IMPERIAL — The Imperial City Council directed city staff on Aug. 5 to look into the potential financial ramifications the city may incur for allowing shuttered businesses to reopen in spite of the state and county’s health orders prohibiting such operations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The council’s direction followed a presentation by Terry “Deuce” Robertson, co-owner of 4:13 Fitness Center, who questioned the arbitrary manner in which he perceived the state to be preventing certain businesses and entities from resuming normal operations.
As part of his presentation, Robertson highlighted the opportunity the facility had provided members to pursue a healthy lifestyle, and the measures the gym will deploy to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the facility.
Those measures include appropriately spacing apart exercise equipment, constantly cleaning and sanitizing shared equipment, taking patrons’ temperatures upon arrival, and limiting the number of people allowed inside at once, to name just a few.
“We have way more mitigation in place than Costco,” Robertson said.
Because of the rate of new positive cases reported in the county over a seven-day period (11.4 percent as of Wednesday evening) has exceeded the 8 percent threshold imposed by the state, the county has been prevented from allowing a wider swath of businesses from operating as before the pandemic.
In response to Robertson’s presentation, council members collectively shared their sympathies and extended it to others within the business community equally facing financial hardship and decreased health and wellness on account of the pandemic.
Though the presentation did not obligate the council to take any formal action, the council indicated it was willing to place a resolution on Wednesday’s meeting agenda that, if approved, could potentially allow shuttered businesses to reopen.
Mayor Darrell Pechtl acknowledged that the potential action, if approved, could come with repercussions for the city and businesses alike.
Two Northern California cities that recently chose to disobey the state’s closure orders stood to lose a combined total of $600,000 in COVID-related state funding for “thumbing their nose” at the state, Pechtl said.
He also acknowledged that businesses that may choose to reopen would also likely face repercussions from the county and state as well, and that the city wouldn’t be in much of a position to assist them.
“That’s going to be a fight we can’t protect you from when the county comes in and starts to get heavy handed,” Pechtl said.
A quick poll Pechtl conducted of his fellow council members revealed they nonetheless were supportive of considering such an action on behalf of its constituents.
“Now is the time for our council to step up and do it and bear the brunt, whatever that may cost,” Pechtl said.
The proposed resolution will include language requiring businesses that chose to reopen at their own discretion to provide the city with their respective plans outlining the precautionary measures they intend to employ to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the days following the Aug. 5 regular meeting, city officials had met with county officials regarding the proposed resolution, said Assistant City Manager Alexis Brown.
“We are exhausting all efforts and resources to gather information in preparation for the next City Council meeting,” Brown said in an email Wednesday.
Part of that effort includes determining the enforcement requirements of the Imperial Police Department, which is obligated to enforce all state laws, including local and state health orders, Brown said.