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County Board declares peacetime emergency to address the potential for civil unrest

The Mower County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday voted to declare a peacetime emergency to help law enforcement in the event of civil unrest in Mower County.

“This declaration authorizes the sheriff to commit the resources necessary to protect the citizens and their property from activities of civil unrest,” said Mower County Administrator Trish Harren.

The decision came as protests and riots over the death of George Floyd have erupted throughout the nation.

Minnesota Statute authorizes the county board chair to declare a state of emergency that is in effect for 72 hours. The full county board, however, has to take action on it for it t o be valid. Mower County Sheriff Steve Sandvik asked County Board Chair Jeff Baldus to declare a state of emergency after concerns of potential non-peaceful activity were raised this past weekend.

Sandvik asked the board on Tuesday to approve the action and extend it to July 5. After discussion, the board decided to extend it to Aug. 4.

The board also voted to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency to July 7.

The Emergency Operations Center is set up to address emergency operations for both situations.

The board also passed a resolution to relocate county elections to City Hall.

“Although the name of the resolution only states absentee and mail-in (ballots), it is actually our entire election activity,” Harren said. “We will be moving our election department to City Hall.”

The move was made to provide more space for the expected increase in absentee and mail-in ballots for the 2020 election. The county’s election department will be located on the second level of City Hall from the end of June through the end of November.

“The County appreciates the generosity of the City of Austin in offering this location and we look forward to working collaboratively to deliver a safe and secure primary and presidential election,” Harren said.