Freeborn County board declares state of emergency

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the county in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

The action comes as the state reached 60 confirmed cases on Tuesday, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. No cases have been confirmed so far in Freeborn County. 

All Freeborn County buildings and facilities will be closed to the public through April 1, including the Freeborn County Government Center, Freeborn County Human Services and the Freeborn County Highway Department. 

Email newsletter signup

While the buildings will be closed to the public, normal county services and operations will continue to be provided to the community on the same schedule, through both phone and email, a press release stated. Many services can also be done online if necessary and citizens are encouraged to explore those options.

The Freeborn County board’s workshops scheduled for March 24 and March 31 are canceled, and the status of board meetings after April1 will be determined at a later time. 

The release stated the law enforcement lobby will be open 24 hours a day for emergencies, and only cases with a high priority will be heard in district court through April 1. All parties will be escorted to and from any court hearings and must enter through the law enforcement entrance. People with court hearings scheduled in that time frame can call 507-377-5157 to determine if their case will be heard or rescheduled for a future date. 

People who need to drop off tax payments or real estate documents for the Freeborn County recorder or auditor-treasurer’s office can do so through a box in the law enforcement lobby. 

Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen said COVID-19 response “exploded” on the county level at about 5 p.m. March 10, and county and city officials have been working ever since then to establish an emergency plan.

He said an emergency operations center has been set up in the Freeborn Room of the Freeborn County courthouse. Staff are working with other county partners, including representatives from long-term care facilities, day care facilities and the city’s fire department, to name a few.

Jensen said he and Freeborn County Public Health Director Sue Yost and Emergency Management Director Rich Hall are talking daily about plans, and they are working specifically on isolation and quarantine plans. All travel for county employees has been suspended. 

He said the county is making arrangements to conduct board meetings electronically if necessary and will be equipping the commissioners with county-issued electronic devices.

“I am confident we are as prepared as we can be,” Jensen said.

Fourth District Commissioner Chris Shoff spoke of the severity of the situation and said he anticipates by this weekend or next week, there could be a state or even national shutdown.

He said part of the county’s response should be to inform residents of misinformation going around about COVID-19 and talked about how the impacts are worse than what many think.

Board Chairman Glen Mathiason asked about the mental health portion of services the county provides and whether they would continue.

Jensen said mental health services are in the group with top priority of services.

He said courts are reducing anything less than high priority hearings.

Jensen said people can expect the county to take more aggressive action than other counties because about 26 to 27% of the county is in a category deemed more vulnerable to the virus.

Hall said in China, where the new coronavirus originated, things are starting to return to normal. He said this shows there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that the county, too, will get through this situation.

“It’s important for people to know we are going to get through this,” Hall said.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved a conditional use permit to expand an existing permitted feedlot for Luke Nielsen at 22948 790th Ave.

Trevor Bordelon with the Environmental Services Department said the permit allows for the increase of equivalent of 1,800 head of nursery swine.

The issue was approved unanimously at the planning commission March 2.

Commissioner Dan Belshan thanked the Nielsen family for helping to build the tax base in Freeborn County.

  • Passed a resolution placing Department of Human Services Director Suzanne Nerison on regular full-time status.

Personnel director Candace Pesch said Nerison has been “an amazing hire” thus far in her time with the county.

  • Had a public hearing regarding repairing a portion of County Ditch J9 as part of a project with the Shell Rock River Watershed District, which received a grant to cover expenses.

The ditch is being proposed to be repaired to a multi-stage ditch, and is expected to achieve goals of nutrient reduction and water storage.

The board approved extending the public comment period two weeks until March 31.

  • Approved an amendment to ordinance language for Chapter 42 Article II Division 1.
  • Approved changing hours for the Veterans Services office to 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Contacts for impacts to Freeborn County Department of Human Services mandated services 

Financial assistance programs:

Cash, emergency assistance, food, child care assistance


Health care:

If you are someone who is elderly, disabled or in a nursing home, you or someone authorized to act on your behalf should call the office at 507-377-5400 so a health care application can be mailed to you.


Child protection:

To make a child protection report, call 507-377-5400 and ask for child protection intake or call law enforcement


Adult protection/vulnerable adult reporting:

Call the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center at 1-844-880-1574 or call law enforcement

Adult mental health case management, children’s mental health case management

disability services, chemical health assessment and treatment coordination:

Call 507-377-5400 or go to

Child support services:

If you typically drop off child support payments directly at the Human Services office, please contact the office to make arrangements. For questions, contact 507-377-5400.


Crime Victims Crisis Center:

Call 507-377-5460