Prior Lake City Council resumes in person meetings

The Prior Lake City Council resumed in-person council meetings and asked City Manager Jason Wedel to end the city’s emergency declaration on Monday. The council maintained social distancing and used hand sanitizer, but members didn’t wear face masks until after the meeting.

Prior Lake City Manager Jason Wedel ended the city’s emergency declaration Tuesday after City Council members called it unnecessary during a statewide emergency.

It was the first in-person council meeting held at City Hall since March.

The council also decided during the council meeting Monday that they would convene a special election on Nov. 3 to fill the remaining two years of former Councilmember Warren Erickson’s term, who resigned earlier this month.

Mayor Kirt Briggs had declared the state of emergency on March 13, allowing the city to speed up public work contracts and other actions if needed. But Wedel said Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency declaration, which continues at least until next month, grants the same authority.

If the governor’s declaration expired and the council felt like it still needed the authority, it could issue its own declaration then, Wedel added.

“I think its time has come and gone,” Briggs said.

Over the last several weeks the council has pushed back against the governor’s decision to keep restaurants and small businesses closed as Minnesota attempts to reduce the impact of the coronavirus.

The council sent two letters to the governor in April requesting that Prior Lake shops and restaurants be allowed to reopen with some extra precautions in place. Members have repeatedly said businesses should be allowed to reopen if they have a plan to resume business safely.

Councilmembers sat spaced out 6 feet apart at separated tables during the work session and on the council dais during the full meeting. Public seating was similarly spaced.

Though several members wore masks as they left the chamber, the council didn’t wear masks during either gathering. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face masks in public settings, mainly to try to prevent the virus from spreading from a mask-wearer who unknowingly carries it.

The council decided that the group will stay at four members until a special election in November. The election will fill the remaining two-year term on the the spot left empty by Erickson.

Members said the remaining five months between now and the election would be too short a time to select and include anyone to effectively serve.

“We’re not that far away from the election,” Councilmember Zach Braid said. “For me, I think that the people should decide who represents them.”

The filing period for the two-year seat, the mayor’s seat and two four-year seats runs from July 28 to Aug. 11. The only councilmember not up for reelection is Councilmember Annette Thompson.

Wedel said whoever wins the special election could begin serving in the open seat as soon as Nov. 16.

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