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Granite Falls mayor joins others who urge governor to allow rural businesses to reopen

The mayor of Granite Falls has sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz urging he look at ways to allow businesses in small, rural communities to reopen. He points out that large chain stores are allowed to be open while selling the same services and products.

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Mayor Dave Smiglewski

GRANITE FALLS β€” As Gov. Tim Walz prepares to announce whether he will modify his stay-at-home and business closing orders to help contain the coronavirus, another local community has joined the voices of those urging business openings.

Mayor Dave Smiglewski, of Granite Falls, sent the governor a letter urging that small businesses in his and other rural communities be allowed to reopen with safety restrictions in place. The mayor said the affected business owners have been patient through challenging times, β€œbut many are reaching the point of no return.”

β€œThey note with consternation, that many small, main-street businesses and services are not able to open while nearby national and 'big box' retailers are open and offering many of the same products or services that our small businesses could offer, if they were allowed to open,” stated the mayor.

Mayor Smiglewski told the governor that the Upper Sioux Community is planning to reopen Prairie's Edge Casino and Resort located south of Granite Falls and offer limited bar and dining services on May 18 with protective measures in place. β€œThat will certainly ramp up the pressure to somehow find a way to allow local restaurants and bars to re-open," he stated in the letter.

He urges the governor to consider a regional or county approach to allow business openings.

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β€œI am sure this would complicate things for the state, but it would help address the anxiety and restlessness that we are seeing throughout greater Minnesota,” he stated.

The Spicer City Council approved a resolution at its meeting on Monday also urging the governor to allow businesses to reopen.

The mayor's letter can be read here:

Dear Governor Walz,

Thank you for your far-sighted and steady leadership during these past two very difficult months. Minnesotans appreciate having a state leader who uses data and practical thinking to make good decisions in regard to the public's health and safety. I'm the mayor in Granite Falls in Yellow Medicine and Chippewa Counties, where the Covid-19 case count as of Tuesday was 3 and 21 respectively. However, we are well aware of the looming danger of the virus with nearby Kandiyohi County having a case count of 362.

That said, I think it's important to convey to you the frustration of many of our local businesses and their customers. They have been patient through these challenging times but many are reaching the point of no return. They note with consternation, that many small, main-street businesses and services are not able to be open while nearby national "big box" retailers are open and offering many of the same products or services that our small businesses could offer, if they were allowed to be open.

They have, in my opinion, a very valid point. I know and appreciate the difficult situation that you, your team, and our state, are in and think we are absolutely correct to err on the side of the public's safety. I am wondering if we could look at opening many of these businesses, particularly small retailers, with certain restrictions like limiting the number of customers, face masks, protective shielding etc. There is also a need for our hair shops to re-open and I think they could be reasonably expected to operate safely with certain rules or restrictions. Tackling the challenge of restaurants and bars is more difficult but I think there may some ways to allow them to operate with very strict limitations.

The Upper Sioux Community's Prairie's Edge Casino and Resort, located just outside of Granite Falls, is planning to re-open on May 18th with many protective measures and plans to offer limited bar and dining services. That will certainly ramp up the pressure to somehow find a way to allow local restaurants and bars to re-open. While I don't have any specific solutions to offer, I do wonder if there is a way for Minnesota to dial in changes or restrictions using a more regional, or area, (or even county) approach so that we recognize that, while there are hot-spots, there are also cold spots where the residents are not nearly as endangered. I am sure this would complicate things for the state, but it would help address the anxiety and restlessness that we are seeing throughout greater Minnesota.

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Thank you for taking the time to consider my thoughts and thank you for the tremendous and difficult work you and your team are doing for all Minnesotans.

With my best regards, Dave Smiglewski Mayor, City of Granite Falls

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Mayor Dave Smiglewski

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