County Manager Column from April 7, 2020

This column was originally published as a "From the County Manager" column on our employee intranet.

Continuing our work in new ways in a new environment

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected work across our departments in so many different ways. As an example, Public Works staff and our contractor partners continue to press ahead with this season’s projects but with new practices and precautions.

This past weekend, crews successfully completed removing about half of the Dale Street bridge over I-94 as that project – the first of our construction season – got off to a start. A usually heavily-traveled stretch of I-94 was closed throughout the weekend to allow for this work, but with traffic down about 50% across metro highways the impact was significantly reduced. On the job site, things are done differently than before – one operator will stay with the same piece of equipment throughout; field inspectors and technicians drive alone instead of in teams; personnel between two shifts of work crews stays consistent; and social distancing is continually practiced. We did need to postpone a community kickoff gathering scheduled for the project – however, we intend to instead hold the celebration upon the $15 million project’s completion.

Different areas are making comparable modifications to how we are continuing to do our work – from providing curbside materials pickup at our library system, to the Assessor’s Office hosting “Open Book” meetings about property valuations exclusively by phone, to our new system of document drop-off and processing sites and customer contact center.

Whereas the COVID-19 response has dramatically increased our workload in some areas of the county – and we anticipate more to come in the weeks ahead especially in the areas of Public Health, Workforce Solutions and Financial Assistance Services – it’s been very inspiring to see how our essential day-to-day work has pivoted in other areas to meet the needs of our residents, businesses and visitors. This is a testament to the ingenuity and commitment of staff in every corner of this organization.

You may have read about other local governments beginning to furlough employees or discussions of layoffs. This naturally raises concerns for all of us. As I said in the video update emailed to all employees this past Friday, our organization is needed to support the community as much as ever right now and I have no interest in discussing furloughs or layoffs at this point. We recognize that our work is changing day-to-day – as the examples above outline – but that our role remains valuable and important every day to our neighbors and community now as much as before and after this pandemic.

I’d like to remind everyone all of our employee communications during this time are available at our public website at ramseycounty.us/coronavirus in the “Employee Information” section. We continue updating this frequently, and I encourage you to check back often. In addition, every week you can find the latest Service Delivery Form updates - we continue posting these on Tuesdays to be absolutely transparent about our decision-making at every stage in this process.

I hope you are continuing to stay safe and well during this time of change. I know this has been trying in ways we haven’t experienced before both in our professional and personal lives. I’m encouraged each day as we tackle our work despite challenges at all levels that we’re succeeding in getting through this along with our community by working together.