Brandon council declares COVID-19 health emergency; municipal election postponed

By: 
Jill Meier, Journal editor

Until the South Dakota met for Veto Day Monday in Pierre, Brandon's municipal election was still on for April 2. Passage of House Bill 1298 postpones all elections in the state currently scheduled from April 14 to May 26. Elections would be rescheduled to a Tuesday in June, and could be set for June 2 to coincide with the state’s primary election. The bill also stipulates that elections should not be held later than July 28. Jill Meier/BV Journal

Brandon City Council met in special session March 26 to take initial steps in declaring a health emergency and limiting public gatherings. The council gave unanimous support to the first reading of Ordinance 606, and the second reading, scheduled five days later, received the same. 

The ordinance essentially limits enclosed retail businesses that promote public gatherings to 10 patrons providing adequate six-feet of space between them. The 10-person limit does not include employees. Businesses cited in the ordinance are bars, restaurants, breweries, cafes, casinos, coffee shops, arcades, recreational or athletic facilities, health clubs, entertainment venues or similar places for public gatherings.

Businesses not listed and private citizens are encouraged to follow the recommendations of social distancing and sanitation as directed by the Centers for Disease Control.

City administrator Bryan Read said he met with owners/managers of the primarily-affected businesses March 23 to discuss the forthcoming ordinance. Of the 15 invited, nine attended and Read said all were very cooperative.  

“The restaurants and bars seem to be accepting and most of the food service businesses have taken steps. If not, they are implementing steps afor compliance,” Read said. “We’re also encouraging them to use business models, curb side, drive-through and social media.”

Anthony Lingen, whose usual assignment is that of School Resource Officer, was appointed as the city’s COVID-19 liaison. He is contacting businesses as requested by Governor Kristi Noem in her executive order to implement best management practices as advised by the CDC.

“I’ve spoken with all the restaurants and casinos in town, and all of them that I’ve spoken with have agreed to abide by the proposed ordinance,” Lingen said.

In his contacts, Lingen said many have already reduced staffing and are adhering to CDC recommendations. For instance, one of the dance studios is conducting all of their classes online.

“I think everybody’s aware of these recommendations from the CDC, social distancing, allow employees time off, limit work gatherings, eliminate non-essential travel and then the regular checks for COVID-19 screening. All citizens of Brandon are being encouraged to follow CDC guidelines and to understand the vulnerability for those over 60 and the immunalsuppressed individuals, so please assist those folks,” Read said.

Mayor Paul Lundberg added, “(I want to give a) thank you to the city of Brandon and the Brandon community. The vast majority of everything we’re doing tonight with this ordinance is already being done by the vast majority. There’s only one or two outliners right now, that’s pretty cool, that’s very cool. That happened either on their own or a visit from myself or a meeting that Bryan, Christina (Smith) and I had with them. They were more than willing, which is cool to see that. That is one advantage (that I have). Mayor Ten Haken can’t get down Minnesota Avenue (and) I can get to every bar and restaurant in an hour and a half at noon. It just shows how helpful the other people are.”

 

Fines implemented for violations

The ordinance specifies a $500 per day fine for enclosed businesses who surpass the 10-person limit. The $500 fine is the same amount set by the city of Lennox for a first violation; the second violation there constitutes a $2,500 fine.

Alderman Dave Kull asked how multiple violations in Brandon would be addressed.

“The feeling in Sioux Falls is that a person could absorb a $500 fine and then operate the rest of the day. Do we want to address that or is there a need to?” he asked.

City attorney Lisa Marso advised that a steeper fine amount for a repeat violation could be imposed. She also suggested stepping the violation up from a class 2 misdemeanor to class 1 misdemeanor.

Either way, Alderwoman Dana Clark said the ordinance needs to “have some teeth.”

 

On-sale licenses may gain off-sale privileges

Off-sale establishments such as Double D or the Brandon VFW only possess on-sale licenses.

