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City of Fairmont backs $1M relief fund for businesses

FAIRMONT — By combining resources from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the city of Fairmont and Martin County have created a pool of $1 million to be used for grants to local small businesses and non-profits.

The Fairmont City Council approved the creation of a small business grant program Monday, securing the city’s $250,000 contribution, and the Martin County Commission is expected to approve its $750,000 portion today.

The entire fund is open to all county businesses and non-profits with 50 or fewer employees. However, the city’s $250,000 portion must go to entities within the city limits due to auditing criteria.

Fairmont City Administrator Cathy Reynolds explained the eligibility requirements to the council Monday. Grants will range from $500 to $10,000 and must be used as reimbursement for rent or mortgage payments, utilities, personal protective equipment, operating expenses related to reopening and other critical non-payroll expenses incurred between March 1 and Aug. 31. Home-based businesses may only be reimbursed to a percentage equal to what was claimed as a home office on their income tax.

Applicants must have been in operation for at least 12 months prior to March 1, 2020, be registered and in good standing with the Minnesota Secretary of State, be current on all property taxes and demonstrate a significant loss of revenue/income due to business interruption/closure caused by COVID-19.

Reynolds said the city should have information about the application process and required documentation on its website — www.fairmont.org — today. Applications will be posted on the city’s and county’s respective websites by Sept. 21, with Oct. 2 as the last day to apply.

Applications will be reviewed by a joint city/county committee, with the Fairmont council voting to approve the city’s grants on Oct. 26.

All grants must be utilized by Nov. 15.

Mayor Debbie Foster praised the joint effort for developing the program and the criteria.

“Any time government entities can work together for the betterment of our communities, it’s a good thing,” she said. “This is not only good for Fairmont but for all Martin County.”

Anyone with questions may call Linsey Preuss, Fairmont economic development coordinator, at (507) 238-3925 or Bryan Stading, Martin County economic development director, at (507) 344-7897.

Turning to other business, the council approved a $15,000 human resources contract through the end of the year with Abdo, Eick & Meyers, Workforce Solutions LLC of Mankato and the Twin Cities. The firm, which also serves as the city’s auditor, specializes in government policies.

Reynolds said she anticipates the contract to be continued through 2021, based on the city’s final budget, but hiring the firm now will allow the city to get started updating policies and procedures. One area she specified was automating employees’ time records, which currently are done on a paper spread sheet.

“It’s about trying to automate and formalize some things and find some efficiencies for the city,” she said. “The goal is to get our programs, policies and procedures in place so that staff can handle it without having to go to council for guidance.”

In other business, the council:

o Approved closing Woodland Avenue from Albion Avenue to Lake Park Boulevard to automobile traffic from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Halloween to allow for a safe zone for trick-or-treaters.

o Approved demolition assistance of 50 percent, up to $5,000, for Matt Morris to raze a house at 1315 Woodland Ave. to make way for new home construction.

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