Petersburg Borough Assembly meetings with Petersburg Medical Center leadership in May 2021. (Photo by Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

The Petersburg Borough Assembly directed the borough manager to form a small COVID committee to continue communications with the Petersburg Medical Center and the school district. They voted on the issue at their last regular meeting, Aug. 16. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

The new COVID committee will not be the same as the previous Emergency Operations Center. That was the message from Assembly Member, Jeff Meucci, who brought the issue up to the assembly.

“I don’t want it to be a big [like] the whole EOC like we’ve had in the past,” he said.

Instead, Meucci said he wanted two or three people on a committee with the borough manager leading the group. The manager would have the flexibility to form the committee, which would attend local COVID meetings to improve communications with the borough.

“To make sure that the assembly has enough information so when the time comes to respond to something that the hospital or the school board asks us [to], that we can,” Meucci said.

Meucci also wanted links on the borough’s website to the local COVID Dashboard for case information as well as links to the school district.

Assembly Member, Chelsea Tremblay, spoke in support of forming a committee:

“I think this makes a lot of sense updating old language and having a small team of people to figure out how we can be more prepared as a community given the rapid ability for things to change,” she said.

Borough Manager Steve Geisbrecht said he thinks the borough can already respond quickly to an emergency. He said he already had Sandy Dixon, the borough’s Emergency Manager, attending COVID meetings with the hospital and the school board. He said they’ve also put the COVID links back up on the borough’s website.

Geisbrecht said he’s looking into identifying a public health officer who could help address three things specifically: quarantines and possible enforcement of those, the harbor and controlling boats with COVID on them, and how the borough would handle an outbreak if it happened.

“There are a lot of different things we could if there’s an outbreak, the challenge is do we really want to do them?” said Geisbrecht. “I mean, you can do mask mandates, we can cut capacity in social groups and public meetings. You know, we’ve really gone down that road; I’m not sure we want to go back that way.”

Geisbrecht said he already has the authority to call an emergency for seven days if needed and then get the assembly into a special meeting to address it.

Mayor Mark Jensen spoke against making a small committee, saying he liked the way things were running now. Assembly member, Bob Lynn, agreed saying the borough manager already had a plan to address their concerns.

“I think Steve’s got a handle on it; that he can move forward. I don’t think there needs to be a vote on it,” said Lynn.

Meucci said he wanted something more formal. He and several other assembly members talked about the importance of keeping the schools open with in-person learning. Here’s Dave Kensinger:

“My main concern was that there was good communication between the borough, the hospital, and the school system and if we can assist each other, particularly the schools, they have a big job ahead of them,” Kensinger said. “We all want to make sure that our kids are in school this year and whatever we can do to make that happen and if we can facilitate that in any way possible I think we need to be ready to do that.”

The direction to start a small COVID committee passed on a 4 to 3 vote with Jensen, Lynn, and Taylor Norheim in opposition.