City wants small-biz open
Last updated 4/18/2020 at 12:58pm
CLOVIS — Randy Petty said he put his life savings in his downtown Clovis furniture store because he believes in the community and its strength to survive.
But his survival is being challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and state public health orders mandating he close while national chain competitors stay open.
The Clovis city commission agreed with him and other small business owners, and called a special meeting for 3 p.m. Tuesday to consider a resolution asking the state to let nonessential businesses and nonprofits reopen under existing essential business guidelines.
In addition, a letter was sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday, with all eight commissioners and Mayor Mike Morris signing. It thanks the governor for “decisive leadership in the face of a global public health emergency,” but notes closures have numerous economic and social impacts and respectfully asks to:
• Reopen all businesses at 20% capacity as determined by local fire code
• Require all businesses to implement those safeguards that have been imposed on essential businesses, managing 6 foot social distancing standards, posting public health information and guidelines and implementing appropriate health protocols and protections for their employees and customers.
Hilltop Bottle Shop owner Kyle Brewer and Tankersley’s clothing store owner Paul Tankersley joined Petty in his plea. Brewer said the government shouldn’t decide winners and losers, but that’s his interpretation when liquor stores have to close and chain grocery stores that sell liquor remain open.
“Small business owners run on shoestrings to keep their doors open under normal circumstances,” Brewer said, noting he could easily comply with the public health order requirements. “The reality is if we don’t form a plan now to awaken our economy, our businesses won’t make it.”
Petty is selling online, but said losing face-to-face interaction is a disadvantage. A family needing bunk beds told him a chain store got the sale because they could look at the merchandise.
He also noted just a few miles east, Texas stores face fewer restrictions.
“I agree with following the rules,” Petty said. “I don’t agree with the rules, and I know it’s a slippery slope. But I do believe we need to stand in unity. We really need to fight for this region.”
Tankersley was willing to hand out masks at his store entrance and felt all small business owners would if asked. He questioned statewide closures when six or seven counties make up most of the confirmed cases.
“I certainly feel the pain of Mr. Brewer and Mr. Petty,” Tankersley said. “There is no way small businesses can go another four weeks without being able to wait on people. We are just as intelligent as the big box stores.”
Commissioner Rube Render ventured many small businesses could do curbside delivery like restaurants, and “not allowing small businesses to open for no reason other than they’re small businesses is not a valid law.”
Nora Meyers Sackett, press secretary for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, responded Friday afternoon by noting the reality is the more people adhere to the public health orders the sooner they can be lifted.
“We understand that small businesses are hurting,” Sackett said. “It’s terrible — we’re clear about that. ... It is a terrible reality. But at the end of the day public health is consideration number one. This is life or death we’re talking about.”
As of Friday, the state had confirmed 1,711 positive COVID-19 cases — 1,374 of them in Bernalillo, McKinley, Sandoval, and San Juan counties. There were 51 deaths, 96 hospitalizations and 382 designated as recovered.
Morris said the resolution would require a special meeting because it was not on Thursday’s agenda, but the request was reasonable and all Clovis businesses were essential.
“Overarching is the reality we have no authority (to defy a public health order),” Morris said, “but we could and should have a voice to express our feelings and communicate what’s going on and what the struggles are.”
In other business:
• A proclamation declared May 7 as National Day of Prayer. Event organizer Sistar Yancy said the noon gathering would feature social media streaming and radio broadcasts.
“I’m looking forward to us being able to meet on Seventh and Main, but in our cars,” Yancy said. “Hopefully, the street will be blocked off and we can pray in our cars.”
• The commission denied a request to secure a home on the 900 block of Purdue Street.
Building Safety Director Pete Wilt told commissioners the request, tabled March 26, was no longer necessary as the property owner has reached compliance with city code.
n Contracts were renewed at current rates for Harmon, Barnett and Morris for $200 hourly for city legal services through June 2022 and for Spectra for $85,000 to manage the Clovis Civic Center through June 2021.
n The next commission meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library. The virtual meeting will be on Suddenlink Channel 10, the city website and the city Facebook page. Questions during the meeting can be called in to 575-763-9200.