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Fairmont OKs plan to aid businesses

FAIRMONT — Local diners might soon be enjoying a pizza, burger or burrito in a parking lot or on a city street.

At a special meeting Monday, the Fairmont City Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance that allows the city to coordinate with the local business community to use parking lots, sidewalks and other public areas when reopening their businesses.

The action was prompted by Gov. Tim Walz’s latest executive order that allows restaurants to open up for outdoor dining service June 1, according to Cathy Reynolds, Fairmont’s new city administrator. Although the main focus is on restaurants, she said, the ordinance applies to all businesses “to support them in their efforts to waive some of the permitting and various requirements through this time.”

Some business owners already have started conversations with city staff about what they would like and what would be possible.

Councilman Tom Hawkins had questions about businesses in the Downtown Plaza area.

“Is there a possibility that we can close off streets to allow setting up tables in the street? Is there a possibility that we can consider that?” he asked.

“Staff could make those adjustments and close those streets off,” Reynolds said. “We have asked them (business owners) to prepare a plan on what they’d like and see what we can support. We have to maintain public access to walkways in accordance with the [Americans with Disabilities Act]. We’re looking at all of that.”

Councilman Bruce Peters said he too has had conversations with business owners about what could be done. He recommended they contact the city administrator with their plans and requests but felt that all reasonable suggestions would be accepted.

“She (Reynolds) is going to have pretty wide sway. Those accommodations are going to be at her discretion,” he said.

“I say give them whatever help we can. Get them back open, and I ask the citizens of Fairmont to come support them,” said Councilman Randy Lubenow.

“I think it’s time to open the whole thing up,” said Councilman Wayne Hasek, earning a thumbs up from Hawkins.

Even though outdoor seating would be created in a temporary situation, businesses would still have to follow the governor’s directive on social distancing, increased cleaning, and the requirement of an appointment or reservation.

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