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City commission approves mayor emergency powers

Jenna Smith, mayor, city of Marquette

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission unanimously approved a resolution at its virtual Tuesday meeting in support of Marquette Mayor Jenna Smith’s emergency declaration and recent exercise of emergency powers.

Commissioner Evan Bonsall made the motion to adopt the resolution; Commissioner Pete Frazier seconded the motion.

The resolution stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, as when it hit, executive orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed retail establishments, taverns, breweries, dine-in restaurants and other types of businesses deemed nonessential throughout the state.

However, executive orders 2020-91 and 2020-92, which were signed by Whitmer on May 18, allowed for the limited re-opening of certain sectors of the state economy throughout the Upper Peninsula effective Friday.

“While this is good news for the local economy, these restrictions mean that additional creative solutions may be needed to assist our local business community in the foreseeable future,” the approved resolution states.

On Thursday, Smith declared an emergency in Marquette due to this situation and suspended the special land-use permitting process for outdoor food and beverage service established in the city’s land development code, according to a city agenda document. This gives more flexibility to allow businesses to access special use permits for outdoor seating to accommodate customers and practice the social distancing measures required of reopening businesses under the executive orders, city officials said.

With this temporary suspension, Marquette businesses will be able to establish outdoor seating on their properties, which also expands seating capacity. This suspension will continue until the executive order from Whitmer is lifted regarding seating and distancing limitations on establishments.

The city continues to work with the Marquette Downtown Development Authority to determine future action plans regarding those local businesses.

“At our work session tomorrow, this concept is 100% something that probably needs a longer, bigger discussion and probably led by the DDA and then if … they’re able to support and approve some kind of modification that then would come to the city commission for review but that’s a little bit of a longer process,” Smith said. “The 100 block of Washington (Street) has been a hot topic lately, I don’t think that we’re able to make a decision quickly or nor should we. We’ve got to kind of see with this emergency declaration I’ve made and businesses are expanding their outdoor seating options, we’ll see how that goes and then talk about next steps for the future.”

All activities must follow the mandates found in the executive orders and requirements from the Marquette County Health Department.

All streets and public ways are required to remain open for traffic and ingress and egress for public safety must be exhibited, city agenda documents state.

Commissioners expressed their gratitude and applauded Smith for her diligence in this situation.

“I understand that people want to get things up and running and back as alive as possible but I think we have to take a look at the people that are on the front line of the businesses especially of those restaurants and the way that they’ve approached this since the last E.O. (executive order) was given,” Commissioner Paul Schloegel said. “And they’re saying, ‘You know what? We could open in three days but we’re going to hold off because we have our employees to worry about. We have our customers to worry about.’ We have the social distancing component that we have to figure out and I just want to say thank you to those businesses… Instead of taking the quick route to get going and make things happen, they’ve taken a step back and really are doing it. I’m so proud of them for doing it as responsibly as they are and we need to recognize that as a community and make sure that we carry on practice with eventually working through these other phases.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill said she was not expecting certain sectors of the economy to open as soon as they did but noted it’s important to move forward.

“I do think that we need a good conversation with lots of different folks at the table to work on what the procedures are going to be and letting there be safety and the chance of innovation and exploration,” Hill said.

The Marquette City Commission will meet virtually through Zoom video conferencing for a work session to discuss the process of businesses reopening along with the financial status of Marquette and its overall impact from COVID-19 at 5 tonight. The meeting will be streamed on YouTube at youtube.com/user/CityofMarquetteGov.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.

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