Park Rapids Mayor Ryan Leckner declared a local state of emergency on Monday, pending approval by the city council on Tuesday.

Leckner told the Enterprise that the emergency declaration “allows the city staff to respond more quickly during an emergency and provide essential services as quickly as possible,” as outlined in local governments’ emergency operations plans.

“It allows the city to coordinate with other agencies, track additional expenses related to the pandemic, and request reimbursements if aid becomes available,” he said. “It allows staff to enter into contracts, rent equipment, employ temporary workers without going through the time-consuming process and formalities normally required prior to taking immediate action.”

As rationale for the emergency, Leckner’s written proclamation cites

  • the contagious nature of the coronavirus, identified by the World Health Organization as a pandemic;

  • guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus;

  • Pres. Donald Trump’s March 13 declaration that COVID-19 represents a national emergency; and

  • Gov. Tim Walz’s declaration of a peacetime state of emergency, also on March 13, directing all necessary resources toward COVID-19 response.

On March 18, Leckner noted, Park Rapids City Hall was closed to the public and staff was directed to do business only by phone, email, and snail mail. On March 23, City Administrator Ryan Mathisrud directed all city council and board meetings to be held via conference call.

“We are currently reviewing the feasibility of keeping the liquor store open,” Ledckner said.

He said the mayor can call for an emergency declaration, but the city council must approve it within three days in order for it to continue.

“Staff have begun making contingency plans and issuing directives for a reduction in staff, if needed, so we can continue all essential operations,” he said.

The proclamation puts city resources at the disposal of Hubbard County’s emergency management team; directs staff to coordinate with surrounding jurisdictions as well as county, state and federal government; and urges them to review established procedures and recommend changes as needed to respond to the emergency.

Emphasizing that the emergency declaration is not meant to cause public alarm, Leckner stressed, “Today will not be any more of an emergency than yesterday or last week was.”

Rather, he said, the intent of the declaration is “allowing the city to move more freely and quicker. It also allows decisions to be made in a less formal environment, (getting) equipment and personnel to the right places as we move forward in this situation.”

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