“One of the things that’s been discussed, if they’re closed down and they can’t function, they would be able to do off-sale,” Read explained. “Currently, we cannot allow them to but that might be one of the things that is brought up on Veto Day (March 30), so that’s why I added the language, unless authorized to do so by the state of South Dakota. In my mind, that would allow those on-sale liquor licenses to automatically do off-sale if the state permits it.”

Read added that only sealed packaged beer and liquor could be sold off-sale.

“If you are a business with an alcohol license, a Class 2 misdemeanor may subject you to loss of your license, so there’s a pretty good stick there for those license holders,” he said.

 

Golf course remains open

The Brandon Golf Course will remain open, but the bar and lounge are closed, Read said.

“Andrew (Bauer) has done a very good job at developing some criteria, really pushing the online sign-up as well as payment online and he’s talked about giving a reduced price if you pay online,” he said.

For the time being, golfers will also tee off No. 10, the closest tee box to the clubhouse so staff can monitor the staggered tee times, which have been extended from eight minutes to 12. Read said there has also been some discussion about requiring one person per cart.

“We’re not quite ready to do that yet,” he said.

 

Exemptions

Exempted from Ordinance 606 are official meetings of the city, school, township or state. Read said this stipulation was placed in the ordinance “because we are required, under state statute, to have an open meeting. I don’t think we could do that if we restrict only 10 people. If you count, we’re more than 10 now. … They may be promoting some legislation to give cities some leeway to open meeting regs. I don’t see that going through but we’ve exempted ourselves from this requirement,” he said. 

State and federal courts are also exempted in case it is shut down in Sioux Falls. “We’ll invite them over here,” Read said.

“We want them to take all reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing guidelines are feasible. That’s where Anthony comes in. As he goes out and meets with these businesses, he’ll ask them if they have a plan and to give us some ideas of what they’re planning on doing. For instance, some of the larger manufacturers can’t really shut down. Marmen Energy has 250 employees and they’re large enough that they have enough space, but (we’d like suggest they) stagger their break time so they don’t have a lot of their employees in the break room at the same time,” Read said.

 

Financial assistance

Read said he’s been taking part in daily conference calls with First-Class City mayors, the governor and other city managers. 

“One of the disappointing things is as these cities implement these restrictions on businesses, and the question is always asked is, 'What are you doing to provide assistance to these businesses, and then there’s silence, as nobody is really talking about assistance,” he said. “I don’t know if everybody’s waiting for the feds to step up. We have started having some discussions about possibly utilizing our revolving loan fund to provide some short-term loans to businesses. I think since we revised those regulations a few months ago we could accommodate some business loans if they’re needed.”

 

Summer rec, sports and other activities

Read also met with representatives from the local athletic associations to discuss the negative impact the “no more than 10 people” ruling will have on their respective seasons.

“Start-up of the season, would probably be after July if the virus peaks in June,” he said.

In addition, the local swimming pool and summer rec programs may also be closed this year.

“We were looking at opening the pool on Memorial Day. If we’re looking at eight weeks, one of the aspects of this is we’re restricting access to pools, so we may not open the pool this year. The same thing with summer rec. That program may be impacted as well,” he said.

The council also touched on kids playing together.

“That is not our issue, it’s a parenting issue,” Read said.

“We can certainly remind them,” Clark said. “Oklahoma City closed down their parks because the kids were congregating there, so the more education we can do, the better.”

 

Trimming expenses

Finance officer Christina Smith forewarned department heads “to be careful on supplies, don’t over order, consider holding off on part-time staff or at least minimize how many are hired, and vehicles or equipment, if they haven’t ordered them, to hold off.”

“I’m warning them that we are expecting sales tax to come in lower than what was budgeted,” she said. 

 

Municipal election postponed

House Bill 1298 received overwhelming support by the South Dakota Legislature on Veto Day, which ran well into the early hours of Tuesday. The bill passed both the House and Senate, despite a conference committee that led to the Senate adopting the House bill so that it would pass.

Passage of the bill postpones all elections in the state currently scheduled from April 14 to May 26. Elections would be rescheduled to a Tuesday in June, and could be set for June 2 to coincide with the state’s primary election. The bill also stipulates that elections should not be held later than July 28.

 

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