05.14.20 dugout walz sign-1.jpg
A banner on the fence outside The Dugout Bar in Gilbert expresses the owners feelings about how the ongoing COVID-19 bar closure that is impacting the business.

GILBERT — Dugout bar owner Jon Liimatta addressed the Gilbert City Council last week about Gov. Tim Walz's restrictions on liquor establishments, asking if the city will be joining other municipalities to reopen businesses "in spite of the governor's orders."

A resolution will be sent to the governor, Mayor Karl Oberstar Jr. said at the council meeting. "It's totally up to the governor. We (city) will ask him to be less restrictive than he has been," the mayor said. "I don't think there is a city that can overrule the governor's orders... it's in the hands of the state. We were not going to overrule the governor."

Liimatta said he wishes the Gilbert council "were going to do more like the city of Eveleth. It sounds like they're going to open no matter what." Business owners in Eveleth met Tuesday to discuss the impact of COVID-19, and the Eveleth City Council said it would not block those businesses from opening.

Mayor Oberstar said, "We are not a country of our own. We can try."

In the last item of business at the meeting, Oberstar again addressed the issue regarding the governor's emergency order set to expire June 13. "I understand everybody's frustration. We heard from a bar owner (Liimatta). If a business like a bar was to open up, the governor could take the position of cancelling the liquor license."

Attorney Bhupesh Pattni of the Trenti Law Firm, filling in for City Attorney Brian Lindsay, said there could be penalties and advised that a bar owner check with the owner's own legal counsel.

Oberstar said it might be in the business owners' favor "if a lot of resolutions came to the governor's desk," expressing displeasure with Walz's orders. "I hope the governor would take them seriously. How far we'll get I don't know."

The mayor said, "We will not send the police department to businesses" that choose to open.

Attorney Pattni said it's a "delicate situation" and these are "delicate times."

In other business the mayor and council accepted with regret the resignation of water and light utility clerk Katelyn Bennett.

"You've done a good job, and we're sad to see you go," said the mayor.

Oberstar also talked about the possibility of getting new water and electric meters -- usage has been estimated for the last six months, resulting in some customers receiving high bills. City administrative clerk Jim Paulsen said interest charges are being waived and the city is offering payment plans. Also, residents can call in their meter readings.

The council and Operations Director Sam Lautigar extended appreciation to Gulbranson Excavating "for giving their time and services gratis" on the cemetery water line.

Library Director Su Dabbas said the public library is getting ready for the reopening. The library staff purchased 1,000 pairs of gloves for use in the COVID-19 crisis, and Sue Samargia has made a large number of masks. Items to be checked out will be scanned through Plexiglass, Dabbas said, and "each day we put (items from the) book drop in quarantine for a week."

Regarding the new wastewater plant under construction, representative Ron LaFond said the project is 98 percent complete. LaFond said he is impressed with "the crew to keep the water flowing," referring to the employees at the plant. Arcelor-Mittal mine blasting gives a "pretty good jolt," and there have been no issues with structure of the plant or the equipment.


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