Butler County’s state of emergency declaration: What does it mean?

The Butler County commissioners declared a state of emergency on Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the move mobilizes resources to battle spread of the potentially deadly disease.

Normally, the commissioners must approve most actions and expenditures made in the county, but they only meet once a week. The resolution allows County Administrator Judi Boyko to move quickly to respond to emergency needs during the crisis and to spend up to $100,000 without prior commissioner approval, on goods and services related to the pandemic. Normally her legal spending limit is $25,000.

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“It is for general county operations in trying to abate this,” Boyko told the Journal-News. “It could be buying subscriptions to remote access for computers, it could be buying materials we need to abate something that’s going on at the Care Facility. It doesn’t categorize one type of expense, it’s all encompassing.”

Boyko said she put some conditions on her ability to spend the money, namely she will get three informal estimates and will tell the commissioners when and why she feels the need to exert this authority. Any purchases will ultimately be approved by the commissioners after the fact.

“You can delegate these to the administrator but I wanted to do them only with conditions that I felt would be very practical and would be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money,” Boyko said.

Boyko said on Wednesday she has not had to exceed her spending limit.

The declaration also implements a three-tiered approach to how the county government will function during the emergency, with hopes to contain spread of the potentially deadly disease.

Boyko said the county implemented the first tier weeks ago, and it includes sanitizing all county facilities and encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick.

The next two tiers involve finding ways to limit use of county facilities, curtailing out-of-town travel for training and finding ways for employees to work remotely. The most drastic step would be to shut down county buildings, which has not happened.

“The county will continue to function, it may be functioning in a little different look, but it still will be open for business,” Commissioner Don Dixon told the Journal-News. “We’ll still be able to help protect our employees and the rest of the community by not having everybody elbow-to-elbow and exposed to the public every day.”

Boyko said a major step in minimizing the spread for people needing county services was implemented Wednesday when the lobby of Job and Family Services was “moved” to a conference room in the first floor of Government Services Center. The rooms, which are closest to the parking garage on the south side of the building have their own separate entrance.

“We have significant traffic to those floors and those people,” she said. “We’ve attempted to be a good landlord and try to restrict that traffic from coming into the building if someone is affected, impacting other offices in this building.”

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