The Palisade City Council – debuting a new and improved audio and video version of its meeting – said at its March 8 meeting that it would officially reopen meetings to the public at its May council meeting.

The Palisade City Council closed its meetings to the public and allowed Zoom-only attendance since late last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The procedure has caused some in Palisade to question whether the process is legal or not – especially when quality audio from the meeting was not immediately available.

Palisade has said that the Minnesota League of Cities told them that the Zoom-only format is legal. However, the Minnesota Open Meeting Law does not allow for that provision.

The council discussed the situation at its March 6 meeting – a meeting that was adjourned when a reporter from the Aitkin  Independent Age showed up to attend in person and was told that was not allowed.

When the reporter did not leave immediately, the council adjourned the meeting.

When the meeting was picked back up March 8, members of the council admitted there had been concerns voiced by residents over being able to hear in the meeting, as well as comments from the public not being heard. Council members appeared to be using earbuds and microphones at the March 8 meeting, which led to clearer audio. The comments made in the Zoom chat were also acknowledged and addressed.

Council members seemed split on whether or not to open the meeting to the public. Council member Rodger Lindgren indicated that he was for opening up the meeting to the public in April, while council member Dave Simons said it was too soon.

The pandemic seemed to weigh heavily on the minds of the council members – not only for their own health, but for members of their households.

Options considered were moving the meeting outside – which the council did last year during the warmer months – or opening up all the windows and limiting those in attendance.

A sign-up sheet for those attending – with a limit of 10 – was floated, with any after that point being directed to the Zoom meeting.

However, as discussion continued, there was a motion to table the discussion until April, with the option of holding the May meeting outside.

In other notable action at the meeting, the council approved a special events policy and permit, but tabled a decision on a parks policy as well as continuing with Guardian Pest Solutions for insects and rodent control at Palisade City Hall.

The special events policy is 12 pages long, allowing that the city will consider special events on a case-by-case basis, with no discrimination allowed and that the city must receive at least 45 days notice by application form to the city.

Permit applications may be filed as early at 12 months ahead of time, with a non-refundable $75 cost.

After the permit is granted, any additional fees and costs must be paid to the city at least two weeks prior to the event. Failure to pay the fees may result in cancellation of the event. Applications must include a preliminary site plan, locations of barriers, provisions for emergency access, locations of generators, stages, etc., as well as the potential use of city services at the cost of those applying.

The policy also outlines fireworks, portable toilet facilities, trash collection and the like. It is available at city hall along with the application.

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