The Brooklyn Park City Council rescinded its local COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration July 12, bringing all of the city’s commission and council meetings back in-person after more than a year of remote meetings.
“When we evaluated a need for the continued local state of emergency being in place, we didn’t see a rationale for it at this time,” said Jay Stroebel, city manager. “Obviously the pandemic itself is a little bit of an unknown in terms of what might happen in the future.”
The decision came on the heels of the July 1 termination of the statewide peacetime emergency declaration first declared by Gov. Tim Walz last March.
Stroebel said that while there is potential for new strains of the virus to bring the city back to COVID operations and protocols, the motivation for originally declaring the emergency was as much financial as it was related to city operations.
“The governor had the declaration of emergency in place and we sort of covered ourselves by having our own local emergency,” Stroebel said. “Some of the reasons why we did that is because at times, some of those federal (and state) resources that we can request reimbursement for or get other resources, sometimes it’s easier to get, or it is require to have a local emergency declared.”
The approximately $11 million in American Rescue Plan funds slated to be allocated to the city by the federal government are not tied to a local emergency declaration, Stroebel said.
Enacting the declaration was a two-step process that ultimately allowed the city’s governing and advisory bodies to meet the requirements in state statute for hosting telephone-based or electronic meetings for the duration of the pandemic.
That is, following the governor’s declaration March 13, 2020, on March 16, then-mayor and president of the Economic Development Authority Jeff Lunde adopted a written statement declaring that all meetings of the city’s boards, committees and commission would be conducted remotely as a result of the pandemic.
He then declared a local mayor emergency March 20 last year, a decision that was backed by a council resolution.
Councilmember Boyd Morson said at last week’s meeting that he was concerned about how the city may react to a potential increase in COVID cases stemming from the new Delta variant.
The city could quickly reissue a state of emergency if the situation called for a such action, said Jim Thomson, city attorney. “It’s pretty easy to stop on a dime with this one and put something in place if that were to happen,” Thomson said.
Other aspects of the city’s overall operations do not necessarily require an emergency declaration to be changed, Stroebel said.
“When there’s no longer relevancy for the state of emergency, there’s good practice to not have that state of emergency declared,” he said. “At some point we might have to put back in protocols of meeting remotely, of six feet separation, of the DMV only taking appointments, of going back to some of those things. At this time we hope that that doesn’t happen. … This does not preclude us from in the future, taking those actions.”
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