(Updated Feb. 12, 2021)
In response to guidance on social distancing from health officials, many cities have taken actions to close city buildings to limit public contact. While closing city hall may be a necessary step to protect city employees, it is important to consider how your city will provide services to residents and those doing business in your community. Cities should consider how they will meet their statutory obligations.
If city hall is closed, what happens to city services and responsibilities? Considerations should include:
- How resident questions will be answered (i.e., utilities, permits, licenses, garbage, recycling).
- Changes to city website with designated contact, possibly by department/city service.
- How to respond to data practices requests from data subjects (10-day requirement).
- How public hearing requirements will be met.
- Land use and subdivision applications/60-day rule is impacted (along with any extensions).
- Continuation of building inspections.
- Continuation of public works operations.
- Impact on shot clocks for wireless facility permits.
- How to ensure local government reporting to the state continues, including:
- Small City financial report to OSA: March 31.
- Business subsidy report to DEED: April 1.
- Large city annual financial report to OSA: June 30.
- Muni Liquor Store report (>$350K) to OSA: June 29.
- Construction and Development related fee report to DLI: June 30.
- Annual Tax Increment Financing Report to OSA: June 30.
- MS4 reporting and meeting.
- Internal operations and human resources management.
Each city’s capacity to manage this emergency will be different. Cities are encouraged to use resources wisely and communicate with the public any changes to normal operations.
City notice example
If you are considering closing city hall, here is a good example of a notice to the community that was shared by the City of St. Louis Park:
All city facilities to close to the public (Month) (Date) – (Month) (Date); essential city services will continue
Starting (Month) (Date) and continuing through (Month) (Date), all city facilities will close to the public. This includes city hall, the municipal service center, fire stations 1 and 2, and the police station.
City staff will continue to work in all facilities in a limited capacity to provide essential city services. You are encouraged to connect with city staff through the city website, by phone and by email. If you have business that is time-sensitive and must be conducted in person, call (phone number) to make an appointment. City staff will do their best to accommodate your request.
The City of St. Louis Park has been working with local, county, and state partners to help protect the health and wellness of both the community and employees during the rapidly changing coronavirus outbreak. As transmission has changed in Minnesota from travel-related to community spread, the city is making these changes while still ensuring it can provide essential services to residents.
Visit (website URL) to learn more about the closures.
Enforcement of Executive Order
Cities may also have to enforce restrictions of private businesses, using local law enforcement if necessary. Private establishments are subject to restrictions set forth in Gov. Walz’s Executive Orders. This includes the resumption of indoor dining, events, and entertainment.
Local law enforcement and public health authorities are directed to monitor and enforce this executive order in accordance with the law. Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 12.45, a person who willfully violates paragraph 1 of this executive order is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days.
The League encourages cities to work with their city attorney on these efforts.