Dodge County Board Postpones Work On Public Health Ordinance

(Juneau) The Dodge County Board Tuesday night sidelined an ordinance that would have set clearer guidelines for health officials when combating communicable diseases. When the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Health Secretary-designee Andrea Palm’s safer-at-home order was unlawful, many counties began reviewing their own ordinances to determine whether there was a basis for local orders. Dodge County discovered, like many other counties, that they did not have an ordinance governing public health matters or diseases; instead relying on state statutes.

In the following weeks county officials began drafting an ordinance that would give Dodge County Public Health distinct procedures and developed parameters should a localized order be needed. The move sparked a community backlash with concerns over constitutional overreach. Around 250 citizens lined the entrance to the Dodge County Administration Building in Juneau prior to last night’s meeting. With most chanting “please vote no” or “throw it in the trashcan” at passing supervisors.

Supervisor Lisa Derr says the ordinance does not give county health officials more authority but rather lessens and more accurately defines it. She says that any order the public health officer would give would have to be specific.

Several supervisors questioned if adopting an ordinance would have even changed the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic while others felt the cause did not justify the means. Most of the discussions turned out to be a moot point as the county learned last week that the Wisconsin Counties Association established a committee to begin work on a state-wide county-level health ordinance.

Dodge County Board Chairman Russ Kottke says it is no guarantee this committee will actually write an ordinance. However, he says the county has postponed working on their own to wait and see what the committee ends up doing.

Listen to the Dodge County Board discuss the ordinance: