On Thursday, June 11, the Windham Town Council voted 5-2 to pass a resolution declaring all businesses essential. Last night, Auburn’s City Council approved a similar measure by a 4-3 vote.
While businesses are still legally obligated to follow state guidelines, Windham’s Chairman Jarrod Maxfield says that the resolution aims to put pressure on Governor Janet Mills and the Maine Legislature.
“NOW THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED that the Town Council goes on the record imploring the Governor and our elected leaders to work together to put in place guidelines and practices as soon as possible that will let any business who wants to open to be able to do so,” the resolution states.
Auburn’s resolution was passed just hours after Governor Mills adjusted the reopening timeline of businesses in Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York counties.
Both jurisdictions follow other municipalities that have passed similar resolutions. On May 14, the Calais City Council voted to declare Calais “open for business.” On June 3, the Gorham Town Council approved a resolution deeming all businesses essential.
Windham’s resolution is modelled after Gorham’s, although there are some changes. Windham councilors, for example, call on the legislature to reconvene so that Windham officials have an opportunity to “voice [residents’] concerns and be involved in the decision process.”
The resolution also asks Gov. Mills and lawmakers to base their decisions on COVID-19 data by town, noting that Windham has one of the lowest number of cases in Cumberland County, where restrictions remain tight.
“We have the benefit that Gorham didn’t have of having the new ZIP code-based data that came out last week,” Maxfield said in an interview with WGME. “Windham is a town of more than 18,000 with 37 cases. We’re also asking Governor Mills and Dr. Shah to perhaps find a more granular way, if possible, or perhaps look at more towns on a town-by-town basis.”
Restaurant owner and town councilman Nicholas Kalogerakis, who voted yes on the resolution, says that he is ready for business.
“My message is that it’s time to open, if you don’t feel safe coming out, then don’t,” Kalogerakis told WGME. “We want the state government to trust us small business owners just as much as you trust all the Wal-Marts, the Lowes and the Home Depots of the world. Trust us that we can do it right.”
Despite Governor Mills announcing the reopening of businesses in Auburn just hours before the city’s vote, Councilor Belinda Gerry, who introduced the resolution, told the Sun Journal, “I want us to be on record that we’re taking a stand, one way or the other.”