The Gorham town council voted 6-1 Tuesday evening to pass a resolution calling for the reopening of all Gorham businesses.
The resolution, authored by Councilman Ben Hartwell, declares all Gorham businesses essential and supports their immediate reopening, so long as they follow “reasonable health and safety measures.”
While businesses are still legally obligated to follow the state’s guidelines, the resolution puts pressure on Governor Janet Mills to reconsider her reopening plan.
“The businesses are still essentially at the mercy of the state, but it is saying from this point forward, as far as we’re concerned, we’ve got your back, and if you want to open, it’s not going to be us shutting you down,” Hartwell told WGME.
The Calais City Council passed a similar resolution on May 14, announcing that the city was “open for business.” Hartwell told the Portland Press Herald that he was inspired by Calais’ declaration, as well as the closure of Gorham’s Grit & Grace Crossfit.
“The ripple effects of business closures and economic decline are simply no longer sustainable,” Hartwell writes in the resolution. Statewide, the economic toll of COVID-19 has forced at least 65 businesses to close permanently.
While Mills’ restrictions on businesses have been largely mandated at the state level, Hartwell disagrees with the “one-size-fits all” approach.
“I don’t like one-size-fits-all approaches when these decisions and these exact precautions can be and should be decided by the people directly affected,” he said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald.
The resolution proposes that Gov. Mills and Dr. Shah “delegate the authority to local and/or regional health departments to review and make recommendations on businesses’ reopening plans.”
For Hartwell, reopening business in Gorham is justified. In the resolution, he notes that citizens of Gorham and Cumberland County have been “diligent” in practicing social distancing measures and that the goal of “flattening the curve” in the county has been met.
As of June 2nd there have been 1,203 known cases in Cumberland County and 2,118 confirmed cases statewide.
The following is the order as written by Councilman Hartwell:
WHEREAS, the members of Gorham Town Council are grateful for the initial swift measures taken by Governor Mills and Dr. Shah to prevent the projected rampant spread of COVID-19, to buy them some time to assess the situation, and to make reasonable plans to mitigate the virus going forward; and
WHEREAS, the goal of “flattening the curve” and keeping the healthcare system from being overwhelmed has been accomplished here in Cumberland County to date; and
WHEREAS, the residents of the Town of Gorham and Cumberland County have been diligent in taking the prescribed precautions to utilize social distancing and limit social gatherings to the prescribed numbers; and
WHEREAS, the ripple effects of business closures and resultant economic decline are simply no longer sustainable; and
WHEREAS, the Town of Gorham already anticipates a significant revenue decline over the next 12 months from loss of business; and
WHEREAS, additional effects of revenue decline are expected to be seen into 2023, due to business losses that can be carried forward; and
WHEREAS, if businesses remain shut down, the Town of Gorham will soon be faced with decisions regarding which services can continue, and which must be cut, as we must balance our budget;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Town Council of the Town of Gorham, Maine declare:
SECTION I: All businesses are essential.
SECTION II: We support all businesses opening immediately subject to reasonable health and safety measures.
SECTION III: Governor Mills and Dr. Shah should delegate the authority to local and/or regional health departments to review and make recommendations on businesses’ reopening plans, to review such plans for adherence to the CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and to allow those complying businesses to reopen upon each local or regional health officer’s approval.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED that the Town Council goes on the record to allow any business in Gorham that wish to open, permission to do so.