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Merced County leaders feel pressure from public as pandemic, shutdown continue

 

The Merced County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, April 28, starting at 10 a.m.

The meeting is closed to the public (see more info below for public comment opportunities) but it can be viewed live on the county’s website, Facebook page or on Comcast TV Channel 96. A TV rebroadcast for Merced and Atwater viewers is also available at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday. 

Mark your calendars to tune in. 

The last meeting, on April 14, provided some good information regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic and local spread of the disease. It also featured some provocative video viewing for residents, and a few resulting news stories that went viral in social media circles. 

District 5 Supervisor Scott Silveira ended up apologizing for comments he made at the end of the meeting that suggested county social workers may want to “rethink their line of work” after they raised coronavirus-related safety concerns in the workplace.

“You signed up for this,” he said. “You chose to work for the county. In a time of crisis, this is when we are suppose to step up. We have to perform the essential services of government. … This is your job. This is what you signed up for. There are mechanisms in place that if you don’t feel comfortable going to work, there are plenty of rules out there to protect you. You don’t have to come. You need to have an honest conversation. Maybe when this is all over, you may realize that county work is not for you.”

The remarks by Silveira, at the end of the meeting, followed complaints from social workers that were submitted in two anonymous public comments read aloud to the board at the start of the meeting. 

The workers requested to work at home with pay, or within alternative schedules, in order to promote increased safety, as is being done in neighboring counties. They said they couldn’t practice social distancing in the office because their desks are less than 6 feet apart.

The next day, a YouTube video was posted, splicing together the social workers comments and Silveira’s response. It was shared by local union representatives. 

The supervisor then issued a video apology in which he said it wasn’t his intention to single out social workers or diminish their job. He admitted he could have said things better. He also revealed the county was indeed working on a new remote work access available for certain Merced County workers. 

Sheriff and the church

Meanwhile, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke and his deputies made some headlines after a local pastor was cited for holding an Easter Sunday service with dozens of people.

Deputies showed up to issue a citation for holding the service with 50-60 people inside the Iglesia De Cristo sanctuary on Weaver Avenue in Merced. 

At the April 14 meeting, Warnke told the board: “I’m sure each one of you electives are taking some heat from our constituents. I fielded more than 50 calls yesterday alone. Most of them were supportive, some were beating me up pretty good. I have a fine line to walk with regard to public safety and constitutional rights. And just to make this real clear, and this is your talking point, people have constitutional rights to do a lot of things until they violate my rights as a citizen. … Bottom line is that we all know that this pandemic has spread through church events and funerals. … This is not a joke.”

It was reported later in the week that Warnke and the local pastor, Fernando Aguas, made amends and worked out a way to provide religious services online, and through home visits by church leaders with use of social distancing. 

Nevertheless, California recently changed its policy to allow for drive-in services amid a lawsuit filed by the Center for American Liberty. The Merced County Health Department on Friday followed suit, allowing for drive-in services with restrictions and guidelines.

ALSO …  at the April 14 meeting, The sheriff revealed his department has been releasing non-violent inmates from Merced-area jail facilities, and the number of local bookings have dropped drastically. 

 

BOS regular meeting details, including instructions for public comment:

Based on guidance from the California Department of Public Health and the California Governor’s Office, in order to minimize the spread of the COVID 19 virus, Board Chambers will be closed to the public during the Merced County Board of Supervisors meetings. The following alternatives are available to members of the public to watch these meetings and provide comments to the Board before and during the meeting:

AUDIO/VIDEO BROADCAST: All Board meetings are normally broadcast live and replayed on local cable television. A list of cable channels and broadcast times are available at the following website: http://www.countyofmerced.com/1581/Comcast-Ch-96-Broadcast

Live stream of the Board of Supervisors meetings at https://www.facebook.com/MercedCounty/ or https://www.countyofmerced.com/2206/Board-of-Supervisors-Meetings.

The Agenda is divided into three sections:

  • CONSENT CALENDAR: These matters include routine financial and administrative action and usually are approved by a single vote.
  • SCHEDULED ITEMS: These items are noticed hearings, work sessions and public hearings.
  • REGULAR CALENDAR: These items include significant policy and administrative actions. Immediately after approval of the CONSENT CALENDAR, if the time of the hearing of SCHEDULED ITEMS has not arrived, the REGULAR CALENDAR will be considered.

PUBLIC COMMENT (Email): If you wish to make either a general public comment for items not on the day’s agenda or to comment on a specific agenda item, please submit your comment, limited to 250 words or less, via email. To ensure your comments are read into the record, we encourage the public to please submit by 5:00pm on the Monday prior to the Board meeting to the Clerk of the Board at [email protected]. Every effort will be made to read all comments received prior to the Board meeting into the record, but some comments may not be read due to time limitations. These comments will be made part of the record.

In an effort to assist the Clerk in identifying the agenda item relating to your public comment please indicate in the Subject Line, the meeting body (i.e. Board of Supervisors Agenda) and item number (i.e. Item No. 10). If you wish to do so, please identify yourself in the email.  Email addresses will not be read into the record of the meeting.  All comments received during the meeting will be made part of the record and will not be read at the Board meeting due to time limitations. Comments made on Facebook are not considered part of the official record and will not be shared with the Board.

PUBLIC COMMENT (Voicemail): You may submit a general public comment for items not on the day’s agenda or comment on an agenda item via voice message by calling 209-385-7319.  All voicemails received prior to 9:00 am on the day of the meeting will be played during the meeting.  Voicemails will be limited to three minutes in length.  Please submit one comment per voicemail and if commenting on an agenda item, please identify the agenda item number in your voicemail.  If you wish to do so, please identify yourself in your voicemail.  Phones numbers will not be made part of the record of the meeting.

PUBLIC HEARINGS: Public comment during public hearings will be taken in real time via email.  Once the public hearing is opened, the Board of Supervisors will pause the meeting for ten minutes in order to receive emails directed at the public hearing (up to 250 words) and will read comments into the record after resuming the meeting, as time permits.   Please indicate that comments are for a particular public hearing by putting “Public Hearing” in the subject line of the email and the title of the public hearing. Email comments to [email protected]

CLOSED SESSION: Is the portion of the meeting conducted in private without the attendance of the public or press to discuss certain confidential matters specifically permitted by the Brown Act. The public may comment on any matter to be considered for closed session using the email procedure set forth above.  As set forth above, if public comment concerns a closed session item, please include the title of the item in the subject line.

BOARD AGENDA AND MINUTES: Board agendas, minutes, and copies of items to be considered by the Board of Supervisors are posted on the Internet at least 72 hours preceding a Tuesday meeting at the following website: www.countyofmerced.com.

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS:

Persons who require accommodation for any audio, visual or other disability or Spanish or Hmong interpretation in order to review an agenda, or to participate in a meeting of the Board of Supervisors per the American Disabilities Act (ADA), may obtain assistance by requesting such accommodation in writing. Please address your written request to the Clerk of the Board, 2222 M Street, Merced, CA 95340 or telephonically by calling (209) 385-7366. Any such request for accommodation should be made at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled meeting for which assistance is requested.

Spanish and Hmong interpreters are available.

Interpretes de espanol y hmong estan disponibles.

Peb muaj tug paab txhais lug Mev hab Hmoob

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