and offering testing at residential care facilities, such as long-term care and group homes, but it may be expanded to include other community-based settings.

Highway renovations

In other business, The Washington County Board of Commissioners approved at its on Tuesday, Sept. 15, meeting paying Meyer Construction $627,421 for raising County State Aid Highway 12 in above flood waters. The board agreed to a contract to complete work necessary to raise CSAH 12 above flood waters after the adoption of a local emergency declaration related to the localized flooding. Washington County solicited request for quotes from six contractors for this work, and received five bids July 15, the Tuesday release states. The lowest responsible bid was received from Meyer Contracting Inc. The work was started July 21, and the road was opened July 31; the work was completed Aug. 5.

In recent years, Minnesota has received unusually high precipitation and a number of landlocked basins are over capacity, creating localized flooding. An unnamed basin, north and south of CSAH 12 (Stillwater Boulevard), just east of Kimbro Avenue, continued to rise in 2019 and 2020. Prior to winter freeze-up in 2019, the basin was at an elevation that required closing the bituminous trail south of the county highway.

After spring 2020 snow melt and the rain this summer, the basin water has overtopped CSAH 12. The roadway was closed to traffic June 29. The elevation of the pond will rise to approximately three feet above CSAH 12, before the pond flows to the south. Kimbro Avenue was also closed to traffic earlier this year, due to water on the roadway.

Board approves conservation area in May Township

The Washington County Board of Commissioners also agreed at its Tuesday meeting to use the county’s voter-approved Land and Water Legacy Program to establish a County Conservation Area in May Township. The LWLP protects land and open space in the county through the acquisition of parkland and conservation easements on highly valued natural areas. Opportunities exist to purchase land outside of the county’s park system to provide protection and meet the goals of the county LWLP. The first potential CCA is the Guarnera property in May Township, which has 38 acres of land with natural features with hardwood forest, wetlands, and waterbodies, including Long Lake shoreline. The property is on 170th Street North to the west of Norell Avenue, a half-mile from Big Marine Park and within one mile of Warner Nature Center. It is in the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District. The land has rolling topography, with seasonal wetlands, white and red oaks, red and sugar maples, and paper birch trees, along with significant wildlife. Activities that will be allowed on the land are hiking, walking, running, nature observation, visits by education/school groups and research with a use permit, watercraft access by carry in, archery hunting, and shore fishing. Waterfowl shotgun hunting on Long Lake and trapping by permit will also be allowed. No development, property division, or industrial, mining, or agricultural use will be allowed.

The landowner approached the county and the Trust for Public Land several years ago, seeking permanent protection of the parcel. The county will contribute $240,000 from the county’s LWLP. The project lead and partner is Trust for Public Land, which will be matching the contribution with state funds.

The county will be the owner and steward of the property, as well as a financial contributor to the project. The Trust for Public Land will negotiate the purchase, and do the due diligence for the purchase, as well as contribute financially.The Trust for Public Land and the Washington Conservation District will create a restoration and management plan for the project.

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