Wahpeton declares emergency in wake of COVID-19

Wahpeton leaders like, from left, councilmen Perry Miller, Don Bajumpaa and Lane Wateland and Mayor Steve Dale, are no longer in such close contact. The city is in a state of emergency in response to COVID-19 and protective measures include social distancing and holding only essential meetings.

A local emergency has been declared in Wahpeton. With a 6-0 vote, the Wahpeton City Council approved an executive order responding to the public health crisis resulting from COVID-19, a form of novel coronavirus disease.

The executive order, as well as a declaration of local emergency, was approved to be in effect for up to 90 days from Monday, March 23. Both can be terminated early. The 90 days length is intended for convenience, City Attorney Steve Lies said.

“I encourage all residents to continue to be vigilant, preserve the health of your household, gather information from credible sources and be considerate of your neighbors,” Wahpeton Mayor Steve Dale said. “A little kindness goes a long way.”

The Wahpeton City Council will continue to meet, although they will do so only on an as needed basis. Meeting topics will be limited to time-sensitive, essential business. Meetings may also be held telephonically.

Councilman at-large Lane Wateland was present with Mayor Dale at City Hall. Council members at-large Tiana Bohn, Kelly McNary and Perry Miller, plus acting 2nd Ward Councilman Jeremy Remily and 4th Ward Councilman Don Bajumpaa, attended by conference call.

The executive order for Wahpeton includes clauses similar to those in an executive order issued Thursday, March 19 by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. The state order was announced to be in effect until at least Monday, April 6.

• All restaurants, bars, cafés, coffee shops and similar on-site dining establishments in Wahpeton are closed to on-sale on-site patrons. Takeout, delivery, drive-through or off-sale services may continue.

• Recreational facilities, health clubs and athletic facilities are directed to close and cease operations.

• Access to Wahpeton City Hall, the Leach Public Library, the Wahpeton Community Center and all other city buildings will be limited to those with appointments.

• All bids for city-advertised projects, goods and services, including improvement district projects solicited pursuant to a request for bid proposals, may be submitted by fax or email subject to the same deadlines as an in-person bid opening. City staff are to keep bids so received confidential until the actual bid opening.

• Restaurants holding a Class C liquor license may sell off-sale alcoholic beverages to customers of pick-up or take-out food orders. This is subject to all of the other provisions governing off-sale of alcoholic beverages.

• Street parking restrictions may be waived for restaurants and cafés offering take-out, delivery and/or drive through by the Wahpeton Police Chief. This is for the establishment of pickup and delivery zones for takeout, delivery and drive through.

Policies on conducting city business have also been relaxed slightly.

Candidates for the Wahpeton City Council and Wahpeton Park Board may collect signatures from residents electronically. Candidates are asked to call Wahpeton City Hall at 701-642-8448 for more information.

Residents concerned with outstanding city utility bills may also make payment arrangements at any time. Residents are asked to call Wahpeton Public Utilities at 701-642-8448 for more information.

The council also unanimously approved Community Development Director Chris DeVries request for a three-month freeze to benefit local businesses.

“(I’m asking for) authorization to halt loan payments and interest collection from any business that has an outstanding Revolving Loan Fund loan or are paying back a Flex PACE interest buydown loan,” DeVries said.

The deferral would also halt the accumulation of interest, DeVries confirmed. He said he is working with the Southern Valley Economic Development Authority (SVEDA) and the Wahpeton Breckenridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

“(We are informing) local businesses of resources that are available from the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Red River Corridor Fund and more,” DeVries said.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, April 6 at City Hall, 1900 Fourth St. N. in Wahpeton. It may be held telephonically.

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