Hill City sets COVID-19 guidelines

Gray Hughes

Hill City has a plan in place as to how to handle businesses and COVID-19, also commonly referred to as coronavirus.


At a special Hill City Common Council meeting on March 25, a resolution was passed that requires businesses to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.


“This serves as a signal that Hill City is serious, and we are being good neighbors with our surrounding communities,” said Kathy Skorzewski, Hill City mayor. “We’re working towards the same thing.”


Since what was passed by the common council is a resolution, it went into effect immediately. The resolution is broken down into 17 points for what every Hill City community member should do.


In part, the resolution states:


• People should review and practice recommended CDC and South Dakota Department of Health hygiene practices designed to stop the spread of COVID-19


• Implement social distancing measures and support businesses who are adjusting their business model


• All employers should implement the recommended CDC and South Dakota Department of Health hygiene practices along with other business strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of spread


• Suspend or modify business practices as recommended by the CDC and South Dakota Department of Health that involves 10 or more people to be in an enclosed space where physical separation of at least six feet is not possible


• Continue offering or considering offering business models that do not involve public gatherings (including takeout, drive-thru, curb-side pickup, off-site services, social distancing models or other innovative business practices that do not involve public gatherings in an enclosed space)


The resolution also states that the mayor, common council and City of Hill City staff will:


• Protect the infrastructure of the city and maintain water services, sewer services, street services and other critical functions of the government


• Provide information to citizens of Hill City regarding COVID-19


• Practice heightened awareness of expenditures to ensure fiscal responsibility


• Enforce its police powers to abate nuisances as permitted under South Dakota Codified Law (SDCL) 9-29 and SDCL 21-10


“Be it further ordained,” the resolution reads, “that, pursuant to SDCL 9-19-13, this resolution is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety and welfare of the city and shall become effective immediately upon passage.”


The common council had its regular meeting on March 23 where the idea of adapting a resolution was discussed. It was decided at the March 23 meeting to hold a special meeting to discuss the resolution and it was the thought of those on the council that another special meeting would need to be held to discuss final changes to the ordinance.


However, to the pleasure of those on the council, the resolution did not need any changes and was approved as presented.


“My expectation tonight is that we would not have a final document, and I was wrong,” said Brett McMacken, city administrator for Hill City. “I thank (interim city attorney Talbot Wieczorek) and the staff here at city hall. We put this together quickly.”


The need for a resolution arose after Rapid City held a special meeting March 22 to discuss an ordinance that would shut down non-essential businesses within Rapid City city limits. That ordinance was approved after its second reading was held March 27.


Hill City asked for input from area businesses on what the city should do and what a potential ordinance should look like. During the March 23 meeting, Lorean Freis, owner of the Farmer’s Daughter, and Victor Alexander, who owns and operates several Hill City businesses, said they were in favor of the city taking action on this matter in some way, both saying they would sacrifice their March and April for a strong summer season.


For the March 25 meeting, Mark and Connie Ostern, owners of the Beef Jerky Outlet store in Hill City, wrote in saying they wanted business to remain as-is, meaning they did not support any closures.


Chris VanNess, who is the coordinator of the Heart of the Hills Economic Development Corp., wrote into the council, saying, “some personal sacrifices now may prevent major ones in the future, including possible loss of at-risk loved ones.”


While Hill City’s resolution does not shut down businesses, it allows the common council to police businesses that are in violation of CDC guidelines. If a business does not adhere to the CDC’s guidelines, the common council will treat that business as a nuisance and will punish that business accordingly.


However, the common council stressed that it would not be looking to punish businesses and education would be the first step to addressing any potential issues.


Since this is a resolution, if the pandemic ends in the region and Hill City wants to lift restrictions, it could do so by passing another resolution, McMacken said.


“I want to thank our businesses because they have been willing to comply so far,” said alderman Bill Miner. “That says a lot. I also want to thank the schools and (Hill City School District superintendent Blake Gardner) and the unsung community heroes volunteering to make this work. I think this is a great tool and I don’t foresee any issues. If you talk to your neighbor there would be no need for enforcement.”

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