Temporary homeless shelter

Mark Harder does some reading in early October in a temporary homeless shelter run by Catholic Charities in Eau Claire. When the shelter moved into a former supermarket, the city agreed to provide $50,000 to retrofit the building and is now planning another $26,300 to create a quarantine area within it. The city is seeking reimbursement for those costs from Wisconsin’s allocation of federal coronavirus relief money provided by the CARES Act.

EAU CLAIRE — COVID-19 cases among Eau Claire’s homeless population are prompting the city to help a shelter create an area to quarantine residents who are infected with or have been exposed to the virus.

On Tuesday the Eau Claire City Council will vote on an amendment to its agreement that helped Catholic Charities retrofit a former supermarket, which has served as a homeless shelter since October.

“It’s to create another area for guests of the shelter that test positive,” interim City Manager David Solberg said.

The initial agreement signed by retired City Manager Dale Peters provided $50,000 to turn the vacant Hansen’s IGA, 1031 W. Clairemont Ave., into a shelter. The city recently submitted a request to have those costs reimbursed by the federal CARES Act.

The city is proposing to do the same for an additional $26,300 to create a quarantine area within the shelter, which is planned to be built in coming weeks.

The quarantine area within the shelter is intended to be a short-term stop for its residents that test positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with those that have.

“This will sequester people until they can find temporary quarters,” Solberg said.

It would serve as the place for them to stay while the Eau Claire City-County Health Department is arranging a hotel room or other housing where they can isolate until they are no longer believed to be contagious.

Cases of COVID-19 that emerged among people staying in the shelter spurred the idea of a quarantine area last week, Solberg said.

The shelter opened in the former grocery store in early October. Prior to that, a dry hockey rink in the city’s Hobbs Ice Center had been the shelter’s home for about seven months. Catholic Charities hasn’t used its permanent downtown shelter, Sojourner House, since mid-March when the pandemic began. The building was deemed too small to allow adequate space between guests as a precaution to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

Other business

Also during this week’s meetings:

• The council will hold a public hearing tonight and then a vote Tuesday to change the process residents go through to get licenses to have backyard chickens. A proposal would require chickenkeepers to get signatures from two-thirds of their neighbors before they could get a license or have their current one renewed.

• A new five-year agreement allocating 70% of hotel room taxes collected in the city to Visit Eau Claire for promoting the area to visitors will be up for a vote on Tuesday.

• Replacing a diesel bus that’s nearly 20 years old with a new hybrid model using a state grant program is slated for a vote on Tuesday. The city has been awarded $683,200 to buy the new bus from a state fund created by money carmaker Volkswagen paid to Wisconsin as part of a settlement for cheating on emissions tests.

• The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is awarding Eau Claire a $250,000 Idle Sites Grant to help with a developer’s costs to raze the defunct Kmart, 2020 E. Clairemont Ave., and prepare the land for a new Hy-Vee grocery store.

• After approving the city’s 2021 budget earlier this month, the council will take votes on Tuesday to officially establish next year’s property tax rates.

• Two council members are seeking to reverse a vote made earlier this month that changed city ordinances to permit light industrial uses in commercial buildings. Andrew Werthmann and Kate Beaton are asking for reconsideration of the 7-4 vote on Nov. 10 that approved the zoning ordinance change.

• Timber Bluff Acres, a housing development proposed by Wurzer Builders, will be subject to a public hearing tonight and then a vote on Tuesday to approve its revised design. Approved earlier this year with 328 units spread across multiple apartment buildings, the project is being scaled back to 276 units in plans that call for smaller multifamily buildings.

Contact: 715-833-9204, andrew.dowd@ecpc.com, @ADowd_LT on Twitter