City council inspired by similar actions in Roseau, Lakefield
In its biweekly meeting on May 5, the Hanover City Council voted 5-0 to urge Gov. Tim Walz urging him to widen the range of businesses that may reopen under the state’s stay-at-home order.
Businesses including restaurants, retail outlets and services have been closed or under restrictions for the better part of two months, with specific restrictions varying from one type of business to the next. Restaurants are allowed to fill takeout orders and some retail outlets are able to remain open or offer curbside pickup of items depending on what they sell, while others are closed completely, as are gyms, movie theaters and similar entertainment venues. As of press time, these closures and restrictions were due to expire on May 18, though prior expiration dates have been repeatedly extended throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Chris Kaufmann opened the discussion by clarifying that, “this isn’t [an order] saying we’re opening anything up, but a plea to the governor to use some common sense and open more businesses.”
The council reviewed and discussed a resolution passed by the Roseau City Council in northern Minnesota on May 4, by which that council agreed to write a letter to Walz. The Roseau resolution included a number of arguments the city’s letter would likely include. Some arguments applied specifically to Roseau, including the fact that Roseau County had only one COVID-19 case as of the day the resolution passed and that some citizens of the area were driving to North Dakota, which is not under any shutdown order, to shop at various businesses, thus “legally circumventing the intent of the stay-at-home order, but at the expense of our local non-critical businesses.” Other reasoning would more generally align with the arguments the Hanover letter would include, such as an argument that it is unfair to keep some local businesses closed while certain big-box stores are allowed to remain open.
Key points raised by the final version of the Hanover resolution include:
- “The Stay at Home order has caused undue hardship and financial loss to many small businesses, some of whom will never recover from this catastrophe, as businesses continue to have financial strain due to health and business insurance, taxes, rent, utilities and other cost, with no source of revenue to cover those costs.”
- “All businesses can reasonably reopen as the Stay at Home order is not a one size fits all solution. ‘Critical businesss’...must sucessfully follow the guidelines handed down tby the [Minnesota] Department of Health and the [Centers for Disease Control]; our City’s non-critical businesses are just as capable of fllowing those same guidelines.”
- “We firmly believe that all of our businesses can reopen safely and still provide adequate protection to our most vulnerable citizens.”
The resolution included language that would require businesses to prepare and post a preparedness plan on-site prior to reopening, which would cover the ways in which the business was complying with Health Department and CDC guidelines for sanitization and stemming the spread of the virus.
The council noted that Hanover has a number of home businesses like hair salons that could benefit from a wider reopening order just as those that have their own retail or other commercial space. The resolution expressed concern that some businesses could fail even if the stay-at-home order is ultimately lifted on May 18.
“Menards, Home Depot, Target and Walgreens [are open] but the little guy is being hurt,” Kaufmann said. “The big business is open and the small business is not. That to me is crazy.”
Roseau and Hanover are not the only city councils passing local resolutions that have either challenged or sought relief from state orders: The city council for Lakefield, in southwestern Minnesota, recently passed a resolution stating it will not direct any city resources toward enforcement of state closure orders.
The Hanover Council also discussed the possibility of withdrawing its own local temporary emergency order, but ultimately declined to do so.