City administrators are not willing to submit the July 4 fireworks delay to city council review, Mayor Emily Larson said Wednesday.
Due to an expected July surge of COVID-19, the display has been rescheduled to Labor Day weekend. The date change, she said at her weekly virtual news conference, is needed to prevent people from gathering in large crowds, which could increase the spread of coronavirus.
“We looked at alternative sites (where) we could do that, but in terms of whether or not I would be comfortable delegating a decision on whether or not to host 10,000 people in one space during a month when we’re expecting a public health surge, the answer is ‘no.’ I’m not going to put that decision out for public input or for council consideration. I do feel very strongly that’s within our purview,” the mayor said.
Larson said there is no way to ensure people will practice social distancing even if the fireworks launch site is moved. Even though the question won’t be on a city council agenda, City Council President Gary Anderson said residents still may express their opinion to their elected city representatives.
Decades ago, the fireworks were launched from Wade Stadium without formal entertainment or large gatherings.
As BusinessNorth reported in its May edition, talks between officials of the city and Costco continue to be held regarding the company’s proposed development.
“The city has never stopped working with Costco, including being in contact with them today. We have continued our positive conversations with Costco and remain committed to working with them to bring a store to Duluth. We certainly appreciate their efforts and continue to work with them,” said City Administrative Officer Noah Schuchman.
Spirit Mountain’s future
Spirit Mountain will not be open this summer, said Jim Filby Williams, director of parks, properties and libraries. Staff will remain laid off until fall, he said. That plan, he explained, is in the best interests of the ski hill’s long-term future. A task force will be created this summer to examine all options related to financial sustainability.
“Spirit Mountain is a cornerstone of our tourism economy. It serves a greater number of visitors than other attractions at a time of the year when tourist activity and recreational opportunity in Duluth is otherwise reduced,” he said, but it also poses a financial liability to the city. This year, it was budgeted to receive $420,000 in tourism tax support.
Executive Director Brandy Ream will make a financial presentation to city councilors next week.
The city is proposing four measures to reduce permits and fees for restaurants offering on-sale alcoholic beverages. They will be reviewed Tuesday by city councilors.
Offices will be closed except on an appointment basis for the near future, Schuchman said. They will gradually re-open, but there currently is no formal schedule. Visitors will have to wear masks, he said.