Crawford County Public Health Director Kim Fineran on Wednesday sent a letter to the Andersons Inc., parent company of The Andersons Denison Ethanol LLC, requesting that the company postpone the seasonal maintenance scheduled for next week at the plant.
Fineran told the Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that approximately 100 contractors from all over the country will converge on the local area to perform maintenance on the plant.
“The timing is really bad for us in the state and where we’re at in the whole response effort (to COVID-19),” she told the supervisors.
She said she talked to representatives of the ethanol plant and was told that the company knows the companies that have been hired to perform the maintenance, but has no knowledge of from where the individual subcontractors will come.
Fineran was told the company had no control over what the workers do during the time they are not working at the plant.
She said she was concerned that the workers would be occupying area hotels, and buying food and other commodities.
Postponement was not an option, Fineran said she was told; postponing would have a heavy financial impact on the company.
She was also told that the company had received no complaints about similar maintenance projects at other plants.
If postponement was not an option, she asked about doing daily temperature checks of workers upon arrival and departure at the worksite. She was told that precaution was acceptable.
The plant manager asked her to send him her recommendations in writing.
In her letter, Fineran noted that “Iowa is experiencing significant community spread of the virus. Iowa also experienced its first death related to coronavirus yesterday. President Trump has declared a National Emergency, Governor Reynolds has declared a State of Public Health Disaster for Iowa, and Crawford County has also issued a Disaster Declaration in response to coronavirus. The state has closed its schools, recommended very limited travel for those over 60 year of age and those with underlying health conditions, and has closed several types of businesses and limited restaurants to carry-out, curbside pickup, or drive-through to help reduce the coronavirus.”
She noted the mitigating strategies recommended by the state and federal governments, which include avoiding groups of more than 10 people and avoiding all unnecessary travel.
In the letter, Fineran again requested that the company “Postpone the maintenance outage to a time when there is less coronavirus activity in the U.S. and Iowa.”
She reiterated that if the company does not postpone the maintenance, she recommended daily temperature checks, minimizing group congregations and minimizing travel within the community.
She recommended that each contractor designate a runner to pick up food and supplies.
The letter was cosigned by Doug Soseman, chair of the Crawford County Board of Health; Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer; Greg Miller, Crawford County Emergency Management Coordinator; Erin Muck, Crawford County Memorial Hospital CEO; Pam Soseman, Mayor of Denison; and Evan Blakley, executive director of the Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County.
Fineran told the supervisors that she would contact area hotels and inform them about the people coming for the maintenance project.
She said she would ask the hotels to ensure that cleaning takes place – and to consider doing extra cleaning when the workers leave.
“That’s all we can do,” Fineran said.
The Bulletin and Review left phone messages with three individuals at The Andersons Denison LLC plant, including the plant manager, on Thursday morning but did not receive a reply by press time Thursday night.
The Bulletin and Review also contacted the governor’s office about the issue but did not receive a response by press time.