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Fairmont declares emergency

FAIRMONT — Like everything else in the world impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fairmont City Council adopted a new demeanor Monday.

Mayor Debbie Foster led the meeting in council chambers, joined only by Paul Hoye, city finance director, who manned the phone lines that connected off-site council members to the meeting.

Council members slogged through the first few exchanges, motions and votes as they coped with a lag time from the phone lines, but they quickly adjusted to the situation.

“We’re just going to do the best we can with what we have been given,” said Foster, thanking the council and public for their patience.

Recent federal and state actions have recommended no public gatherings, and Foster and Mark Sievert, interim city administrator, determined it was not practical or prudent to hold council meetings in the normal manner, with council members and the public ensconced in council chambers.

On the recommendation of Robert Scott, an attorney with Flaherty & Hood, the city’s interim civil counsel, the council voted unanimously to declare a local emergency that will remain in effect until the council rescinds it. The resolution directs city staff to review regulatory requirements and practices to determine if they should be adjusted with regard to emergency regulations to support the employees and city residents with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health. It also allows city staff to implement processes, such as closing facilities, to ensure that public services are maintained to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Scott told the council that passage of the resolution is not a legal requirement in order to accomplish the items listed.

“It is a strong symbolic measure to the community so the community knows that the City Council is taking the matter seriously and is acting responsibly,” he said. “It sends a strong message to the public that it’s a serious situation, and everyone needs to pay attention and act responsibly. Secondly, you really are empowering your staff to take whatever actions are necessary and appropriate as the situation continues to evolve.”

Scott added that the measure gives the staff flexibility, but the council will still have the ultimate authority to make final decisions.

In a related matter, Foster relayed an email she received from Linsey Preuss, Fairmont economic development coordinator, immediately prior to the council meeting. The communication highlighted emergency resources for businesses on the Fairmont Economic Development Authority website, www.fedamn.com

The state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development is offering interest-free emergency loans that may be 50 percent forgivable for businesses ordered to close their doors because of COVID-19.

In other business, the council:

o Approved a reassessment agreement for $6,000 for Marlyn and Beverly Walterman at 3801 Albion Ave. Their property, which was assessed for last summer’s overlay project, received a larger assessment than the average residential home because of the significant frontage of the property.

o Approved an ordinance authorizing the sale of 110 Webster St. to Brady and Sara Anderson for $2,250.

o Accepted a bid of $169,000 from Nielsen Blacktopping of Kasota for resurfacing the Ward Park parking lot. The bid, one of four received, came in about $20,000 less than the engineer’s estimate.

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