Mayor Ben Schierer dropped a bombshell Monday at the end of the Fergus Falls City Council meeting.
Coming on the heels of world, national and state measures designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, Schierer declared a state of local emergency in Fergus Falls.
“I want to be very, very clear that we are doing this proactively,” Schierer told council members, city staff and citizens gathered at City Hall. “We are doing this to be sure we can activate the resources that are available.”
Schierer made his decision after consultation with Chief of Public Safety Kile Bergren, City Attorney Rolf Nycklemoe and City Administrator Andrew Bremseth.
“Like the mayor said it is very proactive,” Bergren told the council. “There are some legal things behind it. If the mayor declares an emergency you as a council have to pass a resolution supporting it within three days. From a logistics standpoint it just makes sense, since we are already at a council meeting, for us to do it tonight.”
Bergren pointed out that the community is not currently being impacted by any actual cases of the coronavirus. As of Monday there were 54 known cases of the virus in Minnesota.
Bergren said a declaration will give the city an opportunity to get resources from the state if they are needed and access to federal funds if required. It will also give city staff the freedom to purchase things without going through the normal bid process.
“It just makes life a little bit easier for us,” Bergren said. “Life still goes on despite COVID-19.”
Nycklemoe also supplied the council with some insights.
“With this declaration we will be able to conduct meetings and continue to conduct meetings but they will primarily be meetings conducted electronically,” Nycklemoe said. “We envision a format that will allow council members to either call in or log in to a meeting. The meetings will continue to be televised.”
Nycklemoe told the group that in addition to City Council meetings, the Fergus Falls Port Authority, Planning Commission and all other governing meetings of advisory committees will be conducted electronically. Televised broadcasts will still be offered.
Assured that the declaration does “not give an open checkbook” to city staff, the council approved the declaration.
The City Council also approved the second readings of Ordinance 97 (amending city code Chapter 6.22 - Public Nuisances, the second reading of Ordinance 98, amending the B-3 use chart and interim uses, a conditional use permit for Platte Properties II and the issuance of an $851,510 general obligation taxable bond, Series 2020A of the Fergus Falls Port Authority for demolition work at the former Mid-Am Dairy site.
Consent items approved by the council included:
• A resolution accepting the donation of two parcels and authorizing city staff and the city attorney to execute the appropriate documents.
• A resolution initiating PI 6072, the Pebble Lake public water access improvement, to accept Interstate Engineering’s professional services proposal for design in the amount of $22,000 and to order the project plans and specifications.
• A resolution to accept a Fir Avenue (Union, Tower, Friberg) intersection feasibility study. Resolution calling for a public hearing regarding the issuance of revenue obligations by the Fergus Falls Housing and Redevelopment. Authority for the benefit of Schuett Otter Tail LP on April 6, 2020, at 5:30 p.m.