Band employees step up during pandemic


Housing and Public Works crews stayed busy helping Band members

When many tribal employees were on furlough during the spring and summer, others remained on the job as essential workers, including many in the Housing and Public Works departments.

"I continue to appreciate the hard work that both the Housing and Public Works departments have done during the COVID-19 State of Emergency," said Assistant Commissioner of Administration Peter Nayquonabe, who is overseeing the Community Development Department in the absence of a Commissioner. Housing and Public Works are under Community Development.

"These have been challenging times, with a lot of new requirements, new procedures, and new information, and our employees have really stepped up to meet Band members’ needs," Peter added.

The entire Public Works staff stayed on duty during the pandemic. Staff had to keep up with all of the regular duties required in the three Public Works divisions: Water/Wastewater, Roads, and Solid Waste), and the staff also stepped up to help with food distribution for Elders.

The annual Spring Clean-Up was postponed from April to June, and according to Public Works Director Brian Scheinost, it was the right decision. "What a difference it made doing this when people were home," said Brian. "This year’s annual spring clean-up was 33 percent busier than last year’s."

Between all three districts, the cleanup event filled 120 dumpsters with debris and took Public Works staff six weeks to complete. "It was a very busy summer," said Brian.

During the pandemic, the Housing staff, who were considered critical employees during the pandemic, stepped up to help with food distribution and delivery of Mille Lacs Band correspondence twice per week.

The Department also continued to perform essential duties for Band members in rental units as well as private homes. Those services were on top of their regular duties: 2,915 work orders issued in 2020, compared with 2,126 work orders processed in 2019.

The Department completed 38 move-ins for the year ending October 2020. Additional units were made available for the Aanjibimaadizing program courtesy of the Renovation Carpenter crew in addition to 18 remodels of units. Housing Maintenance reconditioned and turned over an additional five homes to the rental program.

"Due to the necessity of services provided through the Housing Department, these critical staff members were not offered furlough," said Housing Director Dan Boyd. "They remained on call 24/7 to serve our Band members."

The Department is responsible for the maintenance and general repair of 562 rental housing units as well as the general health and safety of the residents within these rental units.

The Housing Department includes Housing Maintenance, Resident Services, Home Renovation Carpenters, Housing Administration, and Weatherization positions in order to serve the Band members who are in rental units.

"We would like to recognize the hard work that the Housing staff performs, not only during the crisis of the pandemic, but every day," Dan added. "These staff members are mandated to work in harsh conditions, including extreme heat and cold, for long periods of time. They respond to calls in the middle of the night when a tenant is without heat or their septic systems are down. They are truly the backbone of providing safe homes to our Band members